Monday, May 30, 2016

Launching in 3...2...1...

I finally decided to do it. I'm taking the plunge into actually selling my home-made skin care products. As mentioned in an earlier post, I've been making my magical bug bite and burn salve for a couple of years with amazing results and the only ingredients are infused olive oil and beeswax! Taking what I've learned about infused oils to the next level is pretty intimidating but I've never been one to take on "small" challenges.

Sunscreen and lip balm were introduced here

Due to how much camping and hiking we do, all natural (and safe!) bug spray was my next priority. I found many recipes online that claimed to do the job but that was hard for me to believe considering they were mostly water. The two recipes that seemed to have the greatest compliments for efficacy were either entirely made of apple cider vinegar (ACV) which was effective but stinky or with a high concentration of essential oils which may not be safe for kids or pregnancy and may also burn sensitive skin, all categories with directly apply to my family right now.

So I combined the two recipes, took another ingredient from another recipe and combined them, and infused it all with eucalyptus, mint, rosemary, basil, and lavender. What came out actually smelled really good once the vinegar evaporated. I have tested it here int he PNW with good results and I have a friend in Texas testing it on herself and her family.

Witch Hazel extract
Strong decoction of distilled water and herb mix
Apple Cider vinegar
Vegetable Glycerine
Eucalyptus and Lemongrass essential oils

General body lotion and mature skin cream are currently in testing and should be available soon. There is still some tweaking I want to do with both of those and today I'm taking on the challenge of refining the lotion recipe which, so far, has ended up too thick.

Bug bite and burn salve is brewing for another two weeks, infusion for extra dry skin cream is brewing another week, and brew for face toner will be another week. Probably the most difficult part of starting all this is I'm trying to predict the demand for products that I haven't introduced yet and take several weeks to prepare.

This week I received the professional logo I requested, set up a domain name, and began setting up my e-commerce presence thanks to It was difficult deciding which platform to use to sell my products since skin care products tend to be small and with low price points. Etsy requires a listing fee and a percentage fee of each sale and you get hit a second time with PayPal surcharges. I found a great article by Grace Dobush, long time Etsy seller, which addressed all my concerns about e-commerce sites in general including a chart outlining the various platforms available for selling products online, what they offer, and how much their service charges cost for a variety of price points.

Later this week I expect the website to go live with all the products currently available. Already you can e-mail and expect a prompt response from me. Also on the "to-do" list are business cards, unique vintage labels, twitter account, and a facebook page. Until then, I will keep my Products page up to date with what is available. Shipping within the USA is available for $6.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

New herbal products!

Over the past several years I have been slowly learning about the edible and medicinal properties of many plants, especially those native to the Pacific Northwest. Though it's considered an invasive species from the Old World (the Indians called it "white man's foot") my gateway drug was Plantain. Not the banana, but a green herb that comes in about two hundred varieties spread over the entire earth, the most common of which in our area are "broad leaf" or plantago major and "narrow leaf" or plantago lanceolata. Being so widely spread, of course the two noted above have many more than one or two names, but for the sake of my reference and brevity I'm sticking with "broad" and "narrow."

Plantago has been used for millennia for a combination of topical and internal ailments and is an excellent edible green as it is extremely high in vitamins and minerals. One species is cultivated specifically for psyllium and they all produce very small seeds that can be powdered into flour. My favorite use is putting it directly on bug bites. You have to bruise it first to release the oils by rubbing it in your hands or mashing it up in your teeth. It has antimicrobial, astringent, anti-histamine, and anti-inflammatory properties. We most often use it for soothing nettle stings, general bug bites, rashes, scrapes, and burns. I've developed the habit of picking some on the side of a trail and keeping a few leaves in my pocket whenever hiking just in case. My personal experience leads me to believe that the broad leaf variety is more effective for skin and topical issues and the narrow leaf variety is more effective internally. Of course, if you can't find one, the other will do just fine!

On to products!

I've made salve for the last couple of years using primarily broad leaf plantain and a couple other skin beneficial herbs like yarrow, comfrey, and dandelion soaked in extra virgin olive oil for a few weeks. Add some beeswax for structure and you have portable, spreadable, skin-healing magic! My family swears by it and we use it for just about any closed skin issue like bruises, boils, bites, burns, and stings. I always take a few ounces with us on camping trips.

**FYI oil and beeswax products are discouraged for open wounds as they tend to seal in bacteria**

Given my sensitive skin, Shoshana's even more sensitive skin, and our concerns about applying toxins to the largest organ in our bodies I've been interested in broadening my homemade skin care products so I can feel confident using things like moisturizer, lotion, scrubs, and soaps. The most accessible of which were sunscreen and lip balm! Quick online search will bring up several simple recipes for both. I picked my favorites and tweaked some of the ratios for my personal preference and added vanilla as a basic scent. The difference is my use of herb-infused oils when the recipe calls for liquid oil. At this point I have my skin salve combo, rosemary, lavender, rose, eucalyptus, calendula, echinacea, oregano, and peppermint infused oils, and dandelion root tincture (made with alcohol instead of oil) available for tinkering. 

Sunscreen recipe:
1 cup infused olive oil (I used a combo of skin healing salve, eucalyptus, and rose oils)
1/2 cup beeswax
1/2 cup coconut oil
4 tbs Shea butter
2 tsp raspberry seed oil
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbs zinc oxide

Chocolate peppermint lip balm recipe:
2 tbs beeswax
1 tbs shea butter
1 tbs cocoa butter
1 tbs coconut oil
1/2 tbs rose oil
1/2 tbs lavender oil
1/4 tsp peppermint essential oil
30 drops raspberry seed oil

I hope you're inspired to embark on your own herbal journey, even if that means understanding their importance and relying on someone else to do the work. (wink, wink!)

Please check prices and upcoming products over at our products page!

Lavender lemongrass lip balm now available. It is made with the basic recipe above except 2 tbs Shea butter instead of half cocoa and 18 drops lavender and 10 drops lemongrass essential oils instead of peppermint.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

February Chores

It's been a long time. And a difficult year. I'm sorry to miss a lovely summer and harvest season but I was having difficulty recovering from the birth of my youngest, Judah Daniel. If you want to read more about it look here.

February in the Pacific Northwest is typically cold, dreary, with lots of precipitation, sometimes in the form of snow. So what could possibly be a garden chore for this month? In my experience, proper planning for your garden takes just as much time as doing the initial planting. And with proper planning your garden will be more efficient and satisfying.

Step one for planning crops is knowing your garden space. What is your zone? What is your microclimate? Do you have clay, boggy, flood plain soil? Where is your best sun exposure? What about slopes, drainage, existing trees, bushes, or man-made structures that effect wind, heat uptake, and water drainage? 

(pic: freshly harvested crabapples,)
Tip: You can even create sub-microclimates with the crops within your garden by planting for density and height in a wide horseshoe shape. The area within the horseshoe will be a significantly warmer climate than within rows. Some of my favorite garden planning resources are "Gaia's Garden," "Week-By-Week Vegetable Gardener's Handbook," and "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible." For more of a landscaping emphasis check out "The Garden Planner."

Of course, the majority of winterizing your beds and garden space should already be done but maintenance is important. Some areas of my garden need deeper mulch so I need to finish that before the end of the month so the mulch has time to donate extra nutrients before the sprouts really need them.

Once you have a basic garden plan it is a good idea to start comparing seeds and deciding which varieties you want to grow. There are a few local options for free seed trading such as the Olympia Seed Exchange, Harvest Pierce County (extension of Pierce Conservation District), and the King County Seed Lending Library besides swapping or sharing with your neighbor or at an organized seed-swap. These stock varieties that have been locally grown and donated by other growers, not regulated companies who make a living selling seed, so be aware they may have been improperly crossed or harvested poorly. The next seed swap is this weekend, hosted by Sustainable West Seattle. Check it out!

There has been some legislation discussed in other states that would force most seed libraries to close in attempts to protect the integrity of seeds. This is not expected to be an issue in Washington State in the near future but if you want more information there is a good article here.

A few seed companies operate within the PNW and specialize in varieties that thrive in our cool, maritime climate. My favorites are:

Happy Planning!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Surprise! Just kidding!

Last Saturday, March 29th, despite the complete lack of physical changes normally seen in the last two months of gestation in goats, we were pleasantly shocked to discover two beautiful kids in the stable! I had even begun telling regular milk customers that we may not have any milk products this year. The babies had already drunk the preliminary colostrum before we arrived and were resting peacefully. Chestnut seemed in good health, the placenta was completely passed, and she wasn't particularly interested in any extra electrolytes.

Say hello to adorable brown boy and sweet black girl!

We witnessed both of them stand on their own. A very important milestone within a few hours after birth.

Eating timothy grass.

Snuggled up warm.

Later that day Tim called while the girls and I were at my mom's house and said the baby goats didn't look right. I drove the seven blocks home right away was concerned enough to immediately search the internet. My heart dropped to discover they were experiencing the neurological side effects of a vitamin deficiency. Something we had never experienced before but is not that uncommon in goat babies. It was already "after hours" but I called the vet right away to get our hands on the right vitamins.

We brought them inside and began bottle feeding them right away some of their mama's milk because they were quickly loosing the ability to suckle. 

The red is from the heat lamp to keep them warm.

Three hours later, at 10pm, Tim arrived with the appropriate injectable B vitamin complex and general booster straight from the hands of the vet in Maple Valley. The kids were already pretty cold at that point which made me extremely nervous. We added hand and foot warmers from our hiking stash both underneath and above the kids in an attempt to keep their temperatures up. Unfortunately, exactly one hour later the girl quietly slipped away. These have definitely been a rough last two years for the goat herd. Many tears were shed. Since Tim had a really bad cold and I regularly take medication to treat insomnia mom volunteered to stay overnight to nurse the little thing back to health. The original plan was to set an alarm for every three hours with mom and Tim taking turns to feed him overnight. Between the hours of midnight and 2am mom heroically did everything in her power to keep his temperature up and keep him fed constantly. Come to find out a few days later she even had to restart his breathing a couple of times because he was about to give up. (Cue more tears.)

For the next two days we fed him nearly every hour during the day and every three hours at night. He got a general booster shot and a total of four doses of B vitamin injections. The picture above was, I believe, one of his short trips outside to bond with mama before being brought back inside for the next round of feedings. Both baby and mama were quite happy to be back together, even for just a short time.

Back outside with mama Chestnut and uncle Hazlenut.

Once he stabilized enough to be outside with his family we still bottle fed him a few more times until he was drinking like a champ from Chestnut. The most happy moment for me was during his second introduction to uncle Hazelnut he quickly assumed the playful headbutting posture and pranced around a bit, falling down a couple of times too. Hazelnut was interested in playing too but just held his head still waiting for the baby to instigate the physical contact. Adorable! That day Tim came up with an appropriate name for him from a fantasy trilogy he had recently read: Kelsier, also known as the "survivor of Hathsin." I had been thinking along the lines of "survivor" but hadn't come up with any viable options yet. Kelsier it is!

So, our herd has grown by one, a boy. We are already inundated with milk since we need to regularly milk one side of her udder to balance out the single kid. Tim already tried making some soft cheese but either the chemistry of new milk wasn't right or the bacterium didn't take so instead we have sour cream. Please let us know if you would like to be part of the regular milk pick up schedule. Also, please let us know ahead of time if you would like some chevre since we need about a gallon and the process takes about a day.

Keep an eye on the "Products" page above for current items and prices!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

April Chores

Yay! My first chore post published before the month actually starts! This means that you have no excuse for failing to complete ALL THE TASKS in a timely fashion! Or, you could just read and enjoy the hard work that other people put into their crops and appreciate your local farmer all the more.

General Chores
Do not forget to harden off your sprouts before planting them outside. Most nurseries take that into consideration and only sell sprouts that are already acclimated to the outdoors but it never hurts to ask.

Begin fertilizing indoor plants. Transplant root bound house plants to a larger pot. Harden them off slowly if you intend them to live outdoors for the summer.

Vegetable Garden
According to zone 8 our last frost date was around March 15th so now is when things really get hectic in a vegetable garden. Keep in mind that though our temperatures are, on average, above freezing, areas in the Pacific Northwest are actually more dictated by moisture than temperature. Can you imagine what would happen to juvenile tomatoes, peppers, and squash if they were put outside right now? They would simply rot with all our average rainfall and humidity. Besides, the rains bring out the slugs and I'm not one to put poison out in the open what with toddlers and multiple animals traipsing around. If you don't have ducks around to keep down the slug population we've found beer sunk down in the soil in tuna dishes or some other similar-sized dish works wonders over night. Just be sure to dump the beer and bodies in the morning. Otherwise creatures like my sister's dog might take advantage.

With that in mind now is the time start transplanting hardy sprouts like broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens. You can also direct sow those and moderately hardy seeds like beets, dill, carrots, chard, kale, lettuce, parsley, radish, turnip, and rutabaga.

Pick asparagus regularly to encourage it to continue producing. As production dies down allow some of the small shoots to mature into seed heads so the plant is encouraged to keep spreading.

Garlic that has overwintered should have some healthy leaves by now. Usually this is the time for the second feeding of a general bulb fertilizer. I usually rely on home made compost but I've only been growing garlic for a few years so maybe the combinations of guano, blood meal, bone meal, and phosphorus are worthwhile but I haven't tried them yet.

The first week of April is really the last call to plant warm weather plants indoors such as basil, cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, squash, and seed potatoes. Otherwise you will run into the cool, wet weather in fall with an immature plant and no produce to speak of. Also, avoid planting bareroot plants like fruit trees and berry bushes now. They need to come from a pot to have a chance to produce this year or to set a healthy root system before winter.

Mid to late month you can start transplanting and sowing pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers. I have yet to have success direct sowing either pumpkins or winter squash because either the spring weather rots the plants and brings out too many pests or they go in the ground too late and never mature. Being able to grow winter squash and pumpkins from seed is one of the things that is most exciting to me about the greenhouse. Now I don't have to buy those sprouts and I get to be involved in the whole process!

Late in the month we can safely begin planting beans and corn. Theoretically, you can start them indoors or in a greenhouse and transplant at that time but beware that beans and corn generally dislike transplanting so you must expect to loose some of them to shock.

Flowers and Herbs
The first week of April is last call for planting summer flowering bulbs. I remember the timing (usually) because ideal planting time is around my mom's birthday. How convenient that she also likes bulbs! If you like to feed your bulbs, now is the time.

Perennials and flowering shrubs can go in now.

Most herbs can be transplanted or sown outdoors around mid month except for the especially fragile ones like basil and marjoram.


This month by month compilation was started simply for my own reference. But I was putting so much effort into it that I thought it only fair to share. The above and previous lists are from a combination of my experience and these reference materials:

Horticulture Guy

Weekend Gardener

A Way To Garden

Nichols Garden Nursery

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Permaculture Principles

Thanks to our introduction to permaculture with the Back to Eden gardening method I have continued to learn about working with God's nature rather than fighting against it. The majority of my information recently has come from a lovely book called "Gaia's Garden: A guide to home scale permaculture. 2nd Edition." as well as tips and tricks from two lovely ladies at Sustainable Renton certified in Permaculture Design. In fact, a tips and tricks lecture was offered last Sunday at the main office but, sadly, I could not make it. However, there is another permaculture-focused class coming up on April 6th at 4pm at the Community Farm. One hour of instruction then everyone working together to implement those plans for the SR P-patch. Should be fun! I hope I can attend the first hour, but no promises! Also, I do plan to attend the Seed and Seedling Swap at the main office on April 12th at 12:30pm. You can find these activities and more at the Events page of the website or on the Sustainable Renton Facebook page.

Ahem! Back to my garden.

My little pest controllers are so cute! 

Since I'm learning so much and it is all so exciting I thought I would share with all of you! So I've summarized the Permaculture Principles from "Gaia's Garden," pages 6-7: 
1. Observe your site over multiple seasons and plan accordingly.
2. Connect the various elements of the design to work as an entire ecosystem.
3. Go with the flow. Work with the cycles of the seasons, slopes, microclimates, etc for maximum yield with minimum input.
4. Design elements to perform multiple functions.
5. Design multiple ways to perform the same important function in case one system fails.
6. Learn the "leverage points" of your system so if something needs tweaking you can achieve your goals with little input.
7. Use small-scale, intensive systems. Work out a small design and expand as you learn. (In the medical field we would say start low, go slow.)
8. Optimize the edge; the joining of two environments is the most diverse part of a system.
9. Work toward a mature ecosystem rather than every year slashing the natural progression back to newborn stage.
10. Use biological and renewable resources.

What I would like to do for future posts is devote an entire post to one principle. That would motivate me to learn even more and would drive a bite sized format for interested readers to digest. I feel comfortable with principles 1-4 but after that i can only claim overview knowledge and I'm still not sure what is meant by the "edge" of different designs working together. But I'm looking forward to learning it!

We are actively implementing Principle number 10 at Healthy Horizons: rain barrels bought off Craigslist, spigot from Lowe's, installed by dad and Tim. Total cost: $29 per barrel! They're not even set up yet because the house is only partially outfitted with gutters right now but we have collected enough rainwater so far in strategically placed buckets and wheelbarrows around the property that I have not needed to use the faucet at all yet! I'm hopeful that rain harvesting combined with covering the soil with wood chips will significantly cut our water usage and the related bill.

Hardening off my first transplants from the greenhouse: white and red onions, snow peas from Caitlin, the Urban Food Warrior herself, kohlrabi, and celeriac.

The greenhouse is fully functional! What a treat! This week dad installed a temperature regulator to the ventilation fan so it would regulate itself. I feel so spoiled!

The girls are so happy to participate! Making a treat with daddy.

Shoshana helping plant the "purple" onions around some of the fruit trees (I'm working on developing more of a forest design in the orchard for attracting additional beneficials, discouraging some of the vole and gopher activity, and complimenting soil chemistry needs.

For example, this apple tree is now surrounded by climbing sweet peas, oregano, thyme, and white onions. Abi loves to help with laying down newspaper and spreading wood chips but I haven't gotten a picture yet.

We have all been working diligently to get as much stuff done and prepped before Judah arrives including laying down more chips, planting seeds, transplanting from the greenhouse to the garden, continuing to work on the greenhouse, and even doubling the size of the chicken coop! 

Some of our upcoming chores include 

  • Setting up the fencing to keep the ducks contained for a month or so until my little plants can develop good root systems otherwise the ducks will uproot everything in search of grubs. So far I have enough netting and row covers to protect what little is already planted but later this week I will run out. 
  • Buy the gutters needed or rain collection and set up rain barrels.
  • Continue planting flowers, veggies, and herbs around the base of fruit trees.
  • Transplant pumpkins to larger pots as they outgrow the baby trays.
  • Build a raised bed along the west side in the greenhouse for future tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.

Despite my growing belly and related lack of mobility Spring and the return to gardening has made me so happy! Happy gardening!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Deifying Food

[Cross post from Shoshana: Leukemia blog.]

Our journey with food continues to evolve along with Shoshana's recovery. When cancer cells were running rampant throughout her bone marrow and blood stream we did everything in our non-medical power to help her body heal itself, avoiding foods and toxins that would only make recovery more difficult. I even refused to allow her to be fed Pedialyte during recovery from a bout of diarrhea because I didn't trust the brand. Instead, we fed her a dilute orange juice concoction thanks to the dietitian on her case. For the year that she had a feeding tube we made her a homemade "formula" with whole, organic foods rather than using the whey protein and sugar (2nd ingredient!) formula provided by the hospital which caused her heart rate to slowly but steadily increase to the point which the physical therapist did not feel comfortable playing games with her and also cause severe, caustic diarrhea.

Throughout these last 18 months we have done the best we could with the resources we had. Now that things are a little calmer we have more time to contemplate our long-term lifestyle plan. One of the things that has been tumbling through my mind is "why us?" and "why her?" Many of my family members have already had experience with some form of cancer. I, myself, also dealt with a case of "pre-cancerous cells" in my thyroid which threw my body chemistry off so badly I nearly had to drop out of nursing school. For that reason, we had already implemented many of the major "anti-cancer" lifestyle changes such as removing all toxic cleaners and self care products from our home, eating a wide variety of organic vegetables, and growing as much of our own produce as possible. To have our first family case of childhood cancer is frustrating on so many levels, especially since we already have a relatively "clean" lifestyle.

Which gets me thinking: how much more can and should we do from here on out? It would be lovely to have an easy answer of "if only this then that" but life is not that straightforward. Apparently, leukemia is one of the few cancers that has virtually no links with diet. Other than pockets of incidence around nuclear disasters and heavy metals in the soil, it touches every continent, every people group, every culture, every neighborhood virtually equally. Even the Amish people have nearly the exact same amount of risk as the general U.S. population. (CITATION)

Recently I came across an article called "Food Is Not Your God" which summed up my thoughts on the whole foods movement very well. "I’ve sensed something very disturbing in the Whole Foods World…it’s something that has bothered me to my very core and I’m speaking out against it. FOOD IS NOT OUR SAVIOR."

How easy it would be to say that if we only consume these things in this proportion, we will live long, healthy lives. But the world doesn't work that way. According to the Bible, "Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay (Rom. 8:20-21, NLT)." Working so diligently to learn about the links between diet and cancer began to focus my thoughts away from God to me. "If it were true that eating whole foods would keep you healthy and free from tragedy, then a drug addict would never carry a baby to full term…and a one-Coke-per day elderly man wouldn’t live until the ripe old age of 95. Food cannot save you – Jesus can save you (Food Is Not Your God)." 

The conflicting information in the whole food movement is what first started to get my attention. Grains are bad, grains are good, butter is bad, butter is okay as long as you know the cows it came from, all red meat is bad, take two tablespoons asparagus puree morning and night, etc. etc. ad nauseum. We even came across a website that preached raw goats milk as both a preventative a cancer cure. Never mind that Shoshana grew up on goats milk from our backyard!

Clearly, when we eat well with whole foods, lots of vegetables, responsibly grown meats, we feel better. We are generally healthier. But we are not always entirely healthy. Food is not the answer to all our troubles. Jesus is.

Much like the author of the blog I linked earlier, I will continue to learn how to live and eat responsibly for the glory of God but I need to refocus so to give Him all the credit for our good lives, not the food we eat. There are a few principles that we will continue to live by such as avoiding known toxins, eating organically when possible, making the majority of our food at home, and balancing meat and vegetable protein sources. 

Thank you for continuing to walk through this journey with us. It is not over but we are finally getting to the point where we sometimes forget her appointments!

Just for fun, I'd like to share a delicious recipe I found earlier. I made plenty for leftovers as well as the freezer. In general it's hard for me to find yummy freezer meals that aren't full of meat and I want to be prepared for this baby coming up. If my previous pregnancies are any kind of a predictor, we only have about six more weeks until we get to meet little Judah!

Leek Asparagus and Herb SoupI like my soup with a little more texture so I did not puree the potatoes along with everything else so it was a rich and creamy stock with small potato chunks. I also spiced it a little more with some cumin and turmeric. Even the girls loved it!

Irish Cream and Chocolate Silk PieAnd for something on the other end of the health spectrum and in recognition of the recent St. Patrick's day, this recipe is from Wanna Be A Country Cleaver created by a friend from high school. I haven't made it yet but I sure plan to!

P.S. edited above post to reflect completed draft.