The dream has always been to live close to the land. The 5 acres came in 2009, when my husband Dan and I bought a neglected 1920s-built bungalow on 5 acres. The goal is simpler, sustainable, more self-reliant living, and a return to agrarian values.
Several weeks ago I shared what we were doing for Dan's hand to support healing. One of those things is an herbal formula called Bone, Flesh, & Cartilage. It was originally developed by Dr. John Christopher, and we found the recipe in a video series by one of his students. Dan has been using a strong tea of the BF&C ingredients directly on his fingers as a fomentation, and also taking it in tincture form orally. The other day I made a batch and thought you might be interested in how I make an herbal tincture.
A tincture is extract of herbs in alcohol. It's advantage is the alcohol acts as a preservative so that it stores for indefinite lengths of time. Teas must be used immediately or they will eventually grow mold and have to be discarded.
The ingredients for this particular tincture are equal parts by weight of white oak bark, marshmallow root, mullein leaf, wormwood, lobelia, scullcap, comfrey root, black walnut bark, and gravel root.
The three forms in which herbs are used.
Herbs come as cut and sifted, whole, or powdered. I like using cut and sifted herbs for teas, because it's hard to strain out powdered herbs with an ordinary tea strainer. I like using powdered herbs for tinctures, however. The theory is that the more surface of the herb is exposed, the more medicinal components can be extracted.
This is white oak bark that I broke up with a hammer and then ground in the blender.
Cut and sifted and powdered (C/S) herbs can be mixed however. The general rule is to use half the amount of powdered as C/S.
I find this pretty much holds true weight wise. It takes half the volume of a powdered herb to weigh the same as C/S. I will say that C/S herbs make a prettier tincture, i.e. clearer. Powders tend to make the tincture a little more opaque.
I use large glass jars for tincture making.
I use vodka for my alcohol base. (For those who don't consume alcohol, see information below under dosing.)
The cheap kind works just as good as the expensive stuff. Some people dilute the vodka with water. Some recipes call for vinegar instead of water. Vinegar is especially helpful to extract specific medicinal components which can't be extracted in water, such as the alkaloids in lobelia and golden seal.
Different people recommend different ratios of herbs to alcohol. I was taught that when the herbs settle, the amount of liquid on the surface should be 25% of the total amount.
The above mixture measures 5 inches, so I'm aiming for the liquid layer to be about an inch and a quarter. This makes a strong tincture with doses measured in dropperfuls.
Put in a dark cool place and shake the jar often. It should sit for a minimum of two weeks. Longer is better.
When it's needed, the tincture is pressed. This gets every last drop out of the herbs. I put the unstrained tincture into a jelly bag and then use a wine press. It has a spout to drain off the liquid through a hose into a bottle,
but I just set up mine to drain directly into any handy container (stainless steel, glass, or ceramic.)
Pour into bottles and store in a cool, dark place. I especially like the brown bottles for storing tinctures.
Doses are by eyedropper.
One dropperful is about 1/4 teaspoon. It can be mixed with water or juice.
Those who don't drink alcohol can add it to one cup of boiling water to evaporate the alcohol. Allow to cool and drink the same as tea.
A typical dose might be one dropperful three times per day. That can be adjusted according to results, but results will vary depending on the strength of the tincture. If you take the herbs as tea too, you can give whatever ails you a double-whammy. Dan is taking one teaspoonful (4 droppers) of BF&C three times a day.
Tinctures can also be made from individual herbs which can be mixed as desired. In fact, this is the best way to make your own custom blends. Of course you need to know your herbs, their medicinal properties, and uses. And double of course you need to get permission from your health care professional before using herbs, etc., etc., (insert usual disclaimers here), etc., etc.
Yes, some good news! Yesterday we received a letter from the second hospital telling us we had been approved for financial assistance and wouldn't have to pay the balance of the ER bill. After our dealings with the first hospital we really didn't expect much regarding this second bill, except to hope it would be reduced at least some. So the news was an extremely pleasant surprise, not to mention a huge relief!
It's been six weeks since Dan's accident and healing remains slow. We're still treating both fingers with the salve, fomentations, and tincture (details on those here). The one finger looks "normal" except for the fingernail, and there's no telling how that will grow back. The finger that was sawed off is much slower to show progress. The end of it still looks more like a hunk of raw flesh than a finger, but skin is starting to grow below the damaged knuckle. It remains extremely sensitive to touch and cold, but he says it's only moderately painful. Considering the bone loss, that finger initially looked like it lost some length, but it's actually starting to look longer and not quite as crooked. That's hopeful!
There are more details on our GoFundMe page, which I will be closing down in a couple of days. We didn't reach our "goal," but thanks to your help we got what we needed! Dan's SS retirement kicks in next month, so now that the biggest medical bills are behind us, we will soon be able to resume a modest but somewhat routine budget.
We would definitely appreciate your continued prayers for healing. Activity-wise he's probably doing more than he should, but just sitting around is almost worse to him than the hand. So soon I should be able to show you a little more progress on the goat barn!
We've been getting a lot of rain lately. That's typical for this time of year, and ordinarily it simply means focusing more on indoor projects. The other day Dan noticed that the pantry ceiling was stained like it was leaking.
Not good. He took a look at the roof and found that it definitely needed repair!
My pantry is in the part of the house we call "the addition" (original floor plan here). It was added onto the kitchen some time after the original house was built. When we bought the place in 2009 we had the main part of the house reroofed, but the roof on the addition was still in pretty good shape so that wasn't done. Almost a decade later it's ready to be reroofed too.
Well, that's not going to happen any time soon. It looks like some repair will be necessary which means tearing into to it. For that, we'll have to wait for sunnier weather plus Dan's hand will have to be healed enough to have use of both of them. In the mean time we'll tarp it!
Because of our hot summers, it's easiest to make and eat fresh cheeses as we need them. Consequently I don't make a lot of hard cheeses to wax and age. Last year I only made one, this farmhouse sage. The other day we sliced it open and gave it a try. Oh my, was it delicious! I was concerned that the fresh herb might not have preserved very well, but it did just fine, giving the cheese a nice marbled appearance. I had to get a photo, quick, because it won't last long!
Here's the recipe. I used goats' milk because I have goat, but you could substitute cows' milk.
1/4 cup fresh kefir (or use your favorite starter culture)
1/32 tsp powdered calf rennet (I use WalcoRen)
1 tsp non-chlorinated water
1 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 cups boiling water
2 tbsp canning, kosher, or cheese salt
Pour boiling water over sage leaves and set aside. Heat milk to 90°F (32°C), then stir in kefir. Let the milk culture for about an hour, maintaining the same temperature. Mix rennet with the non-chlorinated water and stir to dissolve. Stir carefully and thoroughly into the milk. Let sit one hour or until clean break, then cut curd into 1-inch size cubes. Drain and add the sage and water to the curds. Stir gently to mix. Drain curds and pack them into a large butter muslin lined mold. Press. For the first couple hours or so flip the cheese about every half-hour. Gradually increase the press weight.
The next day remove the cheese from the press and rub surface with 1 tablespoon salt. Set out to air and turn occasionally. Repeat the next day with the second tablespoon of salt, and let air dry until the surface has a dry rind. Wax and store between 45-60°F (7-15°C) turning daily for the first week then weekly after that.
I made my cheese early last November so it cured for four months. Definitely a keeper.
Between Dan's hand and nine baby goat kids our life is pretty full at the moment. With all those kids, though, how are the mamas managing to feed them all?
Jessie and her triplets
Daisy and her quadruplets
Goats commonly give birth to twins and singles, occasionally triplets. Breeds like Kinders and Nigerian Dwarfs are also known to have quads! Unlike a cow, however, a goat has only two teats. A cow has one udder, four quadrants, and four teats. A goat has one udder with two halves and two teats.
So what happens when she has more than two babies? Well, goats aren't very good at taking turns and sharing, so how do I know everybody is getting enough milk?
Jessie and one of her girls
For the first couple of weeks the kids are small and don't take a lot of milk. Usually there is no problem with everybody getting enough, but I can still monitor that by weighing them. Any kid not gaining weight is not getting enough milk. I can put this kid and his mom in a pen several times a day to make sure he or she gets as much milk as they want.
Daisy and one of her daughters.
As the kids get larger there is more competition for a teat. Sometimes the doe produces plenty of milk, but the problem is that the larger and stronger kids usually hog the milk. Typically these are bucklings. One strategy is to start the little boys off on bottles from the git-go. Milk the doe out a bit and offer it to the boys in a bottle. If they learn that milk comes from a bottle, that's how they'll expect to get it. They can stay with their sisters and mother, and everybody will get enough milk.
The other advantage to this technique is that there is no cold turkey weaning. Bucklings usually reach breeding age before they are ready to be weaned, and therefore must be separated from the girls. This means weaning is abrupt and results in no small amount of hollering! Days worth of hollering. I've sometimes expected the police to turn up at any moment to ask if I was torturing somebody.
Violet's buckling and one of Daisy's doelings.
So that's a definite advantage to bottle feeding the boys, but it requires a little bit of extra work and time. Is there an easier option?
There is. Once the kids are nibbling hay and grass it's possible to separate them from their mothers at night. I use our kidding pen and let individuals from triplets or quads spend the night there while their smaller siblings stay with mom all night. If they're all about the same size and weight I alternate them.
Of Jessie's triplets I put her buckling in the kidding pen, because he's the biggest and he makes sure he gets plenty of milk. Of Daisy's quads, I alternate kids. One night two of them stay in the kidding pen, the next night it's the other two. Violet's twins also spend the night there so I can milk her in the morning.
Of course none of them like it, but to sweeten the deal I give these kids a pan with a little Chaffhaye to nibble on. They think it's a treat and soon learn to go into the pen at night without me chasing them all over the barn to catch them.
In the morning the remaining kids are shooed outside while their mothers eat breakfast. After the does are finished eating I open the door to the kidding pen and the kids who spent the night there come rushing out to get their milk. Once they've had their fill I open the gate to outdoors and it's goat business as usual.
Waiting for the Maas to finish their breakfasts.
With everybody is getting enough milk they grow happy and well. And that's what it's all about.
Progress on Dan's hand is slow but mostly steady. The sawed fingers are starting to look like fingers! Still no fingernail on the one and you can see where the table saw made it's mark, but he can move it pretty well. The other still has a fingernail, but there are hunks of flesh missing, so that between that and ends of the knuckle bone gone, it looks somewhat deformed. He can move that one too, but just a little. He says he has to fight an overwhelming mental image of the finger coming off again. No, that's not rational and he knows it, but it's one of the things he deals with and must force himself to move it. The fingers still hurt but he says it's tolerable and no longer takes anything for pain. They are extremely sensitive to pressure and cold. (You can read here how we're treating the injury to promote healing.)
When can he go back to work? Unknown. Most of you know he's a trucker, but specifically he currently hauls overseas shipping containers from an inland port to a manufacturer and back again. If it was just holding the steering wheel, no problem. He's starting to use the hand for things like driving our vehicles and drying dishes. It's the things that require strength in both hands that are the problem: opening and closing stiff heavy container doors, connecting and disconnecting brake lines to the trailer, cranking the trailer's "landing gear" up and down for loading and unloading the containers.
The good news is that his social security retirement will start about the middle of April. It won't be a huge sum, but it will pay the mortgage, utilities, phone, internet, and car insurance, and leave us a little over $300 each month for food, fuel, and everything else. Between that and the couple hundred dollars I make each month from my writing, it will be enough! It will be about the same as he was making with his current trucking job, except the earnings from writing won't be extra anymore.
In a sense we've been training financially for this all along. When he's between jobs we've had to go weeks or sometimes months with little to no income. Each time we've learned how to live more efficiently on what we have rather than what we buy. Each time I've discovered that my frustration and anxiety over having no income has become less and less. I've learned to look less at the things I want and more at what I can do with what I have. I've learned to trust more in Providence.
Assuming he can go back to work, his income from his current job is less than the cap social security places on job income. That means they won't deduct from his SS benefits for making too much money.
Of the medial bills, the first ER is completely paid off thanks to everyone's help through GoFundMe. What a blessing community is! Because we were able to pay in full, we got an additional discount. Of the second ER bill, we've contested it, because he didn't go there for emergency services. He went because he had an appointment with a hand specialist and that was where he was told to meet him. We have copies from the first ER doctor documenting all that, but whether the second hospital will acknowledge or adjust remains to be seen. We should have enough from your donations to pay that one off once they make a decision.
One thing we learned from this experience is that he doesn't qualify for Medicaid. In our state Medicaid is only available for low income adults over 65 or for children. The other forms of aid haven't been any more hopeful, and all the layers of bureaucracy make it difficult to talk to someone able and willing to make an authoritative decision.
Regarding our situation we've had something of a mixed bag of reactions. Many of you have been quick to offer prayer support and financial help if you are able. This is what community is all about and we are extremely grateful to each and every one of you. But also I've gotten a number of comments (deleted) and emails of which the gist is basically: "I'm sorry Dan got hurt and I hope he gets better, but this is what you get for not having health insurance."
Apparently there is a belief out there that because of the affordable care act, health insurance is truly affordable to everyone. That's what they told us, right? So the only reason someone doesn't have it is because they choose not to have it. Hence no sympathy. Except that what they told us was merely promotional rhetoric, i.e. a sales pitch spun to gain support for it. After all, this is what politicians do, right? How else can you explain all those broken campaign promises? Then the bill passed and reality set it. Unfortunately, nobody cares about that. Only a few sources have actually analyzed the subsequent data, but politicians ignore that information and the mainstream media censors it, instead telling us that "victims of Obamacare" is all a hoax. Then when folks like Dan and me have problems, it's our own fault. And there doesn't seem to be a shortage of people willing to tell us so.
Well, I'm not going to try to convince anybody of anything. The lines are already drawn and people choose what they want to believe. Personally, I think that putting our hope in politics is not a wise idea. Why? Because politics has nothing to do with helping people and solving problems, but everything with to do with power. The current political battle over health care (and everything else) is just a big King of the Hill game with no thought or care for who gets hurt. And it's always the little guy who gets hurt.
Unfortunately all too many folks are emotionally chained to their political beliefs, sometimes in complete defiance of logic. I say Stalin got it wrong. Religion isn't the opiate of the masses, politics is.
The irony of all this is that if we did have insurance, we would still have to pay this out of pocket because the total costs would have been less than our deductible. But, we would have had to pay full price because we wouldn't have gotten the self-pay discounts. Would our critics have been willing to help us then? I wonder.
So that's where it stands at the moment. I won't do anymore of these long updates on Dan. Progress is steady but slow, so I'm sure a brief here and there comment will be enough to keep you up to date. Your prayers are still appreciated.
I have to say eating our own homegrown whole wheat this past year has been a real treat. We plant it in the fall and growth slows during the cold. With warm weather again it's growing.
It should be ready to harvest in June.
We had such a cold winter that we didn't have much in the way of winter grazing for the goats. Everything remained dormant until the tail end of February, and then started to grow. I've been taking advantage of mild days to do some spot seeding with my modified Fukuoka planting method. When the days are warm, it starts to grow in a hurry!
Mixture of pasture forage seeds growing through barn cleanings.
I planted this section at the end of January when I cleaned out the kidding stall.
In order for the pasture to grow I have to keep the chickens away or they will devour the seed. So we've been keeping them in the chicken yard and experimenting with grazing beds.
Grazing bed planted with wheat & oats for the chickens.
The chickens love it so we think it's a great idea. Hoping to add one new bed per week for awhile.
Big Duck was our Muscovy drake. One day I shooed him out of a newly planted area of the pasture and went into the barn. A few minutes later I came out and saw him lying on the ground. I went over to see what was going on and he was dead! I couldn't believe it. Gone. I went to find Dan and we decided on another three-handed project, harvesting at least the breast meat and legs. So even though we are now without a drake, at least his death wasn't a waste.
Getting photos of nine baby goats is no simple task! Here are four out of the nine.
Meowy in the box
Katy in the box
Sam in the box (or as much as he can, anyway).
And Riley? Riley is too dignified to take a turn at anything the other cats do. He's on equal terms with the humans, after all, and far too superior to stoop to ordinary cat level.
Before Dan's accident we were purchasing a few sheets of plywood at a time to continue working on the goat barn siding. Between his injury and the rain, progress on the barn has been on hold indefinitely. When we got some blue sky and warm temps last week, Dan did the little bit of painting there was to do, and then suggested that if I would help position and hold the plywood, he could nail it in place. I knew he was pretty tired of just sitting around and hurting, so I said okay as long as he would take it easy, not push it, and quit if his hand started to hurt too much or feel worse. Here's what we got accomplished.
First two sheets went up easily and quickly.
Sometimes home-milled lumber ends up twisted. The grinder smoothed out any resulting projections.
A header for the future Dutch door.
Just between you and me, I don't think Dan thinks much of my skills as a helper. Not because I'm not willing, but because he claims that I'm not very good at just standing by and doing nothing until I'm needed. He did think my doing the painting was a good idea, however, and I was still ready to carry and hold things in place as he needed me.
Rain was forecast for the next day so we were glad to get it painted.
Snoopervisor Meowy was pretty bored with the whole thing.
Plywood up and first coat of barn paint on! Still needs a second coat, windows, and doors, but that will be awhile.;
One of Dan's painting project was the wall below the skylight.
He used his circular saw to cut the plywood but said the sound of it pulled up all those memories of his injury, which are still pretty fresh in his mind. But he pressed on. By the end of the day his hand was hurting pretty badly and he had to take half of a prescription pain pill on top of the naproxyn. Yes, I fussed at him the whole time, but I'm not a bossy wife. Mostly because I believe a partnership works best when the partners work as a team, and also because it wouldn't do any good, LOL. The next day, though, his hand felt good and so did he, so maybe between the exercise, feeling of accomplishment and progress it was worth it.
That blog title rather sounds like a generic homestead update, but between all our rain and Dan's hand, there isn't a lot of homesteading activity going on (except for enjoying the antics of baby goats!) This post is a follow-up to my last one about Dan's hand.
Of the two fingers that collided with the table saw, the ring finger looks really good, although where the fingernail used to be is still scabbed and tender. The middle finger is still open and draining and looks a mess. The saw sliced through quite a bit of skin which is starting to come off. Healing will be slower for that one because it has to work inside out. Both fingers are extremely sensitive to pressure and to cold.
We received no instructions for the hand other than to keep it clean and change dressings. So to support healing we've been focusing on good nutrition, improving circulation, and healing herbs.
Since we grow so much of our own food we eat a pretty good diet anyway. For now, we're keeping meals light and easy to digest. Bone broth is especially rich in minerals and nutrients, so it forms a basis for daily soup. Detox tea is tasty hot or cold, and makes a nice beverage any time of the day. Here's the recipe.
2 parts dandelion root (cleansing, anti-inflammatory, liver tonic)
1 part each of
burdock root (blood purifier)
cardamom seed (digestive, liver, and gall bladder support)
To make a decoction (tea of roots, bark, and berries) an ounce of dried herbs is added to a pint of cold water. It helps to soak the herbs in the water for several hours. Then heat to boiling and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool and strain.
I mix this about half and half with green tea which is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, improves blood circulation, and promotes wound healing.
Good circulation is important because it's the blood that carries nutrients and healing elements to the wound and carries waste products away. Exercise helps here, both walking and working the hand and fingers as best he can.
Hot and cold treatments improve circulation. How? Think of how flushed the skin can become when you're hot and how it turns blue when you're cold. Heat forces the blood to the skin and extremities; cold forces it back into the core of the body. Alternating hot and cold promotes circulation. I also give Dan what I call "circulation tea" made from cayenne pepper powder and ginger root powder. Cayenne promotes circulation by strengthening the pumping action of the heart, and ginger promotes circulation in the capillaries.
Another herb that is helpful for circulation is garlic. Plus it's a powerful antibiotic and antiviral. Dan makes himself a drink of raw garlic and ginger in tomato juice every day.
To promote healing Dan applies an herbal salve during the day called Dy's Liquid Bandage. It is actually a veterinary product, but it contains healing ingredients we also use on ourselves: olive oil, beeswax, golden seal (antibiotic, anti-inflammatory), bee pollen (immune booster, antibiotic), yarrow (stimulates circulation), aloe vera (anti-fungal, tonic, promotes wound healing), vitamin E (antioxident, promotes healing), tea tree oil (anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory), propolis (antibiotic, antiviral, promotes wound healing), calendula (antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, promotes wound healing), and honey (antibacterial, anti-inflammatory). It was on sale in January so I ordered some to have on hand. Little did I know then how quickly we would need it. It protects and helps heal the wound plus keeps it from drying out.
At night we're doing a Bone, Flesh, & Cartilage fomentation. A fomentation is wrapping an area in a cotton cloth soaked in a strong concentration of herbal decoction.
lobelia (anti-infective, a catalyst for other herbs)
comfrey root (promotes cell growth and wound healing, nutrient rich)
black walnut bark (anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, rich in minerals)
gravel root (immune stimulant, solvent for unwanted mineral deposits)
This is also made into a decoction made the same way as the Detox Tea above. After it's strained it is simmered down to about half it's original volume and cooled. The fomentation is applied at night, six nights a week. We wrap the BF&C soaked cloths around the fingers, wrap with plastic wrap, and cover the hand with a clean sock. BF&C tincture internally rounds out the routine.
So that's our daily routine. Of course, anyone who's had a severe injury knows how slow healing is, and how hard it is not to become discouraged. But I have to say that the response to our GoFundMe for Dan's medical expenses has been extremely encouraging, not to mention humbling. I hope you could tell from "A Message From Dan" what a difference it's made for him. To have so many people we've never met respond so willingly and generously has given him hope. And to have so many people praying for him has given him peace of mind. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.