Why We Live Off Grid in a Tiny House, Pt VI

Echinacea blooms in our herb garden

This series explains our family’s choices in lifestyle, including early impressions shaping our world view, a commitment to live debt-free, building family values, simple living and sustainable life skills, living close to the land, and family ministry. Last, but not least, we share our desires to prepare for the future and provide a safer place for our family.

Preparing for the Future

The first time we prepared for possible calamity was for Y2K. Not knowing if it would happen, we invested in things wise to have anyway, within our budget (which wasn’t much). Thankfully Y2K was uneventful, but the beans and rice, gas and toiletries we stored became huge blessings later in financially tough times. Our little generator was a lifesaver when a tropical storm knocked out power for several days the following year. It saved our frozen foods (including homegrown beef) and our sanity. We thanked the Lord for using a false alarm to prompt preparation for what He knew was coming.  “She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.” Prov. 31:21 KJV

It occurred to us that wisdom prepares for disasters and unexpected twists in life; especially if God gives warnings, which He usually does.  God may send a prophet (Jer. 25:4) or a sign in the heavens (Gen. 1:14; Joel 2:28-30) or otherwise (Gen. 19, Heb. 11:7) to warn His people of judgment or calamity. Those tuned in to Him can hear (Jer. 6:10; John 10:27). He has recorded things in a Book showing patterns for recognizing future events by past happenings.

Redressing and mulching the raised rows for a winter planting.

Believers should be content with God’s daily provision, not fretting about tomorrow (Matt. 6:31; Heb. 13:5). The Lord provides grace and personal needs one day at a time. Anxiety renders us unproductive and powerless to face a crisis (II Tim. 1:7). Trust in God is practically applied in the simple yet profound principle of spending only what He has provided, rather than presuming on the future and making purchases with resources not yet in hand.

So, does the Lord want us unAWARE and unPREPARED for something coming? Jesus repeatedly warned to watch, be alert, and be ready for a variety of things in the FUTURE. Lack of appropriate preparation creates anxiety. Believers live for the future, not just the present. What we do (or don’t do) today has repercussions later in this life and in eternity. The wise and foolish virgins with their lamps are good examples (Matt. 25:1-13).

About half the beds are prepared.

As noted previously, we have various reasons for homesteading off the grid, regardless of the future. We do not regret following this God-given dream, and the adventures it has created. Nevertheless, we are also keenly aware of the times in which we live, and the responsibility to prepare our family.

These words of Jesus in Luke 12:54-56 speak to this: “When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?” KJV

What are the signs of this time? With our eyes open wide to current events, history repeating itself, and prophecies in Scripture and by godly men, we ask the Lord if we should do something about signs we see. Learning to live more sustainably and helping others do the same has been one answer He has given our family. Working together, living with less, growing food, learning sustainable skills, acclimating to tighter spaces, independent of modern systems, and thriving on a limited budget are other practical ways we’ve felt led to prepare.

The new brick pitcher pump housing made by Silver Oak and Farmer Boy is the centerpiece of the herb garden...adding beauty, but fully functioning as an alternative water source


We would like to think our lovely little homestead in the boondocks, surrounded by friendly neighbors, is a perfectly safe haven, far from violence, pandemics, and evils of town or city…a place of peace and tranquility, broken only by exuberant noises of birds, frogs, chickens and goats, and enhanced by brilliant starry skies at night. And it is.

But without God’s protection we are still susceptible to dangers within and without. In a serious crisis we may be farther from the action, which will hopefully buy some time. If it is quickly resolved, we may not even be directly affected. However, we are not immune to crises.

We thankfully don’t face Smart Meter issues with their health problems and dangers, the lack of privacy, and the control given to others. We didn’t even have to opt-out.  🙂

Nevertheless, another danger in our country has been taking shape, slowly creeping in around us. Things have changed and are changing. Friends of ours were raided on their grass-fed dairy for selling raw milk as pet food…no matter that it is legal in Florida. A woman in Cape Coral, FL was fined for disconnecting her home from the city’s utilities.  The pervading attitude toward people with our lifestyle does not seem to be moving in a positive direction. Of all the reasons we’ve ended up living off the grid in a tiny house, the reason of “safety,” though still a good one, could prove to have an interesting twist.

Our home feels inviting and "safe" under the Lord's protection

A quiet place...

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Psa 91:1 KJV Divine protection is our only true safety…in the “secret place.” And, if while under God’s protection something “bad” happens, we can trust “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 KJV

Our greatest safety and preparedness is filling up regularly with God’s Word and walking in tune with His Spirit and responding when He says “jump” or “hold still.” What a daily challenge in this busy society. Our family has taken this more seriously the past year and a half, preparing spiritually and emotionally several hours each day in Bible reading, and also in praising the Lord and praying together. The impact is profound. I hope to share more about this soon.

We pray this series is a blessing and inspiration to you, not so much about living on or off the grid, analyzing house size, or being prepared or sustainable, but in evaluating values and priorities. In short, the goal is to live in the “secret place” of God’s will for us in all of these areas, resting in His protection and care, ready to go where He leads, do as He directs, and serve how He desires. Though it may look different for you than for us, that place, alone, is where we really learn to know Him, and He can make Himself known.

To receive future posts click here, or sign up in the column on the right.


Why We Live Off Grid in a Tiny House, Pt V

Note:  Credit must be given to Silver Oak for editing, critiquing, commenting on, and offering Scripture for what is written.  This is his vision (shared by me), and he blesses me for taking time to write it down, freeing him to answer the many projects calling his name “out there.”

Linked w/Natural Living Mama, Barn Hop, The Art of Homemaking, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Down Home Blog Hop, Homemaking, Wildcrafting Wednesday, HomeAcre Hop, Old Fashioned Friday, From the Farm Blog Hop, Little House in the Suburbs, Farmgirl Friday, and Simple Saturdays.

The Incredible Edible Vine

I am about to describe an amazing edible plant that has been providing us with lots of nutritious and tasty food, while requiring very little input. A blog reader graciously sent me seeds, so we tried them. It is a fantastic winner, growing vigorously even in the intense Florida heat and bugs. With the goal of eventually raising all our own food, high producing plants that are pest, heat, cold, and drought resistant are of great value to us.

The end of April we placed three of these unusual seeds in the raised mound under a leg of our windmill. They eagerly poked up, although one perished in an accident. The two remaining seedlings quickly developed beautiful deep green velvety leaves. Before we knew it the trailing vines had to be trained to the second leg of the windmill so they wouldn’t expand out of their alloted territory.

In June the first little fruits were found, and within a few weeks our family of eight was enjoying three to four meals weekly eating them and their greens. The vine soon reached the top of the 21 foot (6.4 meter) windmill tower. Last week Silver Oak climbed the ladder carefully to avoid trampling them, and cut off the ends threatening to interfere with the windmill blades. It is now trailing halfway down the opposite side of the windmill tower, making it at least 30 feet (9 meters) long, and still growing like mad.

The windmill makes a great trellis. As you can see the vine has now thinned out below but has much new growth up and over the top of the tower.

What is this mysterious plant? Jack’s beanstalk? Not quite. It is an edible gourd native to Italy which has many names. We know it as Cucuzzi. It is my absolute favorite plant this summer, partly because it makes me feel successful in growing our own food with little labor. It is also beautiful and produces delicious food enjoyed by the whole family and guests.

The leaves feel like soft velvet, and the gourds are similar to zucchini when young.

The delicate white flowers open at dusk and close when the sun comes up

Tied up with pantyhose

As the vines spread out, I used pantyhose stockings to tie them up to the legs of the windmill. Pantyhose is strong enough to support the vines and will flex with growth. I’ve become too much of a country gal and haven’t worn pantyhose for years, but a friend gave us some which we are putting to good use (thanks Ivylover!).

These long slender gourds can grow to be three feet (one meter) long, but by then they are reportedly too tough to eat. We keep out a sharp eye for young ones because they easily grow two to four inches each day and quickly get too large if we are not alert. We’ve read they are only edible up to 12” (30.5 cm) long, but we’ve found that at 18” (45.5 cm) long they are still quite tender and delicious, so we are letting them grow longer. We prepare them just like we would any summer squash like zucchini, with the skin.  Their flavor is quite mild so they can be used in a variety of ways.

We started harvesting the gourds quite small, and gradually increased their size without compromising quality.

You can almost watch them grow! By June 24 this one was around 27 inches (.7 meters).

This plant also provides endless greens. Several months ago I learned that the leaves of squash, pumpkins, and these gourds are very edible! This has opened a whole new world for us. In other countries people know they are edible and sell them in the markets. The vines produce more fruit when thinned out anyway, so twice a week I harvest many long shoots growing where I don’t want them. Since I can no longer reach the gourd vines high on the tower, I’ve been cutting more pumpkin greens growing on the back side of the windmill.

This pile of greens was harvested for the evening meal.

When Silver Oak climbed the tower to trim the upper vines he found a few gourds we'd missed.

The stems are edible but require lengthy cooking to not be stringy. So we use only the leaves, tiny developing buds, and about the last three inches (8 cm) of the tender tips for cooked greens. The rest are given to the goats who don’t like the fuzzy leaves anyway.

Gourd and pumpkin leaves, developing buds, and tips of vines used for cooked greens.

The gourd greens need only be simmered about 15 minutes to make delicious cooked greens easily substituted for spinach. I prefer it over spinach because it’s not as limp or slimy unless overcooked. We like it in pasta dishes, casseroles, mixed with other veggies over rice or potatoes, and as a side dish alone or mixed with the cooked gourds themselves. The fuzz disappears during cooking.

Here the greens and gourds are used as a side dish as well as one of the veggies in corn fritters.

Here is a very simple recipe for our family of eight:

  • 6-quart (5.5L) pot packed full of gourd greens (or squash or pumpkin greens)
  • One 18” (45.5 cm) or two 12” (30.5 cm) gourds or other summer squash
  • Water to cover bottom of pot (more if not using waterless cookware)
  • 1 Tbls olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Garlic to taste
  • 1 or 2 onions chopped (optional)

A pot full of greens ready to be cooked.

We use no chemicals near our plants, so we simply rinse the leaves, tear them into roughly 3×3” (8×8 cm) pieces, and stuff them into the pot. Like spinach, they greatly reduce in size during cooking, hence the “stuffing.” Add water, olive oil, salt and garlic to the pot to simmer for 15 minutes. Cut the gourds (and onions) into bite-sized pieces and add the last five minutes of cooking. When the gourd pieces are just barely tender it is done.

For fun we’re allowing the first gourd to mature to see how big it will grow. It is now 33½” (85 cm) long and 14” (35.5 cm) in diameter circumference (oops, I really goofed on that one) suspended from the tower by pantyhose. Any creative ideas how to use it after it’s fully dried? We will be sure to extract the seeds to share.  This plant not only provides lots of food, but practical materials as well.

The first gourd hangs majestically like a giant green pendant.

I forgot to mention that sometimes the leaves can make your arms itchy when handling them.  I’ve learned to wash any skin that comes in contact with them with soap and water after harvesting them, and it has always taken care of the itch right away.

Have you discovered any unusual plants that are high producers or have other remarkable qualities? I’d love to hear from you.


Grow Your Own Animal Feed, Part II

Grow Your Own Animal Feed, Part II

Linked w/Creative Home & Garden Hop, Natural Living Mama, Chicken Chick, Barn Hop, Eco-Kids, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Down Home Blog Hop, Rock n Share, Frugally Sustainable, Country Homemaker Hop, Homemaking, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Wicked Good Wednesday, Natural Living, Tasty Traditions, HomeAcre Hop, Green Thumb Thursday, Live Renewed, Simple Lives Thur., Old Fashioned Friday, Little House in the Suburbs, From the Farm Blog Fest, Farmgirl Friday, and Simply Natural Saturday.

Grow Your Own Animal Feed, Part III

Farmer Boy and Little Bird play in their “house”…an edible gourd growing up our windmill. It has grown so rapidly it now reaches to the top of the 21′ tower and is providing us lots of delicious food.

This is the first time in central Florida I’ve experienced so much vibrant edible plant growth and color in my own yard in the intense heat of summer (and I’ve lived here 40 years…wow, that makes me feel kinda old!). I hope to share more soon about what we have done differently to make this possible, even before our greenhouse (shadehouse) is built. We moved here 20 months ago and the first year rarely saw butterflies or many songbirds. That has totally changed, and gradually our sugarsand scrubland is being transformed. We feel very blessed by the Lord and rejoice in His provision. I will soon share more about our summer gardening ventures.

I’ve enjoyed your feedback about growing various kinds of animal fodder and forage. While we are glad to share what we’ve learned and what is working so far, we greatly appreciate your input. Homegrown or local feed was historically the only option, but for us who grew up buying bagged feed from a store, it is a learning curve.

In Part One we discussed reasons for growing our own livestock feed and various fodder and forage possibilities. In Part Two I shared some fodder crops we’ve been blessed to start at little or no cost. Next we’ll explore alternatives to GMO alfalfa for dairy animals, commercial chicken feeds, and rabbit feed.

It’s been so much fun to watch the herb garden grow with its delicious tastes and fragrances. This swallowtail must agree.

Dairy animals: To replace alfalfa, tragically nearly completely contaminated with GMOs in this country, we want alternatives to support milk production in our dairy goats and Jersey cow. This may require an adjustment in thinking. With the modern emphasis on quantity, the nutritional quality of milk has greatly suffered. With our own dairy animals we avoid hormone-laden, pasturized and homogenized milk with all its health issues. But what about feeding them grain and milking frequently for high production? Until a few years ago I had no idea there were health issues for both grain-fed livestock and humans consuming milk or meat from grain-fed animals. Consider Jo Robinson’s thought-provoking article.

Our family has come to prefer high-fat (omega-3), nutrient-dense milk and healthy long-living livestock over high milk production using GMO feeds and unnatural grains. If that rules out alfalfa, soy, corn and other grains, we must find alternatives. It’s ok if our goats or cow don’t give the maximum amount of milk possible, especially if that means they will be healthier in the process. Now to figure out how to make that happen.

Take note that cows are grazers and goats are foragers. I won’t pretend to have this nearly all figured out, but in Part Two of this series I mentioned various grazing, forage and fodder options. What plants are specifically good for dairy producers? Black raspberry grows wild here and we’ve already started lemongrass and mulberry, all of which promote milk production. What about other milk-stimulating herbs like dill, fenugreek, nettle, marshmallow root, or blessed thistle? We’re still learning what grows easily here. Fias Co Farm has a great list of what may or may not be edible for goats.  Another list by Kathy Voth suggests edible weeds and plants for cows.

Our nubian milk doe Jody with her triplets last December

Our roosters fertilize the eggs and protect the flock.

Chickens: Next let’s consider our chickens’ egg production. Choosing a natural diet of bugs and forage may mean fewer eggs than a diet of laying mash or pellets, but we prefer the healthier option. Chickens have different digestive systems than cows and goats (ruminants) so grains are naturally a part of their diet. We feed ours oats to avoid GMOs, but need a sustainable option we can grow in our subtropical climate.

We have plenty of room for our chickens to roam, so we are increasing the size of our flock for more eggs, since it costs less to feed 30 without laying mash than 10 with. We still need to find an alternative grain that we can grow at home (any ideas?). We made a black soldier fly composter which produces great high-protein grubs for our chickens. As we perfect it I hope to share more.

 Most garden herbs and many weeds are nutrient-dense and excellent for chickens. We give them our fruit and veggie rinds instead of composting them, as well as scraps from a produce market. The chickens’ digestive systems quickly “compost” it and we simply add their aged nitrogen-rich droppings to the garden.

The black soldier fly composter we made

One super food for chickens (and humans) is pumpkins. Last fall after Thanksgiving we got leftover pumpkins and winter squash from a produce market in town, and broke them open as needed for the chickens. Talk about orange-yolked eggs tasting far superior to organic “free-range” eggs from the store! We raised a batch of meat chickens on those free pumpkins and a little soaked oats, avoiding store-bought chick start. They grew slower, but the end result was GMO-free healthy chicken in the freezer we feel great about. Now we have pumpkins growing at various places on our property. You can’t grow too many pumpkins! If you’re in the south try an heirloom variety called seminole pumpkins. They are prolific and pest resistant even in our hot summers and will keep up to a year in storage.

What are your thoughts on increasing egg production using feed grown at home?

At left you can see a few half-grown chickens feasting on pumpkins last fall.

Rabbits: I love the free nutrient-dense rabbit food Evensong raises for her rabbitry. She finds good rabbit weeds that thrive well in our climate with little effort, and grows them in pots and grow beds. These weeds include spanish needle, dollarweed, lambs quarters, redroot pigweed (amaranth), wood sorrel, clover, wild violets, false dandelion (Florida variety of dandelion), various grasses, young smilax, Florida betony, thistle, wild grape, and others we have yet to identify.

Well-fed rabbits generally won’t eat something harmful for them, so Evensong finds weeds that grow easily on our property and gives them a little to see if they like it. Her rabbits also like moringa, pigeon pea leaves, hibiscus leaves, mulberry leaves, mints, and many other herbs in the herb garden, as well as black sunflower seeds. She places her rabbits out in portable pet fences during the day to forage on grass in the yard. One day she hopes they will be completely free of purchased rabbit feeds. What “rabbit weeds” do you have in your area?

Evensong’s bunnies enjoy sprouted oats

One key to successfully providing home-grown alternatives for our livestock: variety is better. Many plants contain traces of toxins or have medicinal properties beneficial in small amounts, but harmful in excess. The 10% rule is good: no more than 10% daily of any kind of plant. Evensong gathers a variety for her rabbits every day, and we hope soon to have enough things growing to do the same for our goats and cow in addition to what grows in their paddocks.

I already mentioned one free source of food we utilize: thrown-out produce from a local produce market. Many times it is simply past its prime and not saleable for human consumption. Once or twice weekly Silver Oak brings home a large bin filled with pineapple and watermelon rinds, partially wilted lettuce, soft bananas, or other goodies the animals go crazy over. Even the dogs come begging for an over-ripe avocado or juicy grapes. When Silver Oak backs the pick-up to the gate the whole barnyard comes alive with anticipation for the upcoming feast.

The bountiful barnyard banquet!

Some day maybe we’ll have a precise formula for feeding our livestock sustainably, keeping them happy, healthy, productive, and parasite-free. More realistically, we will probably continue adapting to availability as seasons change and needs arise. We are still learning what works best in our climate for our particular animals’ needs. Again, I would love hearing your thoughts and ideas.


Grow Your Own Animal Feed, Part I

Grow Your Own Animal Feed, Part I

Linked w/Creative HomeAcre Hop, Barn Hop, Natural Living Mama, Chicken Chick, Eco-Kids, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Homestead Abundance, Down Home Blog Hop, Rock n Share, Frugally Sustainable, Seasonal Celebration, Country Garden Showcase, Country Homemaker Hop, Homemaking, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Wicked Good Wednesday, Natural Living, Tasty Traditions, HomeAcre Hop, Green Thumb Thursday, Live Renewed, Simple Lives Thur., Old Fashioned Friday, Little House in the Suburbs, Farm Fun Friday, From the Farm Blog Fest, Farmgirl Friday, Simply Natural Saturday, Great Blog Chain, and Eat Make Grow.

Grow Your Own Animal Feed, Part II

Ten pots of sugarcane we started with in December

In Part One of this series I reviewed reasons for growing our own fodder for our dairy goats, cow, horses, chickens and rabbits, and some beneficial plants for the job. Now I’ll share how we’ve started some of these crops quite inexpensively. Of course I must mention that I am not responsible for anything you feed your animals. Please verify that all feed or plants are safe for livestock consumption.

We have been very blessed to start several fodder crops with little or no expense. Last December at a Sugarcane Festival we asked a sugarcane grower lots of questions. This was the second time we had met him and his wife and inquired about the process. As we sampled syrup made from his cane, he appeared to enjoy explaining about planting, growing, and harvesting sugarcane. He was selling potted canes for planting but we weren’t ready for that project yet. The Lord must have known we needed a nudge because the kind grower told us at the end of the day he didn’t want the remaining potted plants and wondered if we could take them off his hands lest they go to waste. With an opportunity like that we decided it was time to start after all.

We took home ten potted sugarcane plants, divided them, and made cuttings as instructed. Using our composted soil we ended up with around 25 pots, each holding several canes. With sugarcane you simply cut the canes into two-foot sections, each with two “knuckles,” stick them in the ground, and each segment grows a new plant! They thrive in sandy soil, and the grassy stalks make excellent animal fodder. It is fast growing and once planted will come back every year with little care even if it freezes. Eventually we can learn to make our own cane syrup or raw sugar granules and molasses. How cool is that?

Cutting the canes to start more plants

We poked the cuttings into pots with soil

They stayed in these pots till two weeks ago

Farmer Boy watered the potted canes during the dry winter as they got established. We watched new green shoots poking out of the “knuckles,” but pretty much forgot about them in our busyness. Some froze and died off. Finally a few weeks ago we scheduled a big transplanting day to plant out or move blueberry bushes, a pomegranate tree, magnolia tree, hydrangea bush, chaya bush, acerola cherry tree, mulberry bush, moringa trees, bamboo, areca palms, a lemon tree, and a jasmine vine.

By late afternoon we were finally ready to tackle planting the sugarcane when it started raining. Knowing it was now or never, Silver Oak and I worked through the drizzle until around 7:30pm. The rain cooled us but made us a drenched and dirty sight to behold! Evensong appeared with the camera for a good laugh, saying we looked like field hands in a third world country. I put a plastic bag over my hat to keep rain off my glasses so I could see, adding to the comical look. We wore our rattiest clothing which went into the trash when we were done. It was quite a memory-maker, and our sugarcane patch is planted, complete with a trench between two long rows for irrigating. Now we are watching it grow!

Farmer Boy proudly hauls the new plants to the field

Next year we’ll hopefully add rows of new cuttings from this year’s plants. Notice the trailer behind the mower with the tank of water Silver Oak rigged up for irrigating.

What a sight we made in the rain!

Like my “rainhat?”

Farmer Boy waters the sugarcane with the irrigation rig

Chaya, or spinach tree

The other big crop we just landed on was chaya. At ECHO last month we purchased one small bush hoping to multiply it with cuttings when it matured. Last week Silver Oak did landscaping for a Puerto Rican family, and guess what was in their back yard? A huge chaya bush! They wanted it trimmed way back so he brought home lots of mature cuttings! Chaya also grows well in sandy soil and roots easily with a woody branch stuck in moist soil. We filled thirty big pots with composted soil and cuttings and are attempting to grow them.

Chaya, also known as spinach tree, is one of those true survival plants as it is extremely productive, drought resistant, fast growing, requires little care, and is highly nutritious. The leaves are more nutrient-dense than spinach, but they MUST be cooked or fried several minutes before consuming to remove toxins (cyanide). Some cook it 20 minutes, but those associated with ECHO say five minutes is sufficient. It is used as a cooked green, but NOT EATEN RAW. Livestock tolerates it raw if it is not more than 10% of total food intake.

Our new starts of chaya seem to be thriving

Another free crop was the many wild morning glory seedlings (weeds) we found growing all over our garden area, so we transplanted nearly 30 of them along the edge of the raised forage bed so they will reach through the fence and into the pasture for the goats to nibble on. They’re planted three feet from the fence so should be well established by the time they grow through the fence. It’s an experiment, so we’ll see what happens, but we expect the goats will not allow them to ever get very large, and it will comprise only a tiny part of their total diet. (Note: Some morning glory varieties reportedly have adverse effects on goats, especially pregnant ones, if eaten in too large a quantity. Check on the species before feeding.)

Wild morning glory vines grow on the side of the fodder bed next to the mulberry bush

In part three of this series I will present some alternatives to GMO alfalfa for dairy animals, as well as laying mash or pellets and chick start for egg layers and fryers. I will include some tips from Evensong’s rabbitry for raising rabbits naturally and sustainably as well. I greatly welcome your input for additional ideas or cautions regarding raising our own livestock feeds.


Grow Your Own Animal Feed, Part I

Grow Your Own Animal Feed, Part I

Linked w/Creative HomeAcre Hop, Barn Hop, Natural Living Mama, Chicken Chick, Eco-Kids, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Homestead Abundance, Down Home Blog Hop, Rock n Share, Frugally Sustainable, Seasonal Celebration, Country Garden Showcase, Country Homemaker Hop, Homemaking, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Wicked Good Wednesday, Natural Living, Tasty Traditions, HomeAcre Hop, Green Thumb Thursday, Live Renewed, Simple Lives Thur., Old Fashioned Friday, Little House in the Suburbs, Farm Fun Friday, From the Farm Blog Fest, Farmgirl Friday, Simply Natural Saturday, Great Blog Chain, and Eat Make Grow.

Grow Your Own Animal Feed, Part I

The front and back of our deck is now screened…it makes a big improvement in the look of the front of our house, although the carpentry work is still not done…

Things have been moving right along here on the off-grid homestead. Between building and planting an herb garden, building raised garden rows for fall planting (we’re in Central FL), planting edible shrubs and trees, laying sod, building fence, installing gutter for rainwater collection, and the learning curve from doing many new things, I’ve been so swamped I can hardly think about blog posts.

In April we were diligently focusing on back paddock fencing when we started getting nasty bites from yellow flies on our deck (our main living area during the day). I react badly to yellow fly bites, and was miserably laid up with infected swollen feet and ankles. One day we killed 15 of the wretched blood-sucking creatures on our deck. The end framing and screening suddenly became priority and paddock fencing halted. Our deck is now screened and I’ve gotten no bites since! I feel at home again. Silver Oak did a wonderful job at something completely new. It’s beautiful!

Meanwhile, in our ever-present quest to become more sustainable and less dependent on store-bought goods, we have been working slowly toward growing our own animal feed. This is not only preparation for an interruption in animal feed availability, but will also eventually greatly lower our feed bill and give healthier alternatives to the genetically modified and chemically laden grains and undesirable fillers present in purchased feeds.

For several years we have not purchased GMO feeds for our livestock, but have found store-bought alternatives expensive or incomplete. For our goats, cow, horses, chickens, and rabbits we’ve used a combination of simple ingredients, including hay, alfalfa cubes and soaked or sprouted oats, but we really need something more sustainable long-term.

We are far from having a complete plan yet, but we’re taking steps. We hope to make our back eight acres into four separate paddocks for rotating the animals, keeping parasites at bay and allowing forage and pasture to grow. Currently our animals freely roam over this area, largely wooded or covered with palmettos. The center fence row is cleared, fence posts laid out, and birdseed purchased to broadcast in open areas for forage. That project was temporarily abandoned when the yellow flies struck.

Our first fledgling mulberry bush for future livestock fodder, started from a cutting from our former landlord’s tree

Meanwhile we’re planting perennials good for livestock forage. To save money we started small with seeds or single plants we can multiply with cuttings. Our property is almost pure sugar sand, so we’ve hauled in loads of decomposed wood chips from tree trimmers. By adding aged manure and old hay scooped from our barnyard and Evensong’s rabbitry we’ve been building lots of raised rows and beds on top of the sand. We are encountering earthworms in loamy soil where there was only sand less than a year ago. It can be done!

Some perennials we have started for fodder include sugarcane, moringa, chaya, mulberry, leucaena, pigeon pea, cassava, sweet potato vines, and morning glory. The leaves and stems make great fodder, especially if a variety is used. The tricky part is learning the level of protein and other nutrients in plants so the livestock’s needs are met.

We purchased this chaya bush, also known as spinach tree, on our recent trip to ECHO. It can be up to 10% of the total diet of livestock, and if cooked is a nutrient dense green for human consumption.

A moringa tree planted last fall (about 12-18 inches) flourishes in our front yard…now about five ft tall, and that is with heavy regular pruning or it would be much taller. Moringa is a green super food, extremely fast growing. We’ve started more from seeds for livestock fodder.

As I’ve previously mentioned, planting perennials rather than just seasonal crops greatly simplifies things. Perennials live longer than two years, and are usually easily reproduced with cuttings or by dividing rather than just seeds. They are often more nutritious, grow and reproduce many years, and take minimal care just as any landscaping shrub.

Many perennials for our animals can also be eaten by our family, raw in salads or as cooked greens. They can be incorporated into landscaping and most folks have no clue they are edible. Soon we hope to add perennial peanut, comfrey, serecea lespedeza (a legume that kills parasites), and other perennials for animal feed, as well as velvet bean and various grasses in the paddocks that will hopefully continue to grow and reproduce on their own once established.

The beginnings of a fodder bed with young mulberry, chaya, moringa trees, and morning glory vines, with room for starting more of the same as we can

Since we live in a subtropical climate we have more options for growing fodder year-round. But some of these plants can be grown in pots and brought indoors in colder climates, using a small sunroom or greenhouse, or by replanting every year as an annual from cuttings or divisions. Most of the plants we’re starting are fast growing.

Making silage to store fodder for nonproductive times is another option which may actually increase nutritional value with probiotics. On our recent trip to ECHO and learning about many DIY projects, we saw a small homemade silo made from galvanized flat iron sheets. There is much to learn about making silage. I would love to hear your imput about this, as well as any other ideas for sustainable feed for livestock.

The homemade silo at ECHO

Sprouted oats Evensong grows for her rabbits

In Evensong’s rabbitry she has learned to utilize many wild edibles growing on our property in addition to store-bought rabbit feed, black sunflower seeds, hay, and oat grass which she sprouts for them. She’s planted some of the rabbits’ favorite weeds near their hutches to make it easy to grab some every day. She considers this to be a very important part of their diet based on research she has done. Our chickens are free roaming on eight acres so they get lots of insects, grubs and vegetation. We also are raising black soldier fly larvae for them, but that is for another post.

In Part Two I will share how we have been able to start some of the fodder crops I mentioned very inexpensively.


DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

Linked w/Creative HomeAcre Hop, Barn Hop, Natural Living Mama, Chicken Chick, Eco-Kids, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Homestead Abundance, Down Home Blog Hop, Rock n Share, Frugally Sustainable, Seasonal Celebration, Country Garden Showcase, Country Homemaker Hop, Homemaking, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Wicked Good Wednesday, Natural Living, Tasty Traditions, HomeAcre Hop, Green Thumb Thursday, Live Renewed, Simple Lives Thur., Old Fashioned Friday, Little House in the Suburbs, Farm Fun Friday, From the Farm Blog Fest, Farmgirl Friday, Simply Natural Saturday, Great Blog Chain, and Eat Make Grow.

Our Windmill – A Sustainable Pump

Our new windmill sings in the breeze

We dug our well last year with the goal of using a windmill pump. Our idea of living sustainably means we aren’t dependent on the availability of fossil fuels or grid power to exist. Since installing solar panels, we normally run our generator only about 30 minutes daily to fill our water tanks. Our inexpensive electric jet pump takes too much “juice” to start with our simple power system. If we aren’t dependent on that pump, we’ll eliminate the need to use our generator.

Since water is the number one survival need, we’re prioritizing securing several good water sources. All other preparations will be pointless within three days with no access to water. So last year we used a tax refund to purchase an eight foot (2.4 meter) O’Brock windmill on a 21 foot (6.4 meter) tower. We just didn’t have the time to get it set up till recently.

Silver Oak got a call from Mr. O’Brock in OH several months ago wondering if he would be interested in putting up another windmill close to our house. Once we got ours installed, Silver Oak would be the “expert” in the area. That appealed to Silver Oak as he is always looking to realize our goal of working from home or very near home rather than commuting to town for landscaping. And this was a motivation to get our own windmill up quickly.

In February Silver Oak started assembling the tower of our windmill, and dug the four big holes by hand to place the legs into. Without the aid of heavy equipment we had to come up with different ideas than the instructions gave at times, so there was quite a bit of trial and error. The base of the tower was lowered by hand into the holes (with lots of grunts!).

We initially helped support the bottom of the tower while Silver Oak assembled it

The four-foot-deep holes were dug by hand

When the base was lowered into the holes the rest of the tower was assembled

The tower and platform are completed

Once the tower was completely constructed, leveled, and squared, the concrete was mixed and poured into the holes to tie it down. There are quite a few O’Brock windmills in central Florida and none were lost to the hurricanes several years ago. Their secret is a strong foundation.

16 bags of concrete were mixed and added to each hole

Next came the assembly of the windmill engine and tail. Silver Oak did this just before turning his attention to the windmill on the neighboring ranch in March.

Assembling the engine, tail, and vane

The ranch’s windmill was the same size as ours, but with a taller tower. The ranch had a back-hoe to dig the holes, hired a truck to bring the concrete, and rented a crane to set the windmill on the tower. That made it easy.

On the nearby ranch Silver Oak assembled the base of the tower, then put the mill together while waiting for the concrete truck to arrive

The next day the crane came to lift the mill up onto the completed 33' tower

With ease the crane swung it up and into place

Silver Oak had to be up there to guide it onto the mast pipe

But it wasn’t easy to set up everything on the top of that 33 foot (10 meter) tower! It was a fairly windy day and we naively had not thought about using a safety harness for such a job. Silver Oak was extremely careful about every move he made up there that day, and resolved to do the next job with the proper harness. I went at noon to take pictures and it made me so nervous to see him crawling around on that thing that I couldn’t leave till he was done. I stayed and prayed, and helped with what I could from the ground.

After the mill was bolted and oil poured into the engine housing, the cover was put in place...see why my heart was seizing up?

Farmer Boy went with me so he got in on the action. This windmill was installed to run an air compressor to aerate the ranch’s pond rather than pump water. It was situated next to a rustic cabin and when it was done it made a handsome sight.

The aerator pump was connected

Silver Oak and Farmer Boy pose proudly beneath Silver Oak's first completed windmill

The ranch's cabin with the windmill in the background...a handsome sight!

Once the neighboring ranch’s windmill was up Silver Oak was itching to finish ours. But we didn’t have the funds to rent a crane to lift the 300 lb (136 kg) mill up to the top of the tower. And you can’t just hang 300 lbs on your back and carry it up there! So Silver Oak had to do what all true homesteaders must learn to do…get creative!

He racked his brain and prayed for ideas, and looked at materials we have to work with. He ended up investing in a $40 chain hoist from Harbor Freight to lift the engine. But what was he going to hang it from, and how was he going to swing the engine around and set it in place once he got it up there? He came up with this:

The pieces used to assemble a lift support for the chain hoist

With the wood he built a little platform for the pole, with a hole to seat it into. Then he dropped the t-pole into the straight pole so the arm could reach out and hold the chain hoist, then swivel around to place the engine and tail right where he wanted it. The finished product is officially called a “gin pole.” It took a lot of tries and adjustments, and was slow going, but he finally got it lifted up and swung into place. That was grounds for lots of cheering!  It is so valuable to know how to do it without a crane!

Mounting the t-pole on top of the tower

The chain hoist is hung from the t-pole

The chain hoist lifts in 10 ft increments, so scaffolding and planks across tower trusses held the engine between increments. I kept the engine from beating against the tower. That was as high as I went!

Preparing to lift the engine the final segment of the journey to the top of the tower

Almost there!

At the top, Silver Oak swung the t-post around, and lowered the engine right onto the mast pipe! It was done!

When the engine was mounted he carried the wheel up in six different sections, installing one piece at a time. It made the job much more manageable. And, this tme, he used a safety harness.

Rather than purchase an expensive harness which he didn’t have time to wait for or money to buy, he studied others and made one himself. He combined webbing rated for a 5000 lb load, a chain, bolts, and heavy duty seatbelt type straps, all which he already had on hand. We all felt more at ease when he started using that. We’re thankful for God’s protection.

Silver Oak's safety harness

Testing it by hanging on the side of the deck

Completing the windmill felt like a major accomplishment, which it WAS! We dug a trench for plumbing from our shallow well in the front yard to the windmill near the back. We hope to some day dig another well closer to the windmill, but for now we’ll pump from the original well.

Our view of our handsome addition from the front yard

Unfortunately other priorities (like planting pasture seed and building my new herb garden) have crowded out finishing the plumbing from the windmill to our water tanks, but it’s a relief to know the big job is done and we have the components on hand to complete it.


Absolute Preparedness

Absolute Preparedness

Linked w/Creative HomeAcre Hop, Barn Hop, Natural Living Mama, Chicken Chick, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Homestead Abundance, Down Home Blog Hop, Frugally Sustainable, Seasonal Celebration, Country Garden Showcase, Country Homemaker Hop, Homemaking, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Wicked Good Wednesday, Natural Living, Tasty Traditions, HomeAcre Hop, Live Renewed, Simple Lives Thur., Little House in the Suburbs, Farm Girl Blog Fest, and Farmgirl Friday.

Sustainable Soap that Grows on Trees

Soapnuts or soapberries (credit:Wikipedia)

At first I thought it was a joke. But there really is a soap-growing tree! In fact, other plants also produce natural detergent, but today’s focus is on the soapberry or soapnut tree from India, which produces nuts (actually berries) that contain saponins to make soap.

A few years ago I researched these trees and their berries. The most popular way to use them is as laundry detergent, although they can be used for other cleaners as well. Imagine completely natural detergent that leaves no chemical residues in clothing. Whether or not we are obviously allergic to chemicals producing suds, fragrance or preservatives, our health is impacted by what we wear. Chemical residues enter our bloodstream through the skin. What we wear can literally become a part of us. 

For this reason and to save money, many have started formulating their own detergents. Many recipes are available online, but I am happy to say I don’t need to cook or mix up large batches of homemade detergents because I use these awesome little berries! Lehman’s sells small quantities of them, but I found Virgin Green Products has the best price, and they faithfully remove the seeds.

Here is how it works: you place five soapnuts into the provided little cotton bag with a drawstring, enough for five loads of laundry. Hot water releases the detergent, so most people simply throw the bag into the washer with the clothing until it’s finished. It does not need to be removed during the rinse cycle as it actually softens the clothing and eliminates the need for fabric softeners as well.

Pieces of soapberries (equivelant of five whole ones) are placed into the little cotton bag

Soapnuts work well with HE washers because they don’t produce a lot of suds. Of course the warranty may be voided if they’re not approved by the manufacturer, as it is with other homemade detergents. I’m happy to be free of that problem with my old top-loading washer bought through Craig’s List for $65. It beats doing laundry by hand like we did the first six months after moving here. 🙂

We're glad to NOT be doing laundry by hand anymore, but glad we have experience doing it so we are ready if the need arises.

For cold water wash use our method, as follows. We bring about a cup of water to a boil, remove from heat and place the little cotton bag of soapnuts into the hot water to steep for about eight minutes. While waiting we collect and sort laundry and fill the washer. We remove the bag from the hot water and place the soapnut “tea” into the washer. After washing and line-drying, our clothing is clean and soft, using no fabric softeners or harsh chemicals.

Our little soapnut "tea" pot

After five or six washes the soap nuts get really limp and should be removed from the little cloth bag and composted. Five fresh berries in the bag make you ready for five or six more washes. Store extra berries in an airtight container or bag so they won’t absorb moisture.

For two years soapnuts have been our laundry detergent and, yes, our clothes get clean. 🙂 As with any laundry detergent we use spot cleaners on soiled clothing before washing. For heavily soiled loads or those needing disinfecting we add natural whiteners, disinfectants, or deodorizers (peroxide, vinegar, peppermint essential oil, and/or baking soda). The biggest problem is the high level of iron in our water. A few drops of Shaklee Basic H helps “soften” and “wet” the water. I want to experiment with baking soda to see if it does the same. The mineralized water makes our whites murky, and I’m looking for a solution. When our rainwater collection system is completed we can use rainwater for whites.

Our line-dried clothes are not stiff...because of soapnuts

Of course I want a soapnut tree in my yard! Imagine picking soap off a tree and never buying cleaners or detergents again. Ha! Well, that poses a few challenges as it is a very tropical tree and takes five to ten years to produce berries. I have seeds and hope to plant some in an area protected from frost (our greenhouse?), but the long wait feels a bit discouraging. Meanwhile we purchased a huge box of soapberries to last many years before needing the tree. They have a long shelf life sealed in plastic.

The economical benefits are great as well. When we bought the large box of soapnuts from Virgin Green Products a few years ago we got 12 bags for much less per bag than buying a single bag. Today I was quoted $15.95/bag for 12 bags, rather than the normal $27.95 each, a 43% savings! Add $13-$30 for shipping, depending on where you live, and it’s up to $18/bag. One bag lasted us a year and a half which is about $12/year. Not bad. The description says a one kilo bag washes 330 loads, which is a low estimate in our experience. HE washers do even better. We have enough laundry detergent to last us 15 years as we’re only on our second bag! Maybe I’ll do a give-away to share my surplus. 🙂

If you must have lots of suds or fragrances (made by chemical additives) that modern detergents have, soapnuts are not for you. With soapnuts your clothes get clean and smell fresh, but you won’t see a lot of soapy suds and your clean clothes will not have a fragrance. But if you want to avoid unhealthy chemicals, save money, protect the environment, and live sustainably, you’ll want to give them a try!

A 2.2lb (1 Kilo) bag of soapnuts...also pictured is mineral salt deoderant that we use

Soapnuts can also be used for household cleaners and hand, hair or body washing. We successfully tried all those for six months. But hot weather turns it rancid after a week or two. Here in hot Florida that meant making new batches regulary. With a family of eight, refilling all soap and cleaning spray bottles every week felt big. In the fridge it keeps longer. But who wants cold soap or shampoo? For now we use it only for laundry, knowing there are other options if hard times come.

After writing this post I thought to myself that I should become an affiliate of Virgin Green Products, since I can honestly highly recommend their soapnuts and other green products. Sooooo, I applied just today (Wednesday the 20th) and I am now an official affiliate. Products purchased by going to their site through my links will earn me a commission! If you do so, I thank you in advance, and hope they do as well for you as they’ve done for me.


Bug out Bags

Bug out Bags

Linked w/Creative HomeAcre Hop, Barn Hop, Natural Living Mama, Chicken Chick, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Homestead Abundance, Down Home Blog Hop, Frugally Sustainable, Seasonal Celebration, Country Garden Showcase, Country Homemaker Hop, Homemaking, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Natural Living, Tasty Traditions, HomeAcre Hop, Live Renewed, Simple Lives Thur., Little House in the Suburbs, Farm Girl Blog Fest, and Farmgirl Friday.

DIY Slow Cooker With No Fuel or Sun

Dry beans make nutritious, economical meals and store easily for emergencies, but use lots of fuel, taking up to two or three hours to cook

We have learned a very simple idea that greatly reduces the energy (fuel) needed to cook. Stoves take lots of electricity, gas, or wood, depending on what kind you use. What if you could cut your fuel or electricity usage for cooking by 50-70% using items you already have on hand? An added bonus with this idea is you will never burn anything!

There are several names for this age-old method of conserving energy, including haybox, wonderbox, or heat-retention cooking. It is so simple and only takes a minute or two and a little planning ahead.

First bring the pot of food to a boil or to the temperature it needs to be until all of the contents are thoroughly heated, depending on the size and density of the food particles. Then remove the pot from the heat and place it into a well insulated container to keep the heat inside the pot. This utilizes heat already in the pot to finish cooking without continual energy usage. It may take up to twice as long to cook this way, but it cuts energy consumption way down.

You can purchase a Wonderbox or find a pattern to make one, but when you live in a small house like we do you don’t want extra things using precious space. For our method you need the following:

  1. Laundry basket
  2. Bath towel (optional)
  3. 3-4 blankets

Let’s use a pot of brown rice as an example. I place the pot of rice and water on the stove and add spices while bringing it to a boil. I allow it to boil two or three minutes while I assemble a basket “slow cooker,” placing a big blanket in the bottom and partly up the sides of a laundry basket.

I stir the rice, place the lid on, make sure it’s still boiling, then lower it into the basket. If the contents could seep out of the pot I use a bath towel around it to avoid washing blankets. I fit a medium sized blanket snuggly over the pot and tuck the corners inside the big blanket . Then I place one or two other blankets on top, since heat will most likely escape there if it can.

Then I set the basket aside out of traffic for about 1 ½ hrs. When we’re ready for dinner we pull it out and serve with whatever topping we prepared.

Line the basket with one large blanket and place the pot into it

Tuck another blanket or two snuggly around the sides and over the top

Finish with a good thick blanket on top

For our family we cook three or four cups of dry brown rice at a time (in a three or four quart pot). Normally it takes about 12 minutes to bring a big pot of brown rice to a boil and simmer for a few minutes, then 40 more minutes of simmering on the stove top. That is a total of around 52 minutes of stovetop cooking. Using the basket cooker method I cut stovetop cooking down by 77%, completely cutting out that 40 minutes of simmering.

It takes between one to two times longer cooking this way, which should be calculated in advance, but timing is not nearly as critical as when using the stove.

We are not big meat eaters, but I know others have cooked meat successfully (smaller pieces) if heated thoroughly before placing it in the basket cooker. Dry beans, stews, lentils, pasta and potatoes can be successfully cooked in this way. Boil bigger particles a bit longer before removing from the stove to make sure they are hot all the way through. More specific information can be found here.

Every Sunday our house church has a potluck, so our food must stay hot for several hours, waiting to be served after church. We used to keep it warm in an electric crockpot or on a warmer. Now we just pack it in our basket cooker, and it’s ready to serve hot at lunch time. It can finish cooking during the service, or we allow a completely cooked dish to cool to serving temperature and place it in the cooker just to keep it hot. If someone asks about bringing laundry to church, we smile and pull out the pot.  🙂

The best dry beans I’ve ever made were cooked using our basket cooker. I used to soak my pinto beans overnight, drain the water in the morning (to “de-gas” them), then add fresh water and cook them for 1 ½ to two hours before adding the final ingredients and simmering for another 20 minutes. I would let them set for at least eight hours for the flavors to mingle well before reheating and serving.

Recently I tried using the basket cooker with great results. I soaked the beans all day, drained them and added fresh water in the evening (along with garlic, olive oil and salt) and brought them to a boil for several minutes right before bedtime. I placed them in the basket overnight and when I got up in the morning they were absolutely perfect!! I added the final ingredients (vinegar, honey, cummin, and onions) and barely brought it to a boil before placing it back in the basket. It “simmered” in there all day, and that evening was ready to serve. It was so easy, and the beans were very tender and flavorful, with no mushiness. I was sorry I hadn’t tried it before.

Our homemade windshield shade cooker

It is wise to be familiar with this cooking method for emergency situations with limited fuel. It allows a little fuel go a long way, making it possible to store whole foods for a crisis which may need longer cooking times. Your back-up cooking plan may include a camp stove of some kind, a solar cooker, or an open fire. Either way, being able to use a “slow cooker” with no fuel will be helpful.

Many variations of this cooker can be made, so use your imagination and make use of what is readily available. Any tub, basket, crate, box or even a hole in the ground will do for a container, and the insulating material could be a sleeping bag, pillows, towels, jackets, hay or other materials that won’t melt or emit toxic fumes. Use common sense with flammable materials. The possibilities are endless, but the key is to make it thick enough with no way for the heat to escape. If you like to sew, here is a pattern for a Wonder Box.

Sometimes we practice the valuable skill of learning to cook over an open fire (I've still got lots to learn about it!)

How To Prepare A Family Emergency Food Storage Plan

If you find this idea helpful, you will find more ideas for preparing food to store and cook efficiently for your everyday use or emergency purposes in How to Prepare a Family Emergency Food Storage Plan: Giving the Frugal Family Confidence to Survive in the Face of a Crisis. Silver Oak and I wrote this eBook after years of practicing a rotating emergency food storage system for our family. Our budget has not allowed us to purchase expensive emergency foods, and we believe it’s healthier and more efficient for stored emergency food to consist mostly of what we normally eat. We live in hot, muggy, buggy Florida, and with our methods have rarely needed dessicants, Mylar, or other such supplies.

How to Prepare a Family Emergency Food Storage Plan spells out our entire plan with many alternatives to fit your family’s needs. The price is currently discounted by 33% for a limited time.

God bless you with wisdom to live prepared.

Growing Tropical Trees in a Not So Tropical Zone

Blessings,SLT Featured Post Badge

When There is No Dentist, Part Three of Three

Our homemade tooth powder

If you haven’t already done so, read part one of this series here, and part two here. This post is a summary of the tooth infection story and what worked for us.

Silver Oak has had only minor tooth decay the past 20 years, but in his younger years he had many large fillings, especially in his molars. I have no doubt the changes we made in our diet and lifestyle during the first years of our marriage have played a major role in that. Many of us have learned things about diet in recent years we never knew before.

Dr. Weston Price spent a large part of his life as a dentist studying the diet of people groups all over the world and the resulting impact on teeth and overall health. His studies have greatly influenced many and we are so grateful for what he had to share. Since studying some of his writings about making a healthy environment in our mouths to promote healthy teeth and bodies, we made more changes.

Now we rarely use toothpaste, which in some ways discourages healthy teeth. We make a tooth powder, which we place on our palm and scoop up with a wet toothbrush. The powder is two parts baking soda to one part salt. Baking soda helps give our mouths a healthy ph level and salt is a natural antiseptic.

After flossing and brushing with powder, we use Spry from the health food store to rinse out our mouths.  It contains xylitol, which fights cavities and freshens our breath since the powder is not exactly delicious smelling. I would love ideas for a more sustainable and healthy mouth rinse that is good tasting, so tell me your ideas.

Flossers take the pain out of flossing. I now effectively floss in a few minutes, where using string floss used to be so laborious I rarely did it. Flossing helps remove the beginnings of plaque build-up and decaying food that may be stuck between teeth.

If we can keep any plaque from beginning to form and keep a healthy ph level in our mouths through proper cleaning and diet, the likelihood of developing cavities is greatly diminished. When any colonies of plaque-forming bacteria are allowed to reside in our mouths they can build deposits of plaque which makes a safe haven for them to multiply. Then, especially during the night when bacteria fighting saliva is not being secreted, they have a hayday in our mouths.

Doug Simons teaches how to brush teeth with a stick, either a flat type toothpick from the store, or crafting them yourself with certain kinds of wood. He says they get cleaner than with a toothbrush and floss, and feel smooth and polished all the time. We have yet to try that, so I will let you know when that happens. But if sustainable is what we’re after, this idea fits the bill.

Silver Oak’s recent tooth infection taught us many things. We’ve made a plan in case we face something like this again.

At first hint of toothache:

  • Ask the Great Healer for help
  • Bite on whole clove with affected tooth
  • Oil pulling with 1 tsp coconut oil & essential oils
  • Refrain from sugars (they feed bad bacteria)
  • Clean teeth well with tooth powder and floss (or stick)

If it appears to be an infection continue the above and add:

  • Prickly pear wedge or poultice, depending on severity
  • Tooth packing with crushed fresh garlic and cayenne powder
  • 2 oz Ionic silver 3x per day
  • Suppliments of garlic & Vitamin C several times per day

Hopefully we will continue with these steps until two days after symptoms are gone!

Silve Oak missed three days of work, making this ordeal an expensive endeavor, but so would being treated by a dentist. Then he would have missed work AND had a big bill and drugs to take. And we wouldn’t have gained the experience and confidence in dealing with this problem ourselves, which could be fatal in the event there would be no dentist available.

Horsetail (Equisetum Hyemale)

There is one thing we still need to address. As Silver Oak has gotten older some of his teeth with the large fillings have started to break. The recently infected tooth needs a new layer of enamel covering the broken part as the natural barrier against infection that teeth normally have. Dentists say that will never happen. Doug Simmons and Weston Price have said differently.

At Doug Simmons’ advice we just purchased a horsetail plant (Equisetum Hyemale) for $4 and hope to grow enough to use as a supplement to aid in healing that tooth and strengthening the enamel on all of our teeth to prevent cavities or heal any that may appear. Varieties of this herb grow wild in many places around the world, and it propagates easily. It contains the highest amount of silica available in plant form, and silica is what it takes to grow new enamel (as well as healthy bones, nails, hair, and ligaments).  We hope to see how it works.


When There is No Dentist, Part Two of Three

When There is No Dentist, Part One of Three

Disclaimer:  This website is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended to replace licensed, professional health care or dental providers.  The author and Live Ready Now! disclaim any liability in connection with the use of this information.

Linked w/Morris Tribe, Natural Living Mama, Chicken Chick, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Frugally Sustainable, My Simple Country Living, Natural Living, Homemaking, Live Renewed, A Rural Journal, Simple Lives Thur., LHITS DYI Linky, Farm Girl Fri. Fest, Farmgirl Fri., Ole’ Sat. Homesteading Trading Post, and Seasonal Celebration.


When There is No Dentist, Part Two of Three

Prickly Pear Cactus grows almost anywhere and is a natural refrigerant, useful for fevers and inflammation.

Part one of this series can be read here.

I was recently reminded that serious infections must be fought in at least three ways. The first is prayer.   When There is No Dentist, Part Two of Three The second is fighting it locally (or externally), and the third is attacking it internally. These should be continued two days after symptoms disappear to make sure the infection is completely gone. That is easier said than done, because after an intense battle with infection we want to relax and move on to something else as soon as we start feeling better. But the cost can be high.

When Silver Oak’s infection seemed to be gone less than 24 hours after using prickly pear cactus, crushed garlic and other things, he stopped treating it too soon, and the infection and toothache returned worse than before. Now we had to be more aggressive than ever if we wished to do it without drugs or a dentist.

The prickly pear wedge was no longer enough to fight the growing infection, so I made a poultice for the outside of his cheek which covered a much larger area than a wedge could. I cut the cactus pads in half the long way and scraped out the gel. The goopy slimy stuff was placed on a paper towel and plastered against Silver Oak’s face, covering the entire jaw area around the infected tooth. It was tied on with a long strip of cotton wrapped around his head. He looked quite a case!

Cutting the cactus pad in half after removing the spines

The inside of a pad cut in half

Scraping the inside with a fork to remove the gel

Scraping the other direction to break it up more

The loosened gel with the skin underneath

The slimy gel was placed on a paper towel...

...and applied to the cheek, jaw, and upper neck area.

Poultices are slow acting so must be applied about eight hours to be effective. In the meantime time Silver Oak kept his teeth brushed with tooth powder after every meal as mentioned in the last post, and we kept his “holey” tooth packed with crushed garlic. We repacked it every several hours, using a Q-tip to press it into the hole. We mixed cayenne powder into the garlic packing to help fight infection and stimulate circulation and encourage faster healing to the area.

Silver Oak could feel the drawing effect of the poultice at times. Making poultices kept us busy hunting down more prickly pear, scraping off the needles, and mashing fresh batches. It was a bit of work for several days, but it really helped reduce the visible swelling on his jaw. At first, if he went for any period of time without a poultice, the swelling and ache would return.

Wearing a poultice in this way is a "pain," but not nearly so much pain as a bad toothache and what a dentist may have to do

In addition to the poultices Silver Oak began taking 2 oz of ionic silver three times per day. Ionic silver is a powerful weapon against bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. We purchase ours by the gallon from Galen Yoder at Nature’s Defense (to order by the gallon contact him, and no, we don’t make any commission on sales :)). It is hard to estimate the value of keeping a generous supply of ionic silver on hand in the face of possible epidemics or other medical emergencies. It has an indefinite shelf life if stored in a cool, dark place (and we’ve heard the FDA is trying to take it off the market…???).

Another very powerful routine Silver Oak began was oil pulling, which fought the infection locally and internally. We are impressed with the results as we learn to use this idea more. At least once each day he swished one teaspoon of virgin coconut oil (other oils will work but coconut is superior) in his mouth along with a few drops of cinnamon, clove, and other essential oils. He pulled this mixture through his teeth and swished it for 20 minutes before spitting it out. This pulled toxins out through the bloodstream in the mucous membranes. Twenty minutes is necessary to mix the oil thoroughly with germ-killing saliva, making a powerful pathogen killer duo.

The white foamy liquid filling his mouth was spit out, but not down the drain. The extracted toxins dared not be swallowed, and coconut oil solidifies and can clog plumbing, so it works best to expel it into the trash.

After three days of consistently using prickly pear poultices, garlic and cayenne packing, oil pulling, ionic silver, garlic and vitamin C capsules, refraining from sugars, and keeping his teeth cleaned, Silver Oak was again free of pain, swelling, and infection. This time when he went back to work he remembered to use the items I packed for him. He discontinued the poultice so he could work, and after a few days of no symptoms he stopped everything else. Since that time (over six weeks) he has had no signs of recurring infection.

So, if we had it all to do over again, what would we skip and what would we do for sure to get rid of the infection? And what will we do to make sure the infection won’t return to a compromised tooth without going to the dentist for a filling or a crown? More in part three coming soon!

When There is No Dentist, Part One of Three Blessings,

When There is No Dentist, Part One of Three

Disclaimer:  This website is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended to replace licensed, professional health care or dental providers.  The author and Live Ready Now! disclaim any liability in connection with the use of this information.

Linked w/Wildcrafting Wednesday Herbal Edition, Morris Tribe, Natural Living Mama, Chicken Chick, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Frugally Sustainable, My Simple Country Living, Natural Living, Homemaking, Live Renewed, A Rural Journal, Simple Lives Thur., LHITS DYI Linky, Farm Girl Fri. Fest, Farmgirl Fri., Ole’ Sat. Homesteading Trading Post, and Seasonal Celebration.