You Can NEVER Have Too Many Books – An Update

Several recommendations from the last article about seeds mentioned a book, Susan Ashworth’s book Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Growers. This reminded me of an article about books that I had written a number of years ago.

With all things internet being censored, banned, deleted or taken down, real live books you can hold in your hand may turn out to be a precious commodity, especially when you are trying to do things the new-old fashioned way. A number of the links from the old article no longer worked so I have updated them.

Think about your situation, your family and what your needs may be if this electronic gadget you are reading these words on were no longer available. We have all become dependent on this thing I am typing and reading on for everything. Computers literally control the world at the operators behest, from how much water is released from a dam during the rainy season, to controlling your banking activities, to ordering diapers for the baby – everything. What happens when a storm rolls through knocking out the power? You can’t buy anything because the cash registers don’t work, or if a company can still sell something, they can only take cash because the card reader is down and can’t process your debit or credit card. No gas pumps, no internet, cell phone towers have back up generators or alternate power, but they won’t last long with their life giving electrical grid being gone.

No power = truly the dark ages. Short term or long term, man made or natural causes, electricity, and thus all things electronic, are just another means of control. Look what has been happening in California over the last few years with intentional brown or black outs. Any reason will do when an intentional control of a population is the desired effect. Those with the power have increased their methods of control in the past few years and no longer try to hide many agendas, instead they have been blatant in wielding that power in an attempt to woo or force the people into subjugation. We can stand up, stick out and announce with a loud voice that we will not comply and get slapped down to the ground via censorship, incarceration or the disappearing act, or we can fight back from the shadows doing all we can to provide for ourselves no matter what comes.

Books. Do you have enough? For everyone under your care? Adults, teens, children? You can never have too many useful books. Enjoy the article.

Until next time – Fern

Originally published September 20, 2013

It’s true. You can never, never have too many books. I know, I know. What about your Kindle, or Nook, or iPhone, or laptop, or computer, or….or….or…..What about when the power goes down – and stays down. What if…..

We have bought ebooks. We bought all of the past issues of Mother Earth News on CD and downloaded them on our computers – a great wealth of information. Even if we had a solar panel system that would keep our computers running, it would be a waste of energy to do so. Printed material is a necessity for information preservation.

This is a wall in our living room. It is my favorite wall. Frank built this bookshelf just for me and I love it. After we put most of our books on it there was a lot of extra space. I told him, “You know what that means? We need more books!” Then after a while, we had to have the floor reinforced – a worthwhile investment.

A friend of mine – I have mentioned her several times – I told her the next time I mentioned her I was going to give her a pseudonym.

– Grace – for by the grace of God we met and have become friends. So back to books. Grace has laughed and told me I am her only friend that has a ‘bug book’. We have talked many times about needing to know how to do things for ourselves in the case of a collapse or downturn in the quality of life in our country. When she has asked me about a variety of topics, my answer is often, get a book about it. I have been trying to stock my library with many useful reference books over the past few years. 

Patrice Lewis at Rural Revolution recently reminded us that having our important information on an electronic device may not always be a dependable medium. She has printed out and organized her important information so it will not be lost if she can no longer access it on her computer or online. It is a great idea.

I would like to share a few of the many books I use regularly. I will also share a few new ones that I have not had the chance to read yet. Here are a few of my favorites by category.

Gardening

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible – great general information

The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening – We have a very old version that is literally falling apart at the seams. Tons of great, fairly detailed information.

Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver – Good book. All kinds of plant and pest information.

Carrots Love Tomatoes has taught me a great deal about companion planting. I have changed my garden planting patterns with the help of this book.

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control – My favorite bug book. The one Grace was talking about.

The Seed-Starter’s Handbook is not only good at helping me get my seeds started, I use it for information on how to save seeds as well. It is an old book (1978), but one of my favorites. 

The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food is one of the new books I just got from Backwoods Home and I haven’t had a chance to look through it yet.

I have several new and old reference books I use as well. I have begun keeping my annual garden ‘map’ of where I plant things in a binder to make sure I rotate crops and don’t plant a new crop where it will not thrive because of the last occupant.

Food Preservation

Stocking Up – the old and new version. This is a great book. It covers canning, freezing, drying and storing. 

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is a book I use every time I can something.

I have half a dozen other canning books including Jackie Clay’s book Growing and Canning Your Own Food. It is a great book and full of a lot of information besides canning and preserving.

Another book I have had for a while and just started using with my dehydrator is Making and Using Dried Foods. After I bought the dehydrator, I was surprised that it didn’t come with more instructions. Then I got to thinking…… don’t I have a book about that? Sure enough, I did.

Enola Gay‘s new book The Prepared Family Cookbook is another one of my new books I have not had the chance to read through yet. 


Cheese Making

I have several books, but the only one I have ever used is Mary Jane Toth’s  Goats Produce Too! The Udder Real Thing

Herbs

Our book collection about herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes started many years ago. This is a mixture of old and new that I use most often now. The Herbal Antibiotics book is another new one from Backwoods Home that I have not had a chance to read yet. 

The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies both have a great deal of information about how to use plants medicinally, but little to none about how to grow and harvest them.

One of my older books Growing and Using Healing Herbs has great information about planting, harvesting, preserving and using herbs.

But the best one I found for information about growing and harvesting herbs is Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. 

When I was researching sources of perennial vegetables that I could get established here I ran across Perennial Vegetables, which has proven to be a good resource.

Animals

When we got our first Great Pyrenees to guard our goats, we wanted to make sure it was a successful venture. We had read enough to know that training a livestock guardian is not like training the Labrador Retrievers we used to raise. We found that Livestock Protection Dogs gave us very valuable information. Otherwise we probably wouldn’t have kept Pearl. She has turned out to be an excellent dog. 


I have a good selection of books about goats – my goat book collection. If something comes up, like an abscess, I look in all of my books and compare the information I find. I feel much better informed this way because not all authors have the same opinions or give the same advice for a particular situation.

All About Goats has some good basic information.

Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats is a good beginners book with fairly thorough information.

Raising Milk Goats Successfully and How To Raise Dairy Goats are very similar and have good basic information.

Natural Goat Care is by far my favorite book. It raised my learning curve on the natural needs and health of goats. I would highly recommend it.

We have other reference books for animals which include The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable and The First Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats.

Resource Books

We have a variety of books that we have not and may not ever use. They are for references when and if the need ever arises for the topics they cover, such as, establishing a black smith shop, how to train oxen, small scale grain raising, cooking on a wood stove, building small tools or equipment, and more. 

Grace and I have been doing some bartering for eggs. One of the things she brought was this Chicken Health Handbook which is another good reference book. Books that will add to your peace of mind are also an important part of a good library. The Simplicity Primer from Patrice Lewis is one of many. We read the Little House on the Prairie series last summer. They are a great resource of information for living without electricity and growing or raising what you eat, or how to do without.

So, to go back to the title – I truly do believe you can never have too many books. Printed information may one day be in very short supply. Electronic media may one day be a thing of the past. As memories age, they don’t keep details stored as well either. I have felt a strong need to include a plethora of books as a very important part of my ‘preps’. 

We have even stored more than one copy of some books to share with others if the opportunity arises. Books such as James Wesley Rawles How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It and The Ball Book of Complete Home Preserving. James Wesley Rawles’ book is what got Frank started in radio. It was the first place he read about MURS radio frequencies. You never know when that little bit of information can revolutionize a person’s perspective and greatly increase their ability to be self-sufficient and provide for their families.

I will continue to encourage to you learn something new each and every day. It will bless you and yours in untold ways for years to come.

Until next time – Fern

What’s Growing in the Greenhouse? Volume 1

Well, we did it. We actually built a greenhouse after 30 years of dreams and plans. Dreams really do come true, and they are appreciated all the more when the wait is long. To be honest, it still doesn’t seem real to me even though I tend the plants here everyday. Recently I had lots of fun, when I added another 18 pots of stuff, some alive and kicking from the yard, and some with newly planted seeds.

We decided to continue using our former seedling tables for planting, this is where the messes will be made. The set up is great, there is lots of room for dirt, gravel, pots, tubs and such, at first we were thinking that everything would move into the greenhouse, but not now. We’ve already started to wonder if the greenhouse is too small, when at first it didn’t look like we could possibly fill the shelves. It is quite the interesting learning process. I can only imagine the other changes we will make along the way.

I started out my planting foray by digging up some things from the garden and herb bed. I realized today that I missed getting some marjoram, which we have really come to enjoy. I will get some in the next few days and add one more pot to the greenhouse shelves, for now. My digging adventure turned up a number of things.

More potatoes from the garden
Comfrey

Mustard greens
Lemon Balm
Creeping Thyme
Two year old celery
Oregano

Tiger decided we needed to have a discussion while I was putting these plants in pots. 

 

Next came the seeds, more pots, and more trips to the greenhouse.

 

I have to admit, it looks pretty neat in here. With more pots on the top shelf to water, I started using the step stool. I am tall, 5’9″, and watering a few plants is not a problem, but now that there are a lot more, it’s time to ‘step up’ to the task.

I have been reading about hand pollination since we have a number of plants that will need help. Since I have several different cucurbits (squashes, cucumbers, muskmelon) growing, and I don’t want to cross pollinate them, each plant will have it’s own paint brush for this task. When I told Frank I needed some paintbrushes he reminded me there were some in the garage. It’s nice to go no farther than one of your own shelves when you need something.


We have picked some lettuce and spinach for salads. I even trimmed some greens from the onions once. We’ve also picked a few turnip greens, but that’s all so far. I don’t think it will be long before the pickings will be increasing, and that will be a real treat, especially as the days get shorter and cooler. Here is what’s growing in the greenhouse.

Onions
Collard greens


Comfrey
Romaine that is going to seed.
Lettuce
Strawberries from the garden thanks to a reader.
Spinach
More Turnips
Turnips
Brussels sprouts
Broccoli
Cabbage

Carrots in tub #1
Carrots in tub #2
Beets

As I prepared some of the new seeds and plants, I began to wonder where I would put them. Some of these plants thrive in cooler weather, so I thought about putting them on the floor. Even though the concrete will help with some heating via solar mass and ground temperatures, I could picture these plants going dormant because of the cold air that settles to the floor. At first I thought about raising them off the floor with concrete blocks, but they would be cold as well. I settled for scrap blocks of wood from some of our building projects, hoping the wood would not conduct the cold as much as a concrete block. We’ll have to see how this theory pans out. This also utilizes more of the space we have in the greenhouse.

Austrian Winter Peas in the tub, new potato plants in the pot
Celery from the herb bed
The first potatoes from the garden
Mustard greens
Okra, which is a hot weather plant. We really don’t expect it to produce.

The area next to the wall of the house contains the plants that prefer hot weather and/or need a trellis. So far with night time temperatures in the 40’s occasionally, this area tends to be around 10 degrees warmer than the main shelf by the outside wall. We are very interested to see how this will work out with freezing temperatures. Since the nights are not down to freezing and the temperatures inside heat up quickly on sunny days, we have not closed down any of the vents yet. Frank has a plan for easily opening and closing the vents as needed.
 

Back row: Green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers
Front row: ginger, buttercup squash, turmeric

Yellow squash

 

Muskmelon

The yellow squash and muskmelon are in the center of the room. So far, they are very happy. The squash will be blooming soon. I hope to be able to wind the muskmelon around on the table top as it grows.
 

The herbs, a few greens and some flowers, have found homes on the top row of shelves. When I was looking for herb seeds, I ran across some Thumbelina Zinnia, Livingston Daisies, Dandelions and Moss Rose (which we have always called rose moss), and just couldn’t resist having a few flowers in here.

2 kinds of Kale
Rose Moss
Zinnias
Mesclun Mixed Greens

 

Creeping Thyme

The almost dead Stevia is coming out again.

Oregano
Lemon Balm with a dandelion

It’s hard to imagine how growing these things may affect our diets, especially in a survival situation. This truly is our survival greenhouse. We have much to learn, and a short time to do it. There will be failure and there will be success, but most of all, I hope there is food.

Until next time – Fern

Books Are Amazing Tools

Some of this article was originally written on September 20, 2013, only four months after we started this blog and had a very small readership. I thought about doing a whole new article, then I thought about adding some things here and there to the original article, but what I’ve decided to do is use the old one as a base for a new article. We still use the books I talked about then, but now we have quite a few more as well. If you want to read the original unedited version, it is here, You Can NEVER Have Too Many Books.

I have been a reader all of my life and it’s true. You can never, never have too many books. I know, I know. What about your Kindle, or Nook, or iPhone, or laptop, or computer? What about when the power goes down, and stays down? What if you could never read an electronic version of anything again? We have bought ebooks, and now own a Kindle with a number of books on it. Quite some time ago we bought all of the past issues of Mother Earth News on CD and downloaded them on our computers, which has provided us a great wealth of information. Even if we had a solar panel system that would keep our computers charged and running, it would be a waste of energy to do so. Printed material is a necessity for information preservation and a tool that will prove invaluable when the internet goes down for good. I have to tell you, Frank and I will really, really miss the internet. It is a tremendous wealth of information, right at our fingertips. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t be having this ‘conversation’ if it weren’t for the internet. We wouldn’t have ‘met’ you and been able to share information, ideas and experiences if it weren’t for the electronic super highway. And sad as it may seem, I do believe that one day information will be passed by word of mouth again for a long, long time. I wonder how many old type set printing presses will be available to create books if we come to the point of TEOTWAWKI? I would surmise not many. And so I would encourage you to obtain or maintain a print copy of the information you frequently use. 

Here is a glimpse of a wall in our living room. It is my favorite wall. Frank built this bookshelf just for me and I love it. After we put most of our books on it there was a lot of extra space, not anymore. Back then I told him, “You know what that means? We need more books!” So we got some, then some more and still some more. After a while, we had to have the floor leveled and  reinforced which was a worthwhile investment. By the way, this is the wall where most people would expect to see the big screen television. Not in our house. You will not find one television here. Computers, yes, televisions, no. An aside. We were listening to someone talking on the local repeater the other day, and this gentleman spoke of his seven televisions. SEVEN? Why in the world would anyone need SEVEN televisions? It’s beyond me to see any value in one, let alone seven. Okay, back to books.

A friend of mine, I have mentioned her several times, I told her the next time I mentioned her [back in 2013] I was going to give her a pseudonym. 

Grace, for by the grace of God we met and have become friends. Grace has laughed and told me I am her only friend that has a ‘bug book’. We have talked many times about needing to know how to do things for ourselves in the case of a collapse or downturn in the quality of life in our country. When she has asked me about a variety of

topics, my answer is often, get a book about it. We have been trying to stock our library with many useful reference books over the past few years and continue to do so to this day. By the way, you can never have too many Bibles.

These two belonged to my mother when she was a young woman.

Patrice Lewis at Rural Revolution recently [September 18, 2013] reminded us in, A project’s that never done, that having our important information on an electronic device may not always be a dependable medium. She has printed out and organized her important information so it will not be lost if she can no longer access it on her computer or online. It is still a great idea.

We would like to share some of the many books we use as resources, and some we have read for knowledge and ideas, as well as entertainment. Here are some of our favorites by category and in no particular order.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Gardening

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible – great general information

The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening – We have a very old version that is literally falling apart at the seams. Tons of great, fairly detailed information.

Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver – Good book. All kinds of plant and pest information.

Carrots Love Tomatoes has taught me a great deal about companion planting. I have changed my garden planting patterns with the help of this book.

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control is my favorite bug book and the one Grace was talking about.

The Seed-Starter’s Handbook is not only good at helping me get my seeds started, I use it for information on how to save seeds as well. It is an old book (1978), but one of my favorites. 
The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food is one  from Backwoods Home.

I have several new and old reference books I use as well. I have begun keeping my annual garden ‘map’ of where I plant things in a binder to make sure I rotate crops and don’t plant a new crop where it will not thrive because of the last occupant.

Recently Leigh from 5 Acres & A Dream wrote an article about the book One Straw Revolution and how she was trying to increase her food production year round. Frank read this book before we were married. His copy is dated 1978. 

 

Leigh has also written a book about the adventure she and her husband have had in the process of developing a homestead titled, 5 Acres & A Dream The Book.

There are so many different resources that can be used in many different ways to increase food production. That’s what we’re trying to do with the greenhouse, so I will be revisiting the three books that we have dealing with year round food and greenhouse production, The Winter Harvest Handbook, Backyard Winter Gardening and Gardening in Your Greenhouse.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Food Preservation

Stocking Up – the old and new version. This is a great book. It covers canning, freezing, drying and storing. It has things other books don’t. By the way, all of the recipes use honey, no sugar in this book.

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is a book I use every time I can something.

I have half a dozen other canning books including Jackie Clay’s book Growing and Canning Your Own Food. It is a great book and full of a lot of information besides canning and preserving.

A book I have had for a while and just started using [now I use it each time] with my dehydrator is Making and Using Dried Foods. After I bought the dehydrator, I was surprised that it didn’t come with more instructions. Then I got to thinking…… don’t I have a book about that? Sure enough, I did.

Another new adventure we have embarked on is making and eating fermented foods. This, of course, has necessitated a few more books. Do you get the feeling that I really love books? Yep. I really do. Some of the ‘same’ recipes in these books are quite different which I find very interesting. A little confusing sometimes when I’m trying to learn something new, but interesting never the less. Here they are: How to Ferment Vegetables, Real Food Fermentation, Making Sauerkraut, and Wild Fermentation.

Along the same lines of fermenting foods, we have added sourdough to our menu since the first writing of this article. The first few sourdough cookbooks I bought were a disappointment to me since they dealt mostly with fancy, elegant breads. This book, Baking with Natural Yeast has just the recipes and ideas for me.


Two more books that I have not put to good use yet, but I’m glad we have them are Apple Cider Vinegar and Vinegar. I finally found a recipe for simple, plain vinegar.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Cheese Making

I have several books, but the only one I have ever used is Mary Jane Toth’s  Goats Produce Too! The Udder Real Thing. I have found recipes that work great for chevre, mozzarella and cheddar in this book and still haven’t tried any of the others. I will be branching out and trying a different cottage cheese recipe before long, though, and I’ll let you know which book it comes out of.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Herbs 

Our book collection about herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes started many years ago. This is a mixture of old and new that I use most often now. The Herbal Antibiotics book is from Backwoods Home

The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies both have a great deal of information about how to use plants medicinally, but little to none about how to grow and harvest them.

One of my older books Growing and Using Healing Herbs has great information about planting, harvesting, preserving and using herbs.

But the best one I found for information about growing and harvesting herbs is Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. 

When I was researching sources of perennial vegetables that I could get established here I ran across Perennial Vegetables, which has proven to be a good resource.

Here are two new medicinal herb books we have added to our collection, Healing Herbs and The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook. I like to compare notes between all of the different books if I am researching a new way to use an herb, or looking for a remedy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Animals

When we got our first Great Pyrenees to guard our goats, we wanted to make sure it was a successful venture. We had read enough to know that training a livestock guardian is not like training the Labrador Retrievers we used to raise. We found that Livestock Protection Dogs gave us very valuable information, otherwise we probably wouldn’t have kept Pearl. She has a very different temperament, and has turned out to be an excellent dog.

We have a number of books about goats, which I call my goat book collection. If something comes up, like an abscess, I look in all of my books and compare the information I find. I feel much better informed this way because not all authors have the same opinions or give the same advice for a particular situation.

All About Goats has some good basic information.

Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats is a good beginners book with fairly thorough information.

Raising Milk Goats Successfully and How To Raise Dairy Goats are very similar and have good basic information.

Natural Goat Care is by far my favorite book. It raised my learning curve on the natural needs and health of goats. I would highly recommend it.

We have other reference books for animals which include The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable and The First Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats. I have begun to use the Farm and Stable book a little more, when researching natural solutions to our animals needs.

Now that we’ve added pigs to the homestead, we’ve also added pig books. So far, these are our two references, Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs and Free Range Pig Farming, along with another one we have on our Kindle called Raising Pastured Pigs.

 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Resource Books

We have a variety of books that we have not and may not ever use. They are for references when and if the need ever arises for the topics they cover, such as, establishing a black smith shop, how to train oxen, small scale grain raising, cooking on a wood stove, building small tools or equipment, and more. 

Grace and I have been doing some bartering for eggs [until she got her own chickens]. One of the things she brought was this Chicken Health Handbook which is another good reference book. Books that will add to your peace of mind are also an important part of a good library. The Simplicity Primer from Patrice Lewis is one of many. We read the Little House on the Prairie series last summer [2012]. They are a great resource of information for living without electricity and growing or raising what you eat, or how to do without. There are many books that can help us in our quest to learn how to do things without the help of all of the modern conveniences. I was able to acquire an old set of Cyclopedias. I didn’t even know cyclopedia was a word until I saw these books that were published in 1913. I have looked through some of them, but haven’t sat down and read through any of them.

One thing I ran across dealt with why a war had started. I wonder if the perspective of someone from that time is different from the prevailing opinions of today. Why did I bring these books home? They may be a good resource for how to do things without all of the modern conveniences we are accustomed to these days.

 



 

So, to go back to the [original] title I truly do believe you can never have too many books. Printed information may one day be in very short supply. Electronic media may one day be a thing of the past. As memories age, they don’t keep details stored as well either. I have felt a strong need to include a plethora of books as a very important part of our preparations. 

We have even stored more than one copy of some books to share with others if the opportunity arises. Books such as James Wesley Rawles How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It and The Ball Book of Complete Home Preserving. James Wesley Rawles’ book is what got Frank started in radio. It was the first place he read about MURS radio frequencies. You never know when that little bit of information can revolutionize a person’s perspective and greatly increase their ability to be self-sufficient and provide for their families.

Frank has added a number of books on radio communications, along with some programming discs to our bookcase collections.

We have a small, older collection of children’s readers. As a teacher these books appealed to me. Now I see them as resources when we no longer have schools for children to attend. 



There are several survival/preparedness novel series we have read over the last few years that we have not only enjoyed, but learned from as well. A. American has an interesting series that starts out with an EMP and a long trip home to family. Glen Tate has the 199 Days series that begins with the drive to prepare for the collapse of society and ends with rebuilding a portion of the country. It’s a very interesting series that gives you some things to think about along the way.

We have a number of medical resource books on our shelves. We truly hope there does not come a day when we will need to rely on ourselves, the knowledge we have and the information found in these books. But if we do, I know we will be extremely grateful they are here.

And to top it off, two of these references were a recent gift. You can’t beat that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The printed word may be a very valuable commodity in the days, weeks, months and years to come. When a society depends upon something as fragile as a bunch of ‘0’s and ‘1’s to maintain  the vast wealth of knowledge we have come to expect to be accessible at our fingertips, they are bound to be disappointed. Sometimes for a few seconds, sometimes for up to a minute, or even a few minutes. What will happen when we no longer have access to electronic data? Period? So much knowledge will be lost and probably lost for good. If there is something you truly value and want to insure your accessibility to it in the future, get it in writing. Something you can hold in your hand. Yes, there are some disasters that will even take your books from you, and we can’t insure against all possibilities, but we can at least try. And besides all that, I love books!

Until next time – Fern

The Nutrition of Spinach & Garden Gossip

Spinach is something we have been eating a lot of lately, and I wanted to add it to our list of nutritional content articles.
 

1 cup of raw spinach contains the following nutritional content.

  • calories 6.9
  • carbohydrates 1.1 g
  • protein 0.9 g
  • Vitamin A   2813 IU 

  • Vitamin C   8.4 mg
  • Vitamin K  145 mcg
  • Folate   58.2 mcg
  • Choline   5.4 mcg
  • Betaine   165 mcg
  • Calcium   29.7 mg
  • Magnesium   23.7 mg
  • Phosphorus   14.7 mg
  • Potassium    167 mg
  • Sodium    23.7 mg
  • Omega-3 fatty acids    41.4 mg
  • Omega-6 fatty acids    7.8 mg

 
As you can see, spinach packs a good amount of nutrition into one cup. When we start getting more sunshine and less rain, I expect our little seedlings will finally grow into the normal, large plants I have been hoping to see for about a month now.

I have planted some more seeds in the last week. Some of them will go in the herb bed, but some will hopefully go in our salads. The new tubs of seeds include spinach, lettuce, baby greens, celeriac, parsley (which we have been eating in salads and the goats have been eating once a week to help expel worms), boneset, feverfew, moonflowers, psyllium, sweet woodruff, cayenne peppers, arnica, borage and fennel. We are also going to have to replant our pinto beans, which we will use for green beans and pintos, because there has only been one come up. And some day, if it ever quits raining four or five days a week, I can do some serious weeding and finish planting the last few rows of the new part of the garden.

This patch of turnips is sharing way too much space with the grass and weeds.


It is interesting how our tastes and interests change over time. We have always grown corn and potatoes in the past, now we are turning toward plants with more concentrated nutrients, like beans, cowpeas and greens. We do have about a dozen volunteer potatoes coming up from last year, which we are letting grow. It will be interesting to see how they produce. Learn all you can about producing your own food, then put it into practice. We have been gardening in this spot for six years now and no two years have been the same. The weather has been different, the insect pests have been different, and the harvest has been different. There is always much to learn. 

For example, the past two years the slug population has really taken off. Yesterday, I placed some scrap 2 x 4’s around in the garden to encourage the slugs to gather under them so I could ‘harvest’ them in the mornings. There were a few under the boards, but you could see dozens of them just sliming around on the ground. Once the plants are grown, they will still be there, I just won’t be able to see them. So, I have decided to treat them like the pest they are and try to ‘harvest’ as many as I can each morning and put them in the chicken bucket. This will hopefully help deter their population in the garden, and feed the chickens at the same time. I probably picked close to 100 slugs this morning alone. Yuck! There were several fat, happy ones that were making quick work of the new squash plants that are just poking their heads out of the ground. I didn’t take their picture.

Taking pictures of the garden from the porch while it rains.

Like everyone else, I can’t wait for the harvest to begin in earnest. We put very little food up last year due to surgeries and illness, and we hope to more than make up for that this summer. In the meantime, we are also working on a few major projects involving the house. Wait, a news flash. Frank just told me that after Tuesday, there is no rain forecast for Wednesday, Thursday or Friday! Yahoo! Everyone around here is more than ready for the puddles and mud to dry up at least a bit, and be blessed with the touch of the sun. 

Until next time – Fern

I Don’t Have a Clue What to Write

I really don’t. It’s late. I’m tired and I can’t think of anything interesting to share with you. Frank and I have been very busy. We made the unplanned trip to look at the goats. Very informative, and the ride gave us time to reflect on our decision to come home with an empty trailer. We’re still glad we did. We’ve contacted a few other folks about a new buck. We’ll just have to see how that works out.

Frank has spent a couple of day working on a new CB installation in the vehicles that we will share with you sometime in another post.

Cabbage seedlings the rabbits are chewing on.

The seedlings are doing well now that we got a few days of sunshine. The part of the garden that is planted is growing. The turnip seeds I sprinkled in the front of the herb bed are coming up very well. I look forward to picking the greens for man and beast alike. With all of the cloudy cool weather we had this month, our seedlings grew very, very slowly. The small cabbage and broccoli we planted are finally starting to take off and grow. We did buy some spinach, lettuce and a few cabbage plants to provide some food a little earlier than our small seedlings will.

I also ordered more plants for the herb bed this year. They are getting acclimated, and will be planted in the next few days. I will do an article on how the herb bed is coming along in the next few weeks. I’m excited about the number of plants that are established and have been coming back year after year.

We are getting ready for more baby goats this week. Tomorrow we will be working on the barn making sure everything is in order. Cricket and Lady Bug will hit 150 days of gestation on Thursday, and Penny will do the same on Saturday. Since they are all first fresheners, I may not get much sleep after Tuesday night, with trips to the barn at all times of the day and night checking for babies, then checking on babies. You’ll be hearing all about them as well.

I tried a new low carb fried chicken dinner last night that was really good. After I do a little more research and put it all together, I’ll fill you in on that one. It was one of those experiments that I just didn’t know if it would taste good or yucky. Good thing for us it turned out very good.

We bought some seat cushions for our dinning room chairs. There comes a time in life when a little cushion can make a difference. They came in today so we haven’t had much time to try them out. I also ordered a roll of high density foam to put in the cushions on my chair. This is where I sit with my laptop and write these articles, and the cushion needs a little more umph. And, yes, that’s a heating pad. My back’s been acting up again, so during breaks from planting the garden and such, I fire it up.

 

We all know there is a drought going on out in California, and there is a drought going on in western Oklahoma, but there is not a drought in my neighborhood. It seems like just a few weeks back we had snow on the ground, then we had ice on the ground, then we had snow again.

Every now and then we’d have a pretty day or two, then we’d either have cloudy days with rain or rainy days with clouds. Once we had about three or four days of sunny weather, and Frank got the garden tilled. But, down deep it was just too wet and everything clodded up. So, when we needed to do some planting, we took some hard rakes and broke it down. Then in rained for four or five more days, then we had about three days off from the rain and actually had some pretty weather. So, Frank tilled the garden again, still too wet, but the clods were a little smaller this time. Then, you guessed it. It rained for three or four more days. 

Now, I have to say, the last three days have been beautiful. Sunny skies, light to moderate breeze. So when we got home today from running errands, Frank tilled the garden again. And, yes, it’s still too wet, but it’s getting better. Because you know what’s forecast late tonight and for the next five days? Liquid precipitation. If it could hold off for a little while tomorrow morning, then we can get the barn cleaned out without changing the corral into soup. Our weather men continue to tell us that we are running short on precipitation for the year, and I’m sure they’re right. 

 The folks we talked to at church Sunday mentioned that they haven’t planted a garden yet. It’s just too wet. Two Sundays ago at a potluck, I asked a lady if she had brought her famous turnip green dish. She said no, to do that she would need to build an ark. Somebody else made reference that to get to their garden they would need a canoe. I sure did miss those turnip greens. Well, that’s what the weather’s been doing lately.

See, I told you I didn’t have anything to write about….. I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. Feel free to share what you’ve been up to.

Until next time – Fern
 

Our Daily Herbal Tea

For a few months now, we have each been drinking two cups of herbal tea a day. At this time, we are buying the herbs that we are using in our tea. We feel like this is a healthy addition to our diet. Here’s why.

I start off with:

3 tbsp. dried dandelion root simmered in 2 quarts of water for 20 minutes. I start this time when the water is still cold. This makes a decoction.

The benefits of dandelion root include:

  • liver detoxification/tonic

  • promotes good digestion
  • good for indigestion
  • good for arthritis
  • regular use helps reduce cholesterol
  • gentle laxative
  • good for psoriasis

After the roots have simmered, I turn off the fire and add:

1 tsp. celery seed & 1 tbsp. meadowsweet, which sits and steeps for 10 minutes. Seeds, leaves and flower parts are used to make an infusion, which is the steeping process. Since the roots of the dandelion are much harder and thicker, they need to simmer to release the desired properties.

The benefits of celery seed include:

  • helps reduce high blood pressure

  • good digestive; reduces muscle spasms in the muscles of the intestinal tract
  • purifies the blood
  • helps treat arthritis
  • has anti-inflammatory properties
  • stimulates thyroid & pituitary
  • clears uric acid from painful joints
  • acts on kidneys & is a mild diuretic


The benefits of meadowsweet include:

  • antacid properties
  • astringent

  • anti-inflammatory
  • contains salicylates like aspirin
  • diuretic 
  • calming for overactive digestive system
  • helps acid stomach, heartburn, ulcers, hiatus hernia
  • helpful for rheumatism & arthritis
  • clears sandy deposits in urine

This information has been compiled from several of my herbal books. Not everyone agrees with the effectiveness of herbs upon the body. You will have to do your own research and decide for yourself what is right for you.

Last year we began harvesting and replanting dandelion seed in the herb bed, just for this tea. I know many people see them as the bane of a beautiful lawn. Every time I see them I think of the benefits they are providing our bodies. We will continue to harvest the seeds and spread them all over the herb bed. They are already up and blooming this year, so it won’t be long before the seeds are ready. Now I need to learn how to harvest and dry the roots for our tea, as well as start incorporating some of the greens in our diet.

May 2014

I have one meadowsweet plant established (I think, I haven’t seen it yet this spring) and need to add many more to provide the amount we are currently using. 

October 2014, over wintered and is coming back out now

Celery seed may be a whole new challenge. I think I will do some more research and see if I can dry the leaves and/or stalks to use in the tea. It would be much easier for us to produce the plants than the seeds. My other research will include celeriac to see if it contains the same beneficial constituents as celery.

The lemon balm is just starting to come out now.
June 2014

We have some other things growing in the herb bed that I will be adding to a tea blend of our own. These ingredients will be chosen for the beneficial characteristics they have, as well as compatibility with other herbs. Lemon balm and peppermint are on the list for now. If I can get a good crop of chamomile and echinacea, I will add them as well. We’re trying to cut down on the amount of herbs we buy, because we would rather consume those we can grow and harvest 

Peppermint, May 2014

ourselves. I still have a lot of learning to do when it comes to growing herbs, harvesting them at the appropriate time, dehydrating to retain the most benefit, and usage. This is another dream come true. I have wanted to be able to grow and use herbs for many, many years. Now I am starting down that path, and it’s wonderful.

This is just one more way Frank and I are trying to reclaim our bodies from the effects of the chemicals we are bombarded with everyday. I am grateful we still have the peace and freedom to do so. The more I can learn now, the better off we will be if it ever comes down to having to make do with what we know, have and can do. I pray it doesn’t reach that point, but it sure looks that way more and more every day. Learn something important this week that will benefit your family should times get hard. It’s critical.

Until next time – Fern

Two Kinds of Comfrey – Which one is right for you?

2011

Back around 2009, when I began my serious research into what kinds of herbs I wanted to establish in a permanent herb bed, I began reading about comfrey. Well, we originally read about comfrey sometime back in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s in our first herbal book, Weiner’s Herbal (this link goes to the new edition, ours is much older). So I knew when I started my new research, that this was something I wanted to consider. Well, I ordered a plant or root sometime in 2009 or 2010 and got started with one plant. I didn’t do much but let it grow. I knew it was something I would eventually use, but my focus was on increasing my gardening, canning, goat raising and cheese making skills at that time.

Original plant, True Comfrey, 2011

Since then the goats, cheese and garden have fallen into place as more routine ventures, and my focus has again returned to the herb bed. For three reasons. As spices and seasonings, as medicinal herbs and as animal feed. A couple of years ago I began occasionally picking some leaves from my comfrey plant and feeding them to the chickens and goats since I knew they were very nutritious and high in protein.

New Russian Comfrey roots, May 2014

Last spring I ordered six new comfrey roots to increase the production of animal feed. Some day I plan to make comfrey salve as well. It’s kind of an herbal antibiotic salve. But more about that when I get around to making it. These six new plants were planted at the end of the herb bed in an unused space. Lucky for the

The same 6 roots, September 2014

comfrey, a few years prior we had dumped a good amount of barnyard in this spot with plans to disperse it elsewhere, but it all  remained right there. I knew this would be a rich, loamy soil and had high hopes for these new roots. Little did I know they would grow and grow. Initially, I didn’t intend on harvesting anything from these plants the first year because I wanted them to become well established. But after the leaves became profuse and two feet long, I started picking six to eight to ten leaves a day and feeding them to the chickens. The chickens loved them and got to where they would stand at my feet waiting for a leaf to eat.

With the great success of these roots last year, I ordered 20 more this year to extend my comfrey bed and production. I plan to incorporate the leaves fresh into the chicken, goat and pig (when they arrive) feed all summer, and hope to dry some for additional nutrition in the winter. The new roots have arrived, but for now they are sprouting out nicely in tubs waiting for the ground to dry up enough to work. They will also have to wait for us to kill and remove the brushy weed trees, briars and vines that currently reside in their new home. I will also add a deep layer of barnyard before planting to try to replicate the success of last year’s new bed.

Original True Comfrey
New Russian Comfrey

I noticed last year that the new plants and the original comfrey were similar, but different. The original plant’s leaves are much smaller and it is more prone to blooming. They are beautiful blooms, I might add. Because the new plants grew much bigger leaves, which provided more animal feed, I preferred this type of plant. I didn’t take the time to look up any information about the two kinds, though, until I received a question in an email recently. I just love questions. They prompt me to do more indepth research and learn. It turns out that the original plant I got is a true comfrey. It propagates from seeds, has smaller leaves and tends to be taller, about two feet. The new plants are Russian comfrey. The leaves tend to be much larger, it flowers but they are sterile, and it propagates through root division.

Here is a better explanation from Horizon Herbs. “What’s the difference between this plant [Russian Comfrey] and true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis)? The Bocking 14 cultivar of Russian Comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) is a sterile hybrid that will not self-seed and is extremely robust and vigorous.  The true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) is a bit less vigorous of a grower, has more elongated leaves and (I think) prettier flowers, and does indeed make seed.  Although both types of comfrey (Russian and True) are useful for making medicine and making compost, in an ideal world one would use the bocking cultivar for producing large amounts of biomass for permaculture gardens, composting, and animal feed, and one would use the true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) for medicinal purposes.  Again, both types (and other species as well) are used interchangeably in agriculture and in medicine.” 

The roots I bought last year and this year came from Horizon Herbs. I am very pleased with the quality of their comfrey, as well as their price. I have no affiliation with them, I’m just a satisfied customer. After reading the paragraph on their site about the two different types of comfrey, I’m glad I have both, one for animal feed, the other for medicine, but I can use them interchangeably

So the next time I went out to the garden, I took a closer look at the comfrey I planted last year. It is already coming up very nicely, and I have picked a few leaves for the chickens twice already. Guess what? Each of the six roots I planted last year have multiplied! Most of them by at least four or five times, meaning my plants haven’t just doubled in one year, they have….what would you call it? Quadrupled or quintupled. If I had realized that, I may not have ordered so many new roots. I still would have ordered some, but probably not 20. With this multiplication rate, I will be able to have many more beds of comfrey and a whole lot more feed for my animals. What a great bonus!

I wanted to share what I have learned about comfrey, just in case you may be thinking of getting some, or like me, you may already have some, but didn’t realize the difference. I guess this is one case where ignorance has been bliss. I had no idea I would be blessed with such an abundance by choosing a different variety of a specific plant. There are so many times that life can throw you a loop, and sometimes it pays to grab hold and see what that loop may hold. You may find a very pleasant surprise. 


Until next time – Fern