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.


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


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.


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

Planting Meadowsweet and Bamboo

The weather was decent, 60 degrees with a little wind and beautiful sunshine, so I decided to get a few plants in the ground that had been lingering in pots for over a year. I know, that isn’t the ideal place, but that is where they had to live for a while.

Meadowsweet, mine does not look like this now

I had bought some Meadowsweet a year or so ago and tried to plant it over by the chicken house. But the next day they discovered this small plant and decided it was tasty. So before it totally disappeared, I dug it up and put it in a pot until I had a better place for it. A few days ago, I was reading more about medicinal herbs and came across the benefits of Meadowsweet again. I had read this before, that is why I bought some to begin with, but it had been a while. Rereading this information gave me the motivation to go out and find it a permanent home. 

My meadowsweet looks like a pot of dirt.

I will probably order another plant to add to the mix and see if I can get a good, permanent planting established so that I can harvest and dry my own supply. In the meantime, I ordered some from Monterey Bay Spice Company. We will be adding this to a celery seed, chamomile tea combination that we have added to our daily medicinal intake. My hope is that I can grow enough for our needs this summer, that way I won’t have to depend on another source.

The benefits of Meadowsweet listed in my medicinal herb books include:

  • salicylate properties similar to aspirin
  • astringent
  • anti-inflammatory

  • diuretic
  • antacid and calming for overactive digestive system
  • acid stomach, heartburn, ulcers, hiatus hernia
  • helpful for rheumatism and arthritis
  • clears sandy deposits in urine 

    Meadowsweet prefers a moist area with semi shade. This location is on the edge of a small branch that is wet much of the year. It will go dry during a hot dry summer, but is generally fairly wet. I hope it will thrive in this area.

    The other plant that has been living in a pot on the porch for too long is a sweet, edible bamboo. I did quite a bit of research on bamboo to find one that produces edible shoots and is hardy in planting zone 7. The one I bought is a sweet shoot bamboo, Phyllostachs Dulcis.

    This is a running, spreading type that will have plenty of room here to grow. It will also provide some natural camouflage for this building. Many bamboos cannot tolerate the cold weather here and I was glad to find one that could. 

    But, I think the really cold weather we have had recently has killed off part of this plant so I want to get it in the ground to see if it can be saved. This is another one of those little chores that was postponed for too long. But the plant seemed to be doing fine on the porch until just recently.

    My motivation for investigating edible bamboo was the effort to find some perennial vegetables that I could get started here that could provide some food on a consistent, yearly basis. In this day and age, the types of food that are perennial are not usually part of our diets. Jerusalem artichokes, bamboo and asparagus don’t go with many things that we eat regularly. At least, we don’t. But we do have all three of these things growing here. And if the time comes that we need to depend upon what we can produce to eat, they will add a few more meals to our table. 

    Sun chokes

    Both the bamboo and Jerusalem artichokes (which we call sun chokes) in some circles are considered to be nuisance weeds because of their invasive, spreading nature. But I like things rather wild and unkept looking, so they will suit me just fine. Besides that, the more they spread, the more food they provide. The sun chokes are good for people and livestock. The nutritional content includes protein, inulin, potassium, iron, fiber, niacin, thiamine, phosphorus and copper. 

    There are so many things we can grow that are beneficial and amazingly productive, even if you baby them with total neglect. Do they taste like potato chips, donuts and ice cream? No. Will they lend a hand to provide excellent nutrition with little to no effort on my part? Yes. The more I learn, the more amazed I am at the tremendous sources of life that are right at our fingertips. Isn’t that just great? Learn something new today. Something that makes you smile and increases your ability to provide for your family. 

    Until next time – Fern

    Dandelion Root Tea

    A while back, Frank came across an article on Fox that talked about dandelion root tea and how it benefits the body. It sounded interesting so we did some research.

    Two of my favorite medicinal herb reference books both outline the positive affects of dandelion root tea for daily use. These benefits include:

    •  a liver tonic; to help stimulate a sluggish liver; for liver and gallbladder problems
    • promotes good digestion
    • for indigestion, loss of appetite and constipation

    •  one of the most effective detoxifying herbs
    • helps liver and gallbladder remove waste products
    • stimulates kidney to remove toxins in the urine
    • encourages steady elimination of toxins due to infection or pollutions

    • therapeutic benefits for constipation, skin problems, arthritic conditions including osteoarthritis and gout

    Then I looked up information online and found the following at MindBodyGreen:

    • improves digestion and aids weight loss
    • eases congestion of the liver
    • helps to purify the bladder and kidney
    • reduces risk of urinary tract infection
    • contains calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, vitamins B and C
    • helps to purify the blood, regulate blood sugar, and improves blood circulation
    • helps to ease bloating and aching joints
    • helps to cure skin conditions

    With all of this information in hand, we pondered the benefit of adding a cup of dandelion root tea to our daily diet. Since it is winter, we can’t harvest our own crop, but we could buy some and give it a try. Dandelion is something that is always readily available in the summer and we could easily grow and dehydrate our own crop of roots if we found this to be beneficial. So after we thought about it for a few days, we decided to order some. I went to my favorite bulk spice company, Monterey Bay Spice Company, found several choices, and ordered some.

    When it came in, it was back to my herb books for directions. Since we are using a root for the tea it is considered to be a decoction, not an infusion. A decoction is: the act or process of boiling usually in water so as to extract the flavor or active principle. Compared to an infusion which is: the steeping or soaking usually in water of a substance (as a plant drug) in order to extract its soluble constituents or principles. From all of my reading I have learned that an infusion is used with leaves and flowers. A decoction is used when the plant parts utilized are seeds, berries, bark, roots and stems. With these plants parts it takes more time to extract the desired contents, therefore it has to be boiled. It has taken me some time to learn the differences since I am new to trying to grow herbs for health or medicinal purposes. 

    Both books give similar directions for making a decoction of dandelion roots. The measurements for the amount of root is given in ounces so we needed to weigh it to determine an appropriate measurement.

    The first scale we bought, many years ago, is on the right. We found out quickly that it may look good with the bowl on top, but it is not very accurate or easy to use. So we bought the one on the left. It is definitely the type we would recommend. It can weigh out one and a half ounces of herbs or six pounds of tomatoes. It is much more versatile and durable. It is also easy to adjust, so that regardless of the weight of the container you use to hold the items you are weighing, the dial can be set to zero, making accurate measuring very easy. 

    We bought one pound of dandelion root to start with. If this appears to be something we want to continue, we will order more until we can harvest and dry our own this summer. It is very interesting to learn more about the properties of plants, even this pesky little weed, that have been put here for a purpose. The more I learn, the more humbling it is to know we are provided every needful thing.

    The decoction recipe calls for one and a half ounces  of root per pint and a half of water. I think in cups and tablespoons so I converted things as we figured out the measurements.

    We also decided to make a weaker version to start with until we can see if we have any undesirable side effects. I think it is always wise to err on the side of caution when trying something new of this nature. We can increase the dosage over time, similar to how we started off with kefir.

    We decided to make our first batch one third strength. So we measured one half ounce, then figured out it was less than a quarter cup, about a tablespoon and a half. As we did this, I realized that one pound of root won’t go very far, but I didn’t want to order very much and find out we weren’t going to use it.

    Well, here goes. We added almost two tablespoons of root to three cups of water, which is a pint and a half. It looks rather strange, honestly. The directions say to bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. We chose 10 minutes.

    Our comment when it was done? It looks kind of like dirt and smells like dirt and grass. Do we really want to drink this? We were surprised how much the roots swelled during the boiling process.

    The directions say to strain out the roots. Well most of them stayed in the pan as we slowly poured out the liquid, so we don’t really see the need for the strainer next time.

    Hmmm… is a little bitter, but not near as bad as we thought it would be. Not something you would serve to guests, unless maybe you sweetened it with honey or something. I prefer to drink mine down quickly once it has cooled. It’s not something I want to sip on, like coffee. We have been drinking a cup everyday. There are no specific side effects that we can detect. For now we will continue to keep this at one third to half strength for a while.

    So, next I got out another book about growing and harvesting herbs. This will give me good recommendations about collecting seeds, planting and harvesting this summer. Then I will figure out how to dehydrate and store these roots. There are so many things to learn and do to be more self reliant. Being dependent upon others for our food and good health makes us vulnerable. Dependence evokes a helplessness that we prefer not to have. Each and every little thing that we can learn and do for ourselves increases our freedom. Freedom to choose to live the way we wish without the preset mandates that marketing and the medical field insist that we live by. I truly feel this knowledge and the skill to produce viable alternatives will be essential in our future. I know so little and need to learn so much. I feel the time is short.

    Until next time – Fern

    Garlic Honey, Anyone?

    Yep, that’s what everyone needs, some garlic flavored honey. Very strong garlic honey. So strong when you open the jar the smell knocks you down. You think I’m kidding, right? I’m not.

    Many years ago, I don’t remember when, Frank and I came across some information about the benefits of infusing, for lack of a better word, honey with garlic for medicinal purposes. The benefits of honey and garlic go back as far as man has been keeping records, so there is no surprise there. But as a review, I will include some of the many advantages of including these two items in your diet.

    According to Herbal Antibiotics some of the medicinal uses and properties of honey include: 

    • can be applied directly to a wound
    • used internally for immune stimulation 
    • treatment of colds, flu and respiratory infections
    • expectorant
    • anti-inflammatory
    • anticarcinogenic
    • promotes healing of peptic ulcers and bacterial gastroenteritis
    • good for gingivitis
    • NEVER give honey to babies under one year old due to the chance of botulism 

      The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies outlines some of the medicinal properties of garlic which include:

      • Garlic strengthens the immune system as well as helps to fight chest infections, coughs and congestion. I – See more at:

        cleanses the blood

      • helps bring down fever
      • antiseptic
      • antibiotic
      • antifungal
      • tones the heart and circulatory system
      • boosts the immune system
      • may help to reduce high blood pressure
      • may prevent some cancers, in particular stomach cancer
      • treats infections of the stomach and respiratory system
      • helps prevent heart disease and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis
      • antioxidant
      • decongestant

      When we first started using our garlic honey mixture we mainly used it as a cough/cold medicine. Now the more I read about it, the more I realize how beneficial it would be to consume it everyday. Since I have been having some sinus problems lately I have been taking it everyday, several times a day, which means it is time to fix up another batch.

      The jar on the right is the one we are currently using.

      Our daily kefir and my new sourdough starter are sitting in the background.

      It is a very simple process. Take one whole head of garlic, and use all of the cloves. This is some of the garlic we grew last summer. Since they are pretty small heads, I am using several of them instead of just one large head. Peel the cloves.

      Fill a quart jar about 3/4 full of honey. We prefer to use local honey, but this time I am using up some store bought honey we stocked up on right after we moved here. We have since been able to locate a source of local honey, but we need to use this up as well.

      Put the cloves in the honey.

      Stir it up to coat the cloves.

      Set it back out of the way. Stir it up every few days for a couple of weeks. When you open the jar and the garlic-y smell is so strong it just about knocks you down, it’s ready.  I usually leave the garlic cloves in the honey until they are kind of mummified looking or until they are just in the way too much. We don’t eat them, I just throw them away. I have debated about cooking something with them, but I never have. They get pretty wrinkled up and look rather dead.

      To use this wonderful concoction, just get a spoonful and eat it. The first few times you do this you might gag a little. It depends on how sensitive you are. We have been eating it for so long that we don’t really notice it much. Not that it tastes that great, it’s just worth it. Now, I would recommend you be strategic in the timing of taking this elixir. If you are going to have company over, you might want to wait until they are gone, unless, of course, you want them to leave quickly.  Just be aware of how fragrant you may become after partaking of a dose.

      This is just another one of those things that we can do for ourselves instead of relying on others to provide us with something that may have numerous side effects that we may, or may not even know about. We feel the more we can eliminate medications, over the counter or prescription, the better our health will be. This is not always possible, but we can try to the best of our ability. Some day soon, we may not have a choice in the matter. 

      Until next time – Fern

      Garlic strengthens the immune system as well as helps to fight chest infections, coughs and congestion. I – See more at: