Medicinal Gardening

medicinal garden

We all know the health benefits of eating organic foods. So now that our cold crops are in and starting to grow, we have decided that it’s time to plant our first real medicinal garden. Our regular herb garden contains many herbs that are not only delicious but also have many healing benefits. In our everyday run-of-the-mill herb garden we have rosemary, parsley, peppermint, lavender, sage, chives, oregano and thyme. We utilize it daily throughout the year.

Alas, our medicinal garden is going to take a bit more effort. We will need to harvest the herbs, dry some of them for teas and tinctures and turn others into topical lotions and oils. Roots and flowers are harvested at different times of year for different purposes. Our learning curve is steep with this one but we are excited to replace the contents of our medicine cabinets with natural fixes.

In an effort to be more environmentally friendly, we are saying goodbye to the front yard and turning it into a lawn-free zone. This is a hard one for me because quite honestly I love lawns. Beautifully cared for pristine yards are my thing, so going native, as they say, is a whopper of a change. Our medicinal garden is going to line the walkway to our front door, not only making for easy picking but also becoming a bit of a metaphor for our new lifestyle; Welcome to Our Healing Home.

We have 64 kinds of seeds for our garden, all non-hybrid and heirloom.  No way we can take all of it on at one so we’re starting with a few important ones for our family.


Stinging NettlePhoto by Greg Fewer

Stinging Nettle–Stinging nettle is great for thyroid regulation, bronchitis and bladder stones. We have also found it to be very useful with breathing related asthma difficulties. It can be made into a tea or tossed right in with your salad.

ech_white_swan (2)

Echinacea–In addition to being an all-around immune booster, a tincture can be made for mouth aliments such as gingivitis, canker sores, toothaches, tonsillitis, and sore throats. A lotion with Echinacea will help with sores, cuts, acne, hemorrhoids, and
psoriasis.  Use a tincture to help with internal infections like urinary tract infections, influenza, respiratory infections, snake or spider bites, and swollen lymph glands.


Borage– Borage is a member of the comfrey family and is high in potassium, calcium and mineral acids. The leaf is used to strengthen adrenal function. Oil made from borage seed has the highest concentration of gamma linolenic acid and is very effectively used as an anti-inflammatory for chronic rheumatoid arthritis. The oil is also used for skin disorder like psoriasis and  eczema. It also greatly helps rehydrate sun-damaged and older skin.


Feverfew– Feverfew has been used as a natural fever-reducer as well as for digestive disorders, headaches and arthritis. Parthenolide is naturally found in feverfew. As parthenolide has been shown to induce apoptosis in cancer cells, this is a particularly exciting addition to our garden.

milk thistle

Milk Thistle– Milk Thistle has a unique ability to protect the liver. It is, in fact, the only thing used to treat poisoning with Amanita mushrooms. It is used to treat adrenal disorders and psoriasis (by increasing bile flow.) It also has an estrogen-type effect which is useful for men with prostate cancer as well as helping stimulate breast milk.


Yarrow– Yarrow can be used for a wide variety of things including use as an antiseptic. It improves digestion and helps to keep gallstones from forming. It is a natural and wonderful anti-inflammatory used for arthritis sufferers.

We’ll keep you posted on how we do and welcome any suggestions!


The Art of Happiness

Happy Face

If you ask people what the one thing that they want above all else is, most of them will tell you that they wish for happiness. Lately, we got to wondering why happiness is such an elusive thing in our country (may we site our government’s Misery Index?) We are wealthy in comparison to most of the planet and yet we are seemingly so miserable. What gives?

The Pioneers are in search of happiness just like everyone else and simplifying our lives seemed the best place to start. Our first step in accomplishing that was to leave Los Angeles and to go back to the earth. Has this made us happier? You betcha! I mean we no longer live with the worst traffic in the country. In fact, a traffic jam for us is ten cars waiting at a red light. Heaven! And while no traffic makes us happy, it isn’t the kind of soul-reaching happiness we’re after.

Gardening makes us happy as well. It is hard work that can leave us more exhausted than we ever thought possible. Yet it is deeply rewarding to be able to grow our own food, healthier and more delicious than anything found in the stores. So this is happiness as well.

Raising our beautiful daughters near extended family is a nice big dose of happiness.

Being healthy is happiness.

Do you by chance see where we’re going here? The seed of happiness cannot grow in a heart of expectation and entitlement. Happiness flourishes in a soul rich in gratitude.

In 1972 in the country of Bhutan, The Fourth Dragon King,  Jigme Singye Wangchuch coined the term “Gross National Happiness”, where he was known to say that Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product.  Maybe that’s where we got it wrong. We, as a nation, are so focused on getting more, achieving more, and accomplishing more that we don’t bother acknowledging and showing gratitude for what we already have. We are focusing on our misery, not our gratitude.

In that vein, here is the source of The Pioneer’s happiness. We are grateful for our families, our children, our friends. We are grateful that Jimmy’s cancer is gone and that his little girls will grow up knowing the man that loves them more than anything else in the world. We are grateful for the land and the abundance thereof. We are grateful for our journey, which has not always been easy but always full of lessons learned. We are grateful for our mistakes for they have brought more knowledge than we have yet utilized. We are grateful that we have not received everything that we have desired, for desire makes us work harder.

When The Pioneers get together for Sunday dinner each week, we hold hands and sing The Johnny Appleseed Song as our grace. “The Lord is good to me and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the apple seed. The Lord is good to me. Amen.”

Here’s wishing you true happiness and may the sun, the rain and the apple seed be abundant in your life!

Feeding Your Soil

Raised Beds

One of our 10 raised beds. This one is onions and carrots.

We are growing our own food not only to feel like capable, sustainable people but also so that our food will be the most nutritious and healthy as possible. In order to do this, you have to feed your soil, no ifs ands and buts. This means composting, folks! Which translates into saving all vegetable peels, fruit peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, pasta, breads and cereals that would have otherwise hit the garbage. Fun, you say? Always wanted a big bucket of fly catching garbage on your counter? Sadly you cannot keep leaching nutrients from your soil and expect to have healthful crops. So we bite the bullet and compost.

In the summer months we’re out dumping our scraps into the composter twice a day. With the proper balance of green matter (grass clippings etc.), brown matter (brown leaves, dirt and shredded black and white newsprint) and food scraps, you too can rot out the most fabulous, gorgeous muck that will make your garden sing!

Here in Oregon we are avid raised-bed farmers as much of our housing in built on hard clay soil; which grows weeds of Jurassic proportion but is not at all food friendly. This is how we fill our raised beds. 1.) Organic top-soil. 2.) Compost from our own kitchen. 3.) Goat poop 4.) Organic fertilizer. It is the recipe of the Gods!

Now that we’ve got you all jazzed at the prospect of shoveling  compost and poop, how can we leave you hanging on our fertilizer recipe? Here tis’!

Complete Organic Fertilizer (From: Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon)

4 parts seed meal (we are using cottonseed but you can also use canola seed depending on what is readily available in your area.)

1/2 part lime (Best is an equal mixture of agricultural lime and dolomite.)

1/2 part phosphate rock or bone meal (we are using bone meal as no one in our area seems to carry phosphate. Either way, it can be steamed or raw.)

1/2 part kelp (any kind of pure seaweed meal from anywhere.)

For early spring plantings, use a bit more than you think might be necessary. Best not to fertilize too heavily after the seeds are up and doing well. Start with 1/4-1/2 cup per plant.

It is so, so tempting to just spray some Miracle Grow on your plants. After all, it’s given you the biggest tomatoes ever, right? Yet the over-application of synthetic fertilizers are a great contributing factor to the growing problem of nutrient pollution.

[Unfortunately, industrial agriculture practices continue to damage and deplete this valuable natural resource. While intensive plowing and monocrop agriculture systems  Ghave caused nutrient depletion and wide-scale soil erosion, over-application of [synthetic] fertilizers and pesticides has contaminated our soils and polluted our waterways.] Info from Sustainable Table.

We are going to post the progress of our gardens for you so that you can follow our success (fingers and toes crossed). Hopefully we will succeed so spectacularly that you will transform your own yard into a fabulous and bountiful harvest for yourself!

Alert! Carrots and beets don’t like the poop so skip that step for them.

Had my mom read this before posted. This is how the conversation went:

Mom: Are you sure you want to use the word “poop”?

Me: What else would I use?

Mom: Manure.

Me: Isn’t that still poop?

Mom: Yes.

Me: Mom, poop by any other name is still poop.

“A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt