Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Simple Substitute for Graham Cracker Crust

When I first started trying to cook from scratch, without any processed-food ingredients, I had a hard time with desserts. I would find a recipe that looked good (ooh, the cheesecakes!) but they all had a graham cracker crust! What to do?

Then I discovered this recipe, and a whole new world of baking opened up for me. It's NT-friendly, no-bake, and extremely easy to make!

Easy Nutty Crust
1 cup flour (sprouted whole wheat works great)
1 cup ground walnuts or pecans (I generally use NT-style crispy walnuts)
5 Tbsp butter (room temperature is fine)
Mix all together well and press into 9x13 pan. Top as desired.

See? So easy!

Pressed in the pan and ready for filling!
 Some of my favorite ways to use this (other than cheesecake, obviously!) is with Pumpkin Pie Bars and Poppy Seed Torte (I'm making myself hungry . . .)

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.

Chickens: The First Five Years

My adventure in chicken farming began when my sister-in-law (aka The Instigator) gave me three Rhode Island Red hens and a rooster to match. Without her, I probably never would have worked up the courage to try raising farm animals. She had ordered her chicks (all Rhode Island Reds that first year) from Welp, which is her hatchery of choice – she’s ordered all of her chicks (except the second year, as you’ll see) from this hatchery, and highly recommends them.

I had read Joel Salatin's Pastured Poultry Profit$, and Andy Lee's Chicken Tractor, and knew from the start that I wanted raise my birds on pasture and use them to till up and fertilize the garden. My first pen was just a four-foot high ring of welded wire garden fencing, held up with fiberglass step-in fence posts (looking back, I’m amazed the chickens didn’t get eaten the first night!) They escaped quite often, but the kids and I had a wonderful summer playing with them and enjoying the novelty of eggs from our own back yard.

Those three hens laid eggs for us right through the winter, in a small coop and run my brother built for me (if I recall, they did slow down quite a bit in February, but since I didn’t have any supplemental light at all, I consider that AMAZING). The rooster was my son's favorite (he loved to carry it around, hugging it and talking to it) but in the spring, when we finally let them out of the coop, the testosterone (or whatever hormone drives male chickens) took over and he turned mean. Apparently this is common with RIR roos, but my son was very disappointed not to be able to play with his "pet" anymore.

The next spring The Instigator and I decided to drive over to Iowa and pick up our chicks from Decorah Hatchery. It was a fun road trip, with a boxful of cheeping fluffballs serenading us all the way home. We weren't overly impressed with the hatchery (there were dead chicks in the brooder cages, and they didn't have the quantities they'd said they would) and haven't purchased chicks from them since.
That year, I raised Ameraucanas, Buff Orpingtons, and Silver Laced Wyandottes. I love the green eggs from the Ameraucanas, and the fact that you never really know what the birds are going to look like (they're bred commercially for egg color, not standard appearance. I've had brown with black pencil markings, black and white, and all white birds; all laid green eggs). They were fun, and laid a good number of eggs, but not nearly so many as the RIRs.

I wanted the Buff Orpingtons because I'd read that they tended to be broody, and I wanted to see if I could hatch some of my own chicks. No such luck, however, and the rooster was the meanest I've ever had. They also weren't very prolific layers, but the hens were very sweet-tempered and I loved their golden color.

The Wyandottes were very pretty - until about mid-winter. I kept two roosters that year (the Orpington and an Ameraucana, who was very sweet!) and by January my cooped-up hens were definitely the worse for wear. The roosters' amorous attentions had worn away the feathers on the girls' backs, and the Wyandottes looked worst of all. The Instigator told me that Wyandottes are known for losing feathers more easily. I don't think I'll be getting them again if I plan on keeping a rooster around.

The next year I bought all Rhode Island White chicks from Stromberg's (the world's record for most eggs laid in a single year is held by a Rhode Island White, although this is not typical of the breed). I ordered 25; they sent me 30. This should have tipped me off right away. I ended up losing 7 chicks in the first week. It was heartbreaking. This was my first experience with ordering chicks through the mail, and I hoped this wasn't normal (it's not!) I was using non-medicated chick starter, but after a few days of this I bought a bag of medicated feed, and after a few days more the chicks stopped dying - whether from the medication, or simply because the weak ones had been culled out already, I don't know. But it was definitely not an auspicious beginning (I have NOT ordered from this hatchery again).

Once past the first week, however, these turned out to be one of my favorite batches of birds. They laid very well, and were sweet-tempered and mild. I ended up keeping them for two years, and although their rate of lay did decrease dramatically in the second year, I would say they were my most prolific layers to date. I didn't keep any roosters those years, although if I can get some broody hens I might consider getting another batch and trying to hatch some chicks.

Last year was my worst year of chicken farming. I bought the cheapest chicks I could find - 15 "Special Blacks" and 15 "Browns" from Sunnyside Hatchery (I was excited because it's based in Wisconsin, but it seems to be focused mainly on a few production-quality breeds). This was the hatchery where I'd purchased my Cornish Cross broiler chicks (which did fine). I thought I'd save on shipping costs by ordering both at the same time. They were delivered to my local feed mill (where I bought my feed), and all seemed hale and hearty.

After a few weeks in the brooder, I put them out in the pasture pens, as usual. All went well, including mixing the flocks in the fall (if you recall, I kept the Rhode Island Whites for a second year). It wasn't until the next spring that the problems showed up.

I should mention that this was also the year I tried the deep litter method (as described in The Small-Scale Poultry Flock). Unfortunately, I did it wrong. It's supposed to be done over a dirt floor (my coop has a plywood floor), and my coop was much too crowded for this to work effectively.

Whether it was poor management, weak genetics in the cheap chickens, or some disease that the Rhode Island Whites were carrying, in the spring, when I was finally able to let them out of the coop in the daytime, they started dying. I would find a dead hen once or twice a week, and, though I try to raise my birds as naturally as possible, I finally gave in and bought a commercial anti-coccidostat. It didn't help. They kept dying one by one (by midsummer I was losing as many as two a day, three times a week). This dragged on all summer until finally they were all gone. I was put in the galling position of buying eggs for our family to eat until that springs' chicks started laying in October.

So I learned my lesson not to simply order the cheapest, production-quality chicks I could find. Although the hybrid production layers did make a lot of very large eggs (when they were healthy), it’s not worth the anguish I went through last summer.

I also decided I don't want to order chicks through the mail if I can help it; I really feel that the stress on the chicks must affect their future health. So last spring I responded to a classified ad in our local paper, and bought my chicks from a man named Bill who lived about an hour away from me.

I was soon to find that working with a small local producer is a lot different than working with a big hatchery. For one thing, you have to think ahead. If you order your chicks May 1st, it will be at least 20 days until they hatch (more if Bill needed time to collect enough eggs). Of more concern to me, however, was the problem of quantity. I was hoping for 50 laying hens for the coming year (yes, I had a bigger coop by this time!) but I didn’t think through beforehand that to get 50 pullets, you needed to plan on hatching out at least 100 chicks, hoping for at least a 50-50 pullet to cockerel split. Even if your incubator is that big (I’m not sure if his was), it would still be hard for a small producer to have that many eggs of one breed viable all at once.

So, the 40 Rhode Island Red and 10 Ameraucana pullets I had planned for ended up being a mix of 36 straight run Rhode Island Red, Black Star (Australorpe/RIR cross), and Ameraucana chicks. Not exactly what I wanted.

I raised them all for roughly 12 weeks, when the roosters were finally large enough to be “processed”. I made them into stock in the crockpot, and then pressure canned the meat and stock. The remaining hens (and one rooster that I kept) stayed in the pasture pen, but unfortunately found a way to sneak out at night, and I lost quite a few to predators that way.

I finally ended up with a laying flock of 4 Black Stars, 3 Rhode Island Reds, 4 Ameraucana hens and one rooster. Needless to say, I didn’t have any extra eggs to sell this year – my eleven hens just barely keep up with our egg-loving family of seven. I’m lucky if I get 2 green eggs a day, and often only five browns as well, which has my hen to egg ratio only slightly over 50%. I knew from my previous experience that Ameraucanas aren’t great layers, so I can’t say I’m too surprised. I was hoping the RIRs and Black Stars would be better, though.

So, with those experiences guiding my decisions, I think I've figured out what I want to do for this coming year. I found another local farmer (Jennifer) who is hatching out New Hampshires (similar to Rhode Island Red, and a breed I’ve been wanting to try), Buff Orpingtons (I suppose I could give them another chance - I still want to try to get a broody hen), Barred Rock, and Speckled Sussex. They’re $2 each, which is a better deal than you can find at most hatcheries, and I can pick them up, so they don’t have to go through the mail. From my correspondence with her, it seems like she'll be able to hatch out the quantity I want (especially if I go with those four different breeds), and since I'm actually thinking ahead this year, I think I'll be able to get them early enough to have them laying by October.

So what do you think? What breeds and hatcheries have you had success with?

This post is part of Simple Living Wednesday , Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, and Raising Homemakers' Homemaking Linkup.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Honey and Maple Syrup Chocolate Cake

I finally got around to trying this recipe this morning, and now I'm kicking myself for not making it sooner! This is the perfect answer to the Birthday Cake Dilemma. As a Real Food lover, I want to give my kids the healthiest food possible, but on birthdays everyone expects a Birthday Cake. Since birthday cakes generally mean buckets of sugar, this was a problem.
But now I have a solution to the Birthday Cake Dilemma (and just in time - my daughter's birthday is a week from tomorrow!) I don't have to cringe at the ingredients, and friends and family won't cringe at the taste or texture.

Real Food Chocolate Cake
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour (I used sprouted whole wheat and it worked fine)
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I use the "Ghiradelli 60% Cocao Bittersweet Chocolate" ones)

Mix together all ingredients, reserving chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday and Simple Lives Thursday.

Small Batch Soap Making

I did it! Another "homestead-y" skill to check off my list - soapmaking! I actually made my first batch in December with my sister-in-law for support (neither of us had made soap before, but we figured it would be easier with two of us). We followed the directions in Making It (you can read my review of the book here) for making small batch blender soap, and made one batch each of olive oil (Castille) and coconut oil soap (I'd share the recipes, but I'm not sure if that would be copyright infringement - and really, the book is so good you should buy it anyway!) We've been using the olive oil soap in the shower for about a month now, and I love it! My skin feels so much better than it usually does in February (Wisconsin winters can be very drying). I use the coconut oil soap in my homemade laundry detergent (1 bar soap, 1 box borax, 1 box washing soda), since it's very cleansing and doesn't suds up much (I have a front loading washing machine).

I actually bought two soap molds at Bargain Bill's, our local discount store, which had just enough room for the first batch . . .

. . . but not the second! So we scrambled around and found an old muffin pan (I think these are rather cute, actually!) I don't use non-stick pans for cooking anymore, so I don't mind using them for soap, since there will be no danger of cross-contamination.

These recipes made either 4 of the larger bars, or about 9 of the smaller "muffin" soaps.

A few weeks later, the kids and I went to my sister-in-law's house for a visit, where the two of us decided to try making goat milk soap (she raises dairy goats). Another success! (Sorry, I didn't keep a copy of the recipe - maybe if she still has it, she can add it in the comments - please?)

This week, I noticed our supply was starting to dwindle. Since it takes a month for soap to set up properly, I figured I'd better get started on another batch. I had some lovely grass-fed tallow from the half cow we'd bought in December, rendered and ready to use (and so yellow! You can tell it's 100% grass-fed just by looking at it!), and also some lard a friend had given me (from the pigs she'd raised that summer - she didn't want it, so she gave it to me for FREE!)

I searched high and low for a simple, no added colors or fragrance small batch tallow or lard soap recipe, but couldn't find anything that suited my needs. I did, however, find what I needed to formulate my own recipe online. First, I  found the saponification numbers for the two fats I was going to use (saponification is the process of turning fat and lye into soap - resulting in a substance that is no longer either of the two. So (if your ratios are correct) there will be no lye left in your soap, and it will be perfectly safe to use. Gotta love chemistry!), then I multiplied the amount of fat I wanted to use (16 oz) times the SAP #s to find the amount of lye needed. I added a little extra fat (called "superfatting" in soapmaking circles) to make sure there was more than enough fat to bond with all of the lye, just to be on the safe side.

It worked perfectly! Here are my recipes:

Small Batch Simple Tallow Soap Recipe
16 oz tallow (melted)
6 oz water
2.144 oz lye
(it's important to have a digital scale to get the weights accurate - you don't want any lye remaining in your soap!)

Small Batch Simple Lard Soap Recipe
16 oz lard (melted)
6 oz water
2.09 oz lye

Mixed Tallow/Lard Recipe
8 oz tallow (melted)
8 oz lard (melted)
6 oz water
2.112 oz lye

Just out of curiosity, I also calculated how much each kind of soap would cost. Here's what I found:

Castille Soap (I bought my olive oil at Walmart for $18/101 oz)
Per batch: $3.35
Large bar: $.83
Cupcake: $.37

Coconut Oil Soap (Wilderness Family Naturals Coconut Oil $12/32 oz)
Per batch: $6.50
Large Bar: $1.62
Cupcake: $.72

Tallow Soap (half cow $2/lb from my local organic farmer)
Per batch: $2.50
Large Bar: $.64
Cupcake: $.28

(I didn't calculate prices for the lard soap, since the lard was free.)

In case you're wondering, I bought my lye here. I believe it came out to about 25 cents an ounce, or about 50 cents a batch.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Garden Planning

So I finally sat down with my notes from my winter reading (most notably, Eliot Coleman's The New Organic Grower, Carol Deppe's The Resilient Gardener (which I reviewed here) and Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy), my favorite seed catalogs (Jung Seeds & Plants (the only major seed company I know of in Wisconsin), Bountiful Gardens ("Heirloom, Untreated, Open-Pollinated Seeds for Sustainable Growing" - sounds like my kind of company!), Abundant Life Seeds ("Protecting the genetic diversity of rare and endangered seeds since 1975"), Peaceful Valley (which actually lists the offerings of a whole bunch of different small seed companies - it's a 150+ page catalog), Terroir Seeds, Nichols Garden Nursery (I LOVE Nichols - but they don't offer a print catalog anymore; you need to browse online), Select Seeds ("Rare-Choice-Heirloom Seeds & Plants" - and at reasonable prices!),  The Cook's Garden (a little on the pricey side for my taste, but I like the idea of selecting plants with an eye to cooking, looking for the most flavor - I also found this in their catalog, which looks like it might fit perfectly on my kitchen windowsill for next winter's herbs!), Burgess (what can I say? They have the best prices on the plants I'm looking for), and, last but certainly not least, Territorial (which is hands-down the most informative seed catalog I've ever seen. For every single vegetable, herb, and flower variety they sell, they list directions for how to grow them, common insect pests and diseases and how best to control them, optimum harvest indicators, as well as sundry other pertinent tips. Invaluable!), my box of leftover and saved seeds from last year, a copy of last year's garden plan and notes from the season (such as, "plant cilantro in July so it's ready at the same time as tomatoes for making salsa" and "PLANT MORE BROCCOLI!"), a couple of different companion planting guides I've found over the years, and a stuffed fox (for moral support).

My first task was to go through my remaining seeds, check it against my list of what vegetables I want to plant this year, and figure out what I would need to purchase for this season. Simple enough. It came out to about $20 worth of seeds:

Next, and much more complicated, was the task of deciding where to plant them all. I've been reading a lot about companion planting and complimentary rotations, as well as learning more about which varieties prefer high-nitrogen soil and which prefer a less recently manured spot.

I decided to take advantage of my chickens' hard work tilling and fertilizing behind their coop all winter and plant almost all of the high-nitrogen vegetables back there (since the corn did so well in the test plot I planted last summer). So along the chicken run I penciled in a bed of dill, cucumbers, and nasturtiums (all interplanted), two beds of corn and runner beans, a few hills of melons, peas along the fenceline, and a bed of sunflowers and beets (and perhaps comfrey?) for supplemental chicken feed. Nearby, but in a spot not newly fertilized, I plan to put the pumpkin patch, so it has room to sprawl.

In the main garden, I decided to plant 2/3 of it in potatoes and Royal Burgundy beans (my daughter's favorite "magic purple bean"), with the other 1/3 dedicated to interplanted beds of tomatoes/onions/carrots/marigolds.

I'm hoping to put strawberries between two of the blueberry bushes (with broccoli/geraniums/dill planted between the others - broccoli is apparently good for clearing out disease problems when planted after strawberries, and geraniums are supposed to deter cabbage worms). I'll have to renovate those beds a bit, and probably do some terracing, since they're planted on a hill. I'm hoping the lettuce I let self-seed next to the rhubarb in the bed next door to the blueberries will come back in the spring, and the garlic I overwintered there as well.

The main project this spring was going to be the herb garden. I had big dreams there - a total remodel of all of the beds; rearranging the concrete paver raised beds, adding compost to all of them, adding a picket fence (and perhaps a pergola?), moving the kiwi (which is HUGE), and making room for an addition we were planning on putting on the front of the house.

Well, we discovered the addition was going to cost more than we had planned, so that part of the project was scrapped. I also realized there was no way to move the kiwi without killing it (and it just set its first really good crop this summer!) and the pergola would probably get in the way, anyway. Remembering how much time keeping ahead of the weeds really takes, I decided that perhaps rearranging the beds could wait (although I am still doing a big change in terms of what is planted where). Which leaves adding compost and building a picket fence - and after seeing all of the nice, thick branches my husband pruned this winter (did I mention he thinned out some of the scrub trees on the back of our property, too?), I'm thinking I might make it a rustic wattle fence instead (we'll see how that goes . . . if I can get it to look decent, that should save a little money, anyway - one step closer to the addition!)

So, along the fence I'm planning to grow some Scarlet Runner Beans, and in the bed in front of the fence, facing the driveway, I'm hoping to put a few rose bushes, some echinacea, daisies, brown eyed susans, poppies, flax, and mallow (kind of "cottage garden" sort of look). Behind the fence, where it will be slightly shaded, I'd like to put more broccoli, geraniums (to keep my husband happy, and also to deter the cabbage worms). I might also put in some spinach to fill in the bare spots before the broccoli gets going, and some nasturtiums for color along the edge of the bed. 

In the long bed along the sidewalk where the strawberries grew last summer (we had a spittle bug infestation, and their leaves got eaten really badly - we hardly harvested any berries from them) I'm going to put my "miscellaneous" herbs - parsley, sage, thyme, lemon balm, basil, yarrow, cilantro, rosemary, and probably a jalapeno pepper or two. I'm planning to leave my big bed of oregano and chives intact, and the kiwi and cranberries are going to stay where they are as well. Hopefully, if all goes well I'll be able to get a good harvest out of a previously mainly ornamental space.

So, after about four hours basking in the sunshine while shifting papers, looking for which plants work best with which other plants, which like nitrogen, which are better in shade, etc., I have a plan. Does this mean my plants will grow better this year than they did in my earlier, less thought-out gardens?

Probably not!

But I love learning more about the plants I grow, trying new varieties, and experimenting with planting old favorites in different (hopefully better!) ways. In any case, I will be growing healthy, nourishing food for my family, and saving money at the same time. Plus I get to play in the dirt all summer! Who could ask for more?

This post is part of Homestead Barn Hop #50 and Tuesday Garden Party.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Back to Eden Movie

I was planning on writing a post about my garden planning for this year, but just today I ran across this movie: http://www.backtoedenfilm.com/
I watched it this morning, and will definitely be incorporating more of these ideas into my garden - which of course means I need to go back to the drawing board and revise my plan!
(I also LOVE how he gives the glory to God throughout his movie - even if I don't agree 100% with his theology)
Hopefully it won't take too long and I can get you that garden planning post soon . . .

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pruning Our Apple Trees

Way back in 2006, we planted two apple trees in our back yard. I had dreams of applesauce, apple crisp, and, of course, fresh, juicy apples.

I'm still dreaming. I haven't had so much as a blossom from either tree yet (I should note that these are standard trees, not dwarves, so it is normal for them to take longer to mature - but this is getting ridiculous!)

Of course, everything I read about apple trees said that they should be pruned yearly from the start, to promote fruiting and allow enough light through the canopy - and we hadn't pruned either of our trees at all. Ever.

Last year it was evident that the overcrowded branches and wet weather were taking their toll, and so I decided to read up on pruning and do something about my poor trees.

Apparently the best time to prune apples is while the trees are dormant in early spring, which is also when the bacteria aren't as active so there is less chance of fireblight infecting the tree. So my husband went out last Saturday, UW extension publication in hand, and did as major a pruning as he dared.

Tree #1 - before pruning

Tree #1 - after pruning
 (Sorry about the odd shadows - the "before" pictures were taken in the early morning, while there was still frost on the trees. The "after" pictures were taken in the late afternoon in full sun.)

Tree #1 seemed the most hard hit by whatever bacteria was attacking my trees last summer (it was also the one that was most tangled and overgrown). It wasn't exactly a life-threatening problem, but I figured it was best to try to nip it in the bud before it got any worse.

We are attempting to prune to a "Central Leader" system, in which there is a vertical central leader (main stem) and two or three tiers of "scaffold" branches, giving the trees a strong framework, with plenty of light penetration and air movement (and, hopefully, easier picking).

It still looks overgrown to me, but my husband is naturally more cautious about such things (which is a good thing - I probably would have taken half the tree off! It's best to prune no more than 1/3 of the tree at a time, so we're going to need to do a little bit each year until we get to a normal maintenance level.)

Tree #2 - before pruning

Tree #2 - after pruning

It's a start, anyway. Hopefully the trees will do better this year, with more airflow between the branches (and better weather). 

Meanwhile, I'll keep dreaming of apple blossoms . . . 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book Review - The Handbook of Vintage Remedies

The Handbook of Vintage Remedies: The Modern Family's Guide to Herbal Medicine by Jessie Hawkins, MH
(Apparently they put out a new edition in April, and the new cover looks a little different - see the link at the bottom of this post.)

This is another of my must-have reference books that I go back to over and over again. I've read other "herbal pharmacy" type books, but I bought this one because it not only lists what herbs are good for what ailments, but also how to prepare and use those herbs for best effect (the only thing missing, in this Cheerful Agrarian's opinion, is how to grow them!) I find that most books of this type assume that you will be purchasing your herbs in pill - or maybe tea - form and taking them as you would any other pharmaceutical. I like that this book tells me (mostly) how to take my herbs straight out of the garden and use them (although I should note that you don't have to grow your own herbs to use this book. You can certainly use her instructions using purchased herbs; I just like that either option is available.)

The book begins with The Herbal Primer, a short section giving a basic overview of how the book is intended to be used. Chapters include What is Herbalism, Prevention, Immunity, Integrative Medicine, and Herbal Safety. Her philosophy of medicine resonated with me:
"Why do we use herbal treatments, if we are not 'against' the use of medical treatments? We use them because they are more effective and appropriate for many other medical complications or illnesses. When we face minor viral or bacterial infections, chronic health concerns and even acute medical problems, herbs offer another choice in medicine with fewer side effects (some would argue no side effects), a much better safety track record, and reliable results. Why turn to the 'big guns' when we are not facing such dire circumstances?
Herbs offer an intermediate course of action for those times that do not require advanced, usually risky interventions (such as surgery or strong pharmaceuticals), but do require a response for healing. Herbs have stood the test of time, are food-like substances and readily assimilated into the body. Unlike the 'new' drugs coming onto the market every couple of months, only to be removed due to dangerous side effects, most herbs have been taken in medicinal amounts for many centuries, if not more. When treating our loved ones and children, this is a safety record that is not to be dismissed."
After this introduction, the book is split up into two main sections. The first is entitled The Family Clinic, and is arranged alphabetically by problem (ranging from Acne to Yeast Infections). The second is the Botanical Apothecary, also listed alphabetically, but this time by remedy (from Arnica to Uva ursi). This is the section I go back to again and again. It seems like every winter, when the first cold strikes our family, I look back to the Cold/Flu listing ("What works best for a cold again?") Just last week I opened to the page on Athlete's Foot, since my 9 year old was complaining about that ailment (among other things, Hawkins recommends chamomile tea, (which I grow, so I had plenty on hand) which proved quite effective!)

Each entry in The Family Clinic begins with What is it? (it's very important to know what the problem is when you're trying to fix it!), followed by Prevention (so it doesn't happen again), and finally Treatments (most entries list several different options). In the Botanical Apothecary section, each entry first describes the herb, then lists When to use it, how to use it in Culinary Medicine (which I particularly appreciate, since I like to follow Hippocrates' advice to "Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine your food."), Optimal Dose, and When to avoid it (which I find lacking in most herbal remedy books, leaving people open to the idea that "if some is good, more must be better!" Many don't seem to understand that if it's strong enough to help you in small amounts, it's strong enough to hurt you if you take too much, at the wrong time, or when you're taking another remedy.)

After these two main sections, there is a short chapter on harvesting medicinal herbs, a glossary of terms you may not be familiar with (What's the difference between a tincture and a glycerite, again?), a list of internet sites where you can find the herbs recommended in the book, a short chapter on Natural Cleaning (including recipes for homemade laundry soap, fabric softener, carpet cleaner, four thieves oil, air freshener, and even floor polish!), and one on skin care (also with recipes).

This book has been such a help to me, giving me confidence to treat my family's minor ailments here at home (which of course saves a TON of money - not to mention that we're not exposing them to the germs at the doctor's office!) with natural, gentle herbs I can grow myself.

If I can grow our own food, why can't I grow our medicine as well?

Note: I was not payed to review this book, I just really love it! But if you click on the link below and buy the book at amazon.com, I will receive a small commission from the sale. Thank you for your support!

This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.