Herbs and medicinals to grow
My top 12 herbs and medicinals to grow and/or preserve and why:
a Note about cutting herbs
This being my first time growing and cutting herbs, I was a little intimidated to just jump in there and cut them. Turns out, it's pretty much that simple. Let this be an encouragement to you! You're not going to mess this up. And if somehow you do, there's always next growing season to try it again! Cut flowers at the closest leaf to the head, and cut herbs before they flower, while they're still tender.
My favorite method of preserving herbs and flowers is dehydrating/drying them! It's so, SO easy, rewarding, and useful. I have a dehydrator that I got for Christmas like 10 years ago that I've been using, but you can also lay herbs/flowers in a single layer on a sheet pan at your ovens lowest temperature and dry them out that way. Or you can bundle and tie them upside down, and hang dry them. If you're looking for a dehydrator, this is the one I've heard is fantastic and would look into if I didn't already have one.
Some herbs are good to freeze in water or olive oil to use in your cooking throughout the year. While I prefer to dry them, cilantro, mint, and parsley can all be frozen in ice cube trays with a bit of water. This article is helpful if you are looking to freeze herbs.
ideas for citrus
I can't grow my own citrus fruits in my climate, but I came into a big bunch of oranges this summer. We couldn't eat them all! So we decided to CAN them! I didn't even know you could can oranges until this year. (Info on canning oranges here) We were left with a ton of orange peels and I just knew there had to be a use for them. I cut them up into strips and froze a quart baggie full to make candied orange peel closer to Christmas time. I still had a ton of peels left, so I decided to dry them in the dehydrator to use in bath products, to grind into a powder to add to hot tea, marinades, and more. You can also do this with all kinds of citrus, and I'm looking forward to dehydrating lemons and limes next.
Cilantro is a must have herb here at our house. It belongs in salsa, rice, tacos, black beans, and pretty much any Mexican dish we make. I love using fresh cilantro, and almost never remember to dry or freeze some in water cubes before it flowers and goes to seed. Thank goodness though, the seeds from cilantro, also known as coriander, taste exactly the same as the cilantro leaf! When harvesting our coriander, I will save some seed to plant again next year, but I will also save some seed to use in our cooking. You can also powder those seeds (after they're dried, either outside on the plant, or in the dehydrator or oven) to make coriander powder, which can then be added to all those same dishes! Cilantro grows so easily here, and usually re-seeds itself, so that I don't even have to plant again, it just pops up on its own.
Mint is an invasive, aggressive grower. That's exactly why we planted it, so it can grow and take over and we won't have to worry about mowing up next to the house. We also have spearmint growing up around the flower bed because at least it's not a weed, right? We have more mint than we could ever find something to do with, but I will save and dehydrate a bit of it to use in DIY products, such as an envigorating foot scrub, and leg energizer. Bundle and hang upside down until dry and crunchy. I don't usually put mint in the dehydrator because there is so much it won't fit!
This has been my favorite medicinal plant to grow this year, and I have big plans for using the flowers! Calendula oil, salve, and tea are on the list for sure. If you've never grown this pretty flower, it's also known as "pot marigold" and has the prettiest, sunny, little blooms. Even if you're just looking for something decorative this would be a great choice.
I had big plans for echinacea this year. I started seeds indoors in early spring, but unfortunately those seedlings didn't do well. I actually ended up buying full grown plants and will harvest the flowers to make tea with this year. You can also harvest some of the roots when the plants mature a bit. The best news about echinacea is that it's a perennial and will come back on it's own next year (fingers crossed!).
If you eat Mexican or Italian food, oregano is a must have herb in the kitchen. It's also a potent medicinal that can be used in tinctures, salves, and teas. I use oregano essential oil all the time, and have decided that it's something I definitely want to have growing in my garden each year.
Thyme is both culinary and medicinal, and a fantastic plant to grow and harvest. We have had better luck starting from a plant rather than seed, but it's such a great plant, and harvesting thyme produces results that are *just like* or better than the thyme you pick up at the grocery store. Thyme is a must have herb in our kitchen, and learning about its uses on the medicinal side of things has solidified it as a keeper in the garden.
Yuck. I hate rosemary on chicken! Blergh. But I can recognize the benefits of something even if I don't like the way it tastes. I do dry a bit for keeping in the kitchen, but having it grown in the garden is more of a health and wellness insurance plan for my family than anything else at the moment.
garlic & Onion
I am mildly obsessed with dehydrating things. Especially when it's something we already buy or use! We use so much garlic and onion in our cooking that it only makes sense to grow a portion of it ourselves. There are also some amazing things you can do to preserve these two, including dehydrated carmelized onions, and homemade garlic powder. These are going in the fall garden with hope for a big harvest next year.
To grind herbs and medicinals to a fine powder you may choose to use one of several different tools
Mortar and Pestle
You may want to get some adorable baker's twine to tie herbs up if you are hanging them to dry, but one reason I love dehydration as a preservation method is how easy and accessible to everyone it is!
I hope that the idea of growing and preserving your own herbs and flowers seems more accessible to you, and you consider it! Even if you don't want to grow your own, preserving some orange peel from the grocery store, or some flowers from the local nursery goes a long way in starting your own stockpile of herbal remedies and helps us be a bit more self-sufficient.
Holistic Seasonal Support
I don’t believe the answer to *most* health problems is pharmaceuticals. I believe there are natural solutions to almost everything, and finding the root cause is something I’m all about. That being said, I have terrible allergies that I have medicated for MOST of my 36 years. I spent so many years treating symptoms with medication (both OTC and prescription) only to feel tired, sluggish, and still mostly miserable with my allergies. I got fed up with the whole thing, really. If I was going to feel miserable anyway, I might as well feel miserable without the meds. For the last 4 or so years, I haven't taken an allergy pill, used an inhaler, or any other OTC or prescribed drugs for my allergies. If that's not a miracle I don't know what is!
I spent some time learning about natural paths that led me to support my body symptoms on the front end rather than treat symptoms after the fact. I still have seasons of discomfort, but I am able to manage much better now.
As I gradually switched out all the toxic products in my home, from cleaning products to body products I noticed that I was better able to handle being outdoors with all the pollen and ragweed. I have a theory that by exposing myself to fewer and fewer chemicals, my body has recovered somewhat! Also my skincare system may secretly protect me from those things. I can't prove it, but I know that getting rid of the toxic chemicals definitely did not hurt.
Another major switch I made was adding in excellent supplements and vitamins. I can tell a major difference when I take them vs. when I don't. As a matter of fact, one of the rabbit holes I went down while studying about natural health was how vitamin deficiency affects seasonal allergies--seriously, just google it. When I don't take my vitamins, my body doesn't handle the floating particles well at all. As long as I stay consistent with my vitamins I do pretty well.
Although the changes in household products and vitamins have made a substantial difference, there are extra steps we take at our house when the pollen gets rough.
Lemon Lavender and Peppermint essential oils used in all kinds of ways:
Over the Eyes
Other Important Factors:
Take Your Vitamins
All Natural Cleaning Products
Watch this video to see more of how I take care of business, holistically.
is cold therapy right for you?
just an idea
Have you ever noticed a topic that won't quit presenting itself to you? When I find myself drawn to a subject over and over again because it keeps popping up, not because I'm seeking it out--I stop to take notice and see if it could be something that's for me. I first heard of cold therapy from Tony Robbins. He submerges himself in cold water every morning. A woman I follow on Instagram started getting in the ocean each morning regardless of the temperature. Another friend on Instagram gets in the cold ocean as part of her intense workout routine. Then late last year I went to a work event in Chicago where they also have a cold tank in their office gym, and it really got me thinking.. Should I start looking into this more?
Firstly, I understand that taking a cold shower or dip in a freezing tub of water sounds like actual torture to some of us. It might also sound like a challenge. Could you actually do it? Get in a freezing tub every day to become a bit healthier? There are several reasons why you may at least consider it.
reasons to consider cold therapy
Not just cold water
While researching for this article I came across Wim Hoff who is apparently the guru for cold therapy. Reading the science behind his crazy, cold antics (covering himself in ice cubes for 112 minutes, climbing part of Everest with just shorts on, etc..) convinced me that trying cold therapy could actually be worth a shot. His method includes a breathing technique, cold exposure, and mindset training that has been studied and shown to directly affect the immune response which was previously thought to be impossible. If you suffer from an autoimmune disease I want to encourage you to look into this method! Wim is a little bit woo-woo, but I think there's something to be learned from him. Take a look and see for yourself <3
different types of cold therapy
There are tons of ways to get started with cold water therapy!, and it is A-Okay to ease into this process. Disclaimer: Cold therapy isn't for everyone, especially if you have chronic lower back pain, pre-existing heart conditions, and more. As always, be your own best advocate and take your health questions to your trusted medical professionals to find the answers you seek.
So what shall we do with this information? Let's put theory into practice! Although you can try it out at any time, it's particularly nice to give it a try in the middle of summer when you aren't already cold. Share your thoughts in the comments, and share this article with your friends!
¹Betz MJ, Enerbäck S. Targeting thermogenesis in brown fat and muscle to treat obesity and metabolic disease. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2018;14(2):77‐87. doi:10.1038/nrendo.2017.132
²Thuzar M, Ho KK. MECHANISMS IN ENDOCRINOLOGY: Brown adipose tissue in humans: regulation and metabolic significance. Eur J Endocrinol. 2016;175(1):R11‐R25. doi:10.1530/EJE-15-1217
Your Holistic First Aid Checklist
Recently, I shared how we have built our holistic first aid kit over time. To go along with that post I created a checklist that can help you as you build your own, and as you're taking inventory of your first aid before summertime hits. Those splinters, scrapes, and bruises really increase when the kids are rough and tumble outside, so I hope this will help you!
You may notice there are items on this list from my favorite wellness company. If you want more info on ordering from them, feel free to contact me, or take a look for yourself!
Understanding Yourself and others
What's an INtrovert?
When I got married, I didn't know what an introvert was. I had probably heard the word, but that was about it... I married one, so I got to understand the differences between introverts and extroverts pretty quickly. It was surprising to me that our brains don't work in the same ways, and that we process things very differently from one another. Once I learned that, I was able to better understand and enjoy our differences. I'm a fan of understanding people. It helps me to like them better!!! These days, I think anything that can help us understand and like people a little more is worth trying out.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has been my favorite tool for understanding the different ways that people think. Once you take a free test and find out what your type is, you can then start researching about yourself. Your type will be 4 letters: E or I (extraverted or introverted), N or S (Intuitive or Sensing), F or T (Feeling or Thinking), and J or P (Judging or Perceiving). For example, my type is ENFP and that 4 letter "recipe" of my personality is just one of 16 possibilities. Look your type up on Pinterest and you'll get all sorts of information you relate with! Things you thought only you did... It's amazing to find out there are other people who think like you out there in the world. Understanding yourself comes first, so read up on your type and see if it fits! The next step is to find out more about your family and friends. Ask them to take the test and send you their results! Most people are interested to find out their personality type and will take the test, so it is easy to do. I keep a running list in the notes on my phone for my friends' and family's personality types... Is that weird? LOL
the 5 Love Languages
Even before the idea of introverts and extroverts, the book The 5 Love Languages, was introduced to me at church. It highlights the 5 basic ways people give and receive love. This was a major breakthrough in my mind! I was loving others the way I want to receive love, not necessarily the way they feel most loved. Those 5 ways of giving and receiving love are: Quality Time, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, and Gifts. I believe we actually need to receive love in all those ways, but there is usually one that is most important, or one area that needs more focus. I really had to learn how to love with acts of service. Not only has it benefitted my marriage, but it has made me a better person to learn how to love others in different ways. This also applies to children as well, so it has been helpful information to have. I'm truly glad to have learned this early on in my marriage. Since reading this book years ago, they have come out with a whole website with quizzes! Hurray! Another quiz, and you can find it here.
the four colors
The Four Colors is a book that was recommended to me when I started with my essential oils business. It claims to be for network marketing, but I think it's a fantastic way of understanding myself and others better. It's especially useful for relating to others in a sales or work environment. This book divides personality types up into 4 separate colors: red, green, blue, and yellow, each with distinctive ways of relaying and receiving information. TLDR: Red likes business, Green likes research, Blue wants to have fun, and Yellow wants to help others. Most will have one primary color that they relate to, with a secondary color that also plays an important role.
I am a little late to the enneagram game.. but it's all the rage! I will also admit that I don't relate to this test as much as I do to others so I'm not the expert of enneagram, but I can appreciate that this test has been a helpful window into better understanding for some of my friends, so I wanted to make sure I included it. Take the free test here and discover which number you are, then use that information to help you understand more about your strengths and fears. These tests can help pinpoint both positive and negative attributes. It's so helpful to consider the results and see what needs to be addressed to become a better person.
harry potter house
Which house would you be in? If you've read Harry Potter, then you have probably wondered which house you would be a part of. Well wonder no more! You do have to create an account, but this and many others quizzes and tests are free over on the wizarding world website. The sorting hat quiz is short, sweet, and fun to take, and is another great personality quiz to add to the list. I would have guessed that I was a Hufflepuff, but the hat sorted me to Gryffindor!
I first found out about brand archetypes in an online class I was a part of where I was encouraged to take this free test. For those of us with our own businesses, those of us who work within a small business, or those who are in marketing, this test can be eye-opening! It's such a fascinating way to see how to market your business or brand to others, and it's encouraging to find your brand has one of 12 archetypes just like every other brand that exists.
Internal Monologue VS. Abstract thought
Do you have an internal monologue? When I read this article, I was -as they say- shook. I spent a week or more analyzing my thoughts to see how I processed things, if it was more abstract, or if there was an internal monologue.. It turns out that I actually am a good mix of the two, using both abstract thought and internal monologue. It was a major distraction to analyze my thought processes so closely! But once I figured out I was a mix, I was able to relax and stop analyzing so closely. While this isn't exactly a personality test, it is a different way of categorizing different ways the brain processes information, and it was completely new to me!
the big five
The Big Five is the newest personality test I have heard of and I am HERE. FOR. IT. I love this way of breaking down points of your personality in graph form. It really helped me to see where I am completely unbalanced, and where I have more evenly distributed tendencies. You can see my results here. Take the free test for yourself here.
I haven't yet taken these tests, but I wanted to include them here for you. These tests take a little more time to complete, but seem like they will be informative.
Values Test --helps uncover your core values
Work Values Test--helps uncover your talents and and help you choose a career path based on your assessed work values.
As always, please share any suggestions for additions to this post!
Planning Your Garden
This month our focus is getting your garden in gear! If you already have a huge garden planned, or it's your first time trying cherry tomatoes in a pot on your porch, it's time to start thinking about what your plans are for feeding yourself this year! With everything going on in the world, more and more people I know are considering gardening either for the first time, or making their gardens bigger and better. (I know we are!) Here I'm sharing some thoughts on how to get started planning your garden this year. I won't be sharing exact step by step because we're still learning ourselves, but I will try to pass along helpful ideas that will help you get started.
WHY ARE YOU GARDENING
We've been gardening for years, semi-successfully. Our goals each year determine how much we plant, and plan to harvest. So the first question you should ask yourself when planting a garden is why are you doing it?
Here are some reasons we have gardened in the past:
If you are growing for a specific purpose, you will plant accordingly. If you're growing a garden to make your own salsa, you will plant lots of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cilantro. Allll the cilantro!!! If you're purpose is more general, to supplement your groceries, you will obviously plant a broader range of vegetables.
I want to remind you that the best way to learn is to DO. So if you're gathering information because you want your garden to be bountiful and perfect, just know it probably won't be.. Rabbits will eat something, Hornworms will try to destroy your tomatoes, and your cilantro will flower and not be ready for you when it's time to make salsa. Adopt this motto: Done is better than perfect. Go ahead and read articles (like this one!) and books, but also go put some seed or plants in the dirt.
choose your garden style
There are several "styles" of gardening that you have probably heard of. The most talked about are: Container Gardening, Raised Bed Gardening (which is our favorite method!), Straw Bale Gardening, Victory Gardening, Hydroponic Gardening... There are tons of choices. But for us, Raised Bed AKA Square Foot Gardening changed the way we approached growing things, providing a bigger yield in a smaller space, with much less weeding and hands on work.
After you know why you're gardening, and you choose your gardening style, it's time to choose your plants and seeds. THIS IS THE BEST PART!! We go seed shopping when it's still cold outside and we need a bit of sunshine. Usually in January or February, but sometimes later. Your eyes will be bigger than your garden. I don't know what it is about seed shopping that makes you feel like you can grow anything and everything, but just roll with it! Make sure you get foods that you love and will eat, but don't be afraid to try a few new fun things as well. We usually have several varieties of tomatoes and peppers at the minimum. We have branched out into growing more greens, onions, potatoes, broccoli and carrots. Some are more finnicky than others and we're still learning, but go ahead and try it all out! Take notes in your garden journal, and compare notes next year. Learn each year and it will get better and better.
WHERE TO SHOP
Good seeds are important! While we do pick up seeds and plants from local garden centers from time to time, we usually place a big seed order once a year from one or two of these excellent companies.
BAKER CREEK HEIRLOOM SEEDS
ANNIE'S HEIRLOOM SEEDS
Books and MAgazines
Our favorite books for gardening are more like all around homesteading books. Check them out at your local library, or click through to find them on Amazon:
SQUARE FOOT GARDENING
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COUNTRY LIVING
PETERSON FIELD GUIDE
BALL BLUE BOOK OF PRESERVING
Our favorite homesteading magazines are full of relevant and helpful information and inspiration. Linked below are their websites, some of which are amazing even without the magazine subscription!
MOTHER EARTH NEWS
COUNTRYSIDE AND SMALL STOCK JOURNAL
BACKWOODS HOME MAGAZINE
Garden Planner and Tracker
I've created this garden journal to provide the perfect spot to keep up with all your fruits and veggies, so that you can keep a record of your garden for following years. Use the garden tracker to help you know which varieties of your plants do well for you in your area, which had a poor germination rate, which ones you definitely want to replant next year, and which ones gave you the most yield.
Twelve Months on a Page is one of my most favorite tools for planning out different areas of my life, and the garden is no different. Use this tool to help you remember big tasks that need to happen each month to make your gardening go well, including when to plant, when to prune, when to order seeds, and anything else you can think of!
Use the weekly garden notes to help you track your daily and weekly actions, and help you remember to do the tasks that are most important to the success of your garden. Keeping up with what you have harvested on the weekly sheet will help you gather yield totals at the end of the season.
The Raised Bed Garden Cheat Sheet is a quick reference guide for how many plants to plant per square foot, along with an example garden. The Raised bed garden planner gives you a space to plan out or record your own garden space. Cut out and create a garden that matches your own.
Of course, as many of these pages as you need, you can print! My favorite part of printables is the ability to print more :)
Along with the journal and tracking pages, we've included printable seed packets in 3 sizes and varied patterns to help you save your seeds for next year, or to share your seeds with your friends. Nothing says I love you like a packet of seeds.
A bonus page of Hearth and Caravan's favorite resources is included in this printable bundle as well.
Share your favorite garden resource or tip with us! I love learning from you <3
Radical Living for regular people
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