Archive for the ‘survival herb bank’ Tag

Easy Herbs to Grow Indoors

One of the gardening questions that I am asked most frequently is, “what can I plant if I don’t have a yard?” Sometimes when I answer, I get a little bit of a skeptical look, because most people know that my wife and I maintain a full one-acre crisis garden. But I haven’t always been so fortunate as to have this land to grow on. I have experimented with growing indoors and on found plots of land and I can tell you honestly, it is possible and not terribly difficult.

If you have only a rooftop to work with, you can create an urban crisis garden. If you are limited to a small porch, balcony, or patio, you’ll find that many vegetables, including tomatoes and lettuces, grow really well in pots. If you truly have no outdoor space, and your garden is confined to a few small pots on a windowsill in your home, then herbs are an excellent option for you.

You may think of herbs as just a seasoning for your food, but they are so much more than this. Fresh herbs are an excellent source of antioxidants. Common fresh herbs such as sage, oregano, peppermint, and thyme are all chock full of healthy antioxidants. Plus, herbs have incredibly powerful medicinal properties. In fact, the herbs that are included in the Survival Herb Bank have the ability to treat a huge range of illnesses and ailments with no harmful side effects.

Herbs are awesome for a great number of reasons. So if you want to try growing them indoors, here are a few easy types to try:

  1. Spearmint and Peppermint- Mint grows so well and is so hardy that it is almost like a weed. One of the things that I like a lot about mint is that it is good even for people who do not like to cook. You can just throw some fresh leaves into a pitcher of iced tea. Mint is great at calming an upset stomach and is delicious and refreshing in every application.
  2. Chives- Chives are one of the very easiest things that you can grow indoors. They don’t even require much sunlight. To stimulate new growth, all you need to do is cut off about 1/3 of their tops. Their slight peppery, oniony flavor is a great healthy seasoning.
  3. Parsley- Parsley doesn’t require much sunlight either, and is great for both cooking and medicine. If you have a large bunch of parsley, try using it in pesto instead of basil. My dog Hatchet loves parsley, too. You can give parsley to dogs to help calm an upset stomach or freshen their breath.
  4. Rosemary- Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs because of its wonderful piney fragrance. It is so good baked into bread or corn muffins. Plus, it has amazing medicinal properties and can be used for indigestion, and to treat poor circulation and muscle pain.When growing rosemary indoors, leave the soil on the dry side and make sure not to over water it.
  5. Oregano- Oregano is such a classic herb. I associate it with Italian food and therefore automatically find it comforting. Oregano is also powerfully healthy for you. Wild oregano oil is just as effective at treating bronchitis as conventional antibiotics- without the side effects. If you grow it indoors, make sure to put it in a sunny spot because it requires about 6 hours of sunlight per day.
  6. Thyme- Thyme is another herb that requires a good deal of sunlight. Try to give it about 6-8 hours of sun if you grow it indoors. A nice thing about thyme is that there are many different nice varieties from which to choose, such as lemon thyme and golden thyme.
  7. Basil- Basil, like thyme, comes in many different wonderful varieties. Some are more sweet, while others are more spicy. Basil is one of my favorite herbs to use in cooking, but it is also great raw- you can toss the fresh leaves right into a salad. If you grow basil indoors in the winter, be patient. It grows slowly.
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What Would You Do Without Medicine?

 

There are lots of preppers out there who have done an excellent job of accumulating an appropriate and adequate survival food and goods supply. They have saved heirloom seeds, they have stored dry goods properly, they have accumulated basic supplies like a water filter, shovels, plastic bags, and wire. But here is a life necessity that is easy to forget about, or overlook: medicine.

If T.S.H.T.F, what will you and your family do about medicine? Because the truth is, even if you have a supply of medicine saved, those items do expire.  In a crisis, you will absolutely not be able to count on conventional drugs, such as those used for diabetes, chronic pain, asthma, and hypertension, to be available. Now consider this- it’s not just prescription drugs, but over the counter things that you rely on, like Tylenol, aspirin, Tums, Pepto Bismol, and DayQuil. What will you do when these things are not available?

I realize that it is more than likely that you, along with every person in your family, take at least one prescription or over the counter drug every day. If you and your family are totally drug- free, then that is wonderful. Wonderful and unusual, with pharmaceuticals being the largest and most profitable industry in the world.

Of course you know what I am going to say, but I would like to strongly encourage you to start looking into alternatives to your perceptions now, while you still can. Homeopathy is a very real and reliable practice, as is herbology. I feel very strongly that everything that has been invented by major drug companies, Mother Nature came up with first. The Earth can supply us with everything we need to cure our ailments. Well, except perhaps for birth control pills. You should probably look into an alternate form of prophylactic if you wish to remain sexually active. (Again, a lot of people don’t think about this, but it is really important!)

A good starting point for learning how to grow, create, and use your own medicines is with the Survival Herb Bank. As I’ve written in the past, the Survival Herb Bank contains heirloom seeds for several powerful medicinal herbs. One that I use very frequently is catnip. People are always surprised by the great number of uses there are for this herb. Additional heirloom herb seeds within the Survival Herb Bank include:

  • Arnica
  • Black cohosh
  • Boneset
  • Calendula
  • Red Pepper
  • Chamomile
  • Chicory Root
  • Comfrey
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Evening Primrose
  • Fennel
  • Feverfew
  • Hyssop
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Balm
  • Marshmallow Root
  • Rosemary
  • Valerian
  • Yarrow

 Two other medicinal plants I have nurtured in my Survival Herb Garden, which my kids used to call the medicine garden, are aloe vera and ginger root. With these 21 plants, I am confident that I have all of my families’ medicinal needs covered. Plus, these plants are notoriously easy to grow. In fact, some of them, like the lavender, you actually need to keep a good eye on, lest it grow out of control.

These plants can be used to treat everything from arthritis, to bacterial infections, to diarrhea, to depression. Like I said, the only prescription drug I can think of that these plants cannot replace is birth control.

If you have not already planted a medicinal garden in your yard, plan to do it this spring. The plants are easy to care for, grow, dry, and use. And you will be able to completely break yourself from dependency on pharmaceutical companies, which is a great feeling. Not to mention an essential safeguard for the future.

Ginger Root’s Good For Just About Everything

Ginger ale is a well known stomach soother when you are home sick with the flu. And it’s not just the fizzy bubbles that help you to feel better. Ginger root is a powerful remedy for various ailments. Over the years, my family and I have used ginger root for:

  • muscle aches and strains from exercise
  • motion sickness
  • morning sickness
  • upset stomachs
  • colds
  • flu
  • indigestion
  • migraines
  • menstrual cramps
  • heachaches
  • cough
  • chest congestion

So as you can see, ginger root is good for just about anything that ails you.

One thing that you may notice is that ginger root itself can be rather expensive at the grocery store. Of course you know already what I am going to say here- why are you buying it at the store? You can grow ginger yourself rather easily, so there’s no reason to rely on a supermarket for your ginger supply. Ginger root can be harvested about 5 months after you plant it, and can be cultivated all year.

I do use my ginger root for culinary purposes, but more frequently and regularly for medicinal purposes. So, I grow my ginger in my medicinal herb garden alongside the items from my Survival Herb Bank. Once you plant your ginger, you’ll find that it is a plant that does not really need a lot of tending. You can basically harvest it, replant it, and then not do much for another year. You’ll have plenty of ginger root for yourself and some to give away, too.

How to grow ginger root at home:

The first time you plant ginger root, you’ll need to begin with a piece of ginger root, which technically is a piece of the ginger rhizome. When you uproot your first ginger plant to harvest it, you’ll see that there is foliage above the earth, a bulbous piece that is the rhizome and the part that we consume, and then small roots coming off the rhizome. So even though we call the part we eat “ginger root”, it is technically “ginger rhizome.” I know that is a bit confusing, as you can see pictured below, there is a difference between the rhizome and the root. The rhizome is the part that we use. For the sake of this blog, I’ll refer to the edible part that we use just as “ginger root” rather than “ginger rhizome” just because it is less confusing that way.

The best time to plant your ginger root is in the early spring, after the threat of frost has passed. So begin with a piece of ginger root, preferably one that has come from a trusted source, such as a friend’s organic garden. Select a nice plump piece of root, preferably one that already has some little eyes, or growth buds, in it. Soak this piece of ginger root in a glass of water overnight.

As when planting any fruit, vegetable, or herb, your soil should be adequately prepared ahead of time. Ginger prefers a spot with filtered sunlight, and moist but not swampy soil. Since the part of the ginger that we consume develops below the earth, it is very important that the soil drains well. Ginger is a tropical plant and prefers a nice warm spot. If you live in a cold climate, you can successfully grow ginger indoors in a 14 inch pot. You can plant up to 3 rhizomes in a pot this size.

After soaking your piece of ginger root overnight, and finding and preparing the ideal growing spot, you are ready to transplant your ginger root. Place it in a hole 4 inches deep with the growth buds facing upwards. If you wish to plant rows of ginger, space your plants about 6-8 inches apart from each other. In order to retain moisture, make sure to lay a thick layer of mulch around your plants.

After a few months, you’ll find that your ginger plant really doesn’t take up that much room at all. Above the ground you will see the stem with a few leaves, but that is about it. If you leave the plant for a long time, it will become a dense bushy clump about 2-3 feet in height, but your plants will probably never reach this point, quite simply because you must uproot them to harvest your rhizomes.

As your ginger plants grow, keep the soil moist, but make sure it does not get swampy. Towards the end of the summer when temperatures start to cool down, you will notice that your ginger plants start to wither. At this time, stop watering them. Allow all of the foliage to die back and the soil to dry out. Once this process is complete, you are ready to uproot your plants and harvest your ginger root!

The process of planting to harvest may take as few as 5 months, or as many as 8 or 9. The best way to tell when it is ready for harvest is by using the method above- wait until the foliage dies back. After about 4 months you may see the tops of the rhizomes sticking up out of the earth. Although you can harvest it at this time, I would not recommend it, as this tends to be less flavorful and not yet fully matured.

Once you have harvested your rhizomes, save a few to replant. The others can be stored in your refrigerator or even frozen. When it is needed for culinary purposes, peel it, chop it, and add it to your dish. When it is needed for medicinal purposes, you can eat or chew on a chunk straight up. As ginger root tends to be extremely strong in flavor, you may prefer to pour boiling water over a chunk of ginger to create a tea. Stir in a bit of honey for some sweetness. For muscle aches, burns, or abrasions, you can create a compress by soaking chunks of ginger in warm or cool water, immersing a cloth in the water, then applying this compress to the skin.

You’ll soon find that ginger root can replace many of the medicinal items in your bathroom cabinet- I promise! It’s healthy, safe, and self sustaining, making it a perfect cure.

What is a Prepper?

 

No, not a “pepper,” as in a delicious veggie that you may be growing in your garden right now. A “prepper.” Have you heard this term before? A prepper is someone who prepares in advance for catastrophic events such as natural disasters, or social chaos as the result of economic collapse. So if have started a crisis garden, (as I have been urging you to for months now) you are a prepper. Little did you know you had this catchy little nickname.

Two decades ago, preppers were thought to be extremists- those who were militia members stockpiling guns and ammo in their basement crawl-spaces. This is no longer the case. Fortunately, the general social attitude towards preparation for crisis has really drastically changed in the last few years. People from all walks of life are embracing survivalism and crisis preparedness. This comes as a tremendous relief to me, as I firmly believe that a self sustaining way of life  is integral to survival. The more people who realize and embrace this, the better.

Being a prepper is not about cutting yourself off from the “real world” and becoming a food-hoarding recluse. (People who perpetuate this stereo-type are unrealistic and foolish.) Being a prepper means that you have the ability to grow and preserve your own food. It also means that you have the ability to use herbs and natural remedies, rather than drugs, to treat illnesses. Preppers take the time to learn and teach important skills such as self defense, hunting, gardening, and how to locate fresh water. Preppers are those who strive towards self sufficiency, energy efficiency, and conservation.

If “prepping” still sounds like something you can’t get on board with, think of it this way: Being a prepper simply means that you believe it is better to be safe than sorry. Prepping allows you to take personal responsibility and control in the face of terrorist threats, war with two different nations, global warming, and natural disasters. Realistically, by growing your own food and medicine, you are taking no harmful risks. All you are doing is increasing your level of preparedness for crisis.

If you are not yet a prepper, I implore you to start today with living this more self sufficient way of life. Not sure where to start? Begin with baby steps, such as purchasing your Survival Seed Bank and Survival Herb Bank. Each month, set a new goal for yourself, such as learning how to can your own peas, or build a fire without matches. Take it one step at a time. You will have an impressive prepper resume before you know it, and have the confidence and security of knowing that you can provide for yourself and your family in the face of crisis. To me, there is no greater peace of mind than this.

Need a little boost to get started? Check out some online resources, of which you will find plenty. Try Pioneer Living or this Surburban Prepper blog. I regularly follow along with news from the Virginia Preppers Network. A quick internet search will allow you to locate a prepper network in your own home state. There is a whole online community that is ready to support you and your efforts.

Catnip’s Not Just For Cats

Have you ever seen a cat’s reaction to catnip? Oh, I think it’s just delightful. While I am not a cat owner, over time my wife and I have had our share of feline visitors to our catnip patch. They flop right down into the center of the plant, and curl their spines into a flexible, worm-like shape. Their little paws bat away at the air, and their bright yellow eyes come to focus on, well, nothing. Sometimes they completely squint shut. A cat’s almost instantaneous reaction to catnip exposure is a state of blissful zoned-out-ness.

Something interesting about catnip, which is a member of the mint family and also a very distant relative to marijuana, is that it is a stimulant only when inhaled. Oftentimes, cats begin by rolling in catnip to release its essential oil, which is called nepetalactone. So when kitty rolls around in the plant and bats the air, he is releasing this natural oil, and stimulating his feel-good pheromones. However, when this oil is ingested, it actually has sedative effect. So if you notice kitty has fallen asleep after about 5-10 minutes, it is probably because he has licked or eaten the leaves.

For cat owners everywhere, catnip in either its fresh or dried state has provided hours of entertainment. But what most people do not know is that catnip is beneficial for humans, too. I have used the catnip plant from my Survival Herb Bank in order to treat colds, respiratory infections, and the flu. It is powerful enough to even treat nasty infections such as bronchitis, and reoccurring conditions such as asthma.

To treat a cold, chest congestion, or respiratory infection, try pouring one cup of boiling water over one teaspoon of dried or fresh-cut catnip leaves. Keep your teapot lid on so that none of the valuable oils escape in steam, and let this steep for 10 minutes. Then, strain out the catnip leaves before drinking the tea. I do not find the flavor of catnip unpleasant at all. In fact, it is quite nice. But if you wish to flavor your tea, you can add some honey or lemon.

Catnip is also helpful in treating a variety of other ailments including diarrhea, stomach-ache, and heartburn. It is great at reducing headaches, anxiety, and tension, and also for inducing sleep. It is gentle enough to be used with infants and is very good at treating colic. For children under one year of age, only 5% of an adult dose needs to be used, so use only a pinch of dried catnip. Try mixing it in with your baby’s bath water so that he or she can inhale the soothing oils. One thing to note is that because it may increase menstrual bleeding, catnip should not be used by pregnant women or women with menstrual disorders.

Preparing for Life Without Oil

AP photo from Yahoo! News

By now, we’ve all seen the images from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The photographic proof of damage to the water and wildlife, such as this picture above of a barely recognizable bird on the coast of Louisiana, are truly gut wrenching. The most recent news from dailycamera.com states that within the next few months, the oil slick could reach the Atlantic, and the coastlines of North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia. 

Yet despite all of the heartbreaking photos of the unspeakable damage, you may be left thinking that the problem of the Gulf oil spill is one that is distant from you, and does not affect you directly. Unless you live in the south, you may feel far removed from this terrible made-made disaster and its repercussions. Even though these images are horrible, they don’t affect you directly, right? Wrong. Very wrong indeed. 

 

Regardless of where you live in the United States, even if you live hundreds of miles away from the Gulf coast, you are being affected by the oil spill. This disaster, which happened over a month ago and is still going strong, is proof of what many have already known for a long time: we are using (and losing) oil more quickly than our planet can replenish it. Quite simply, we are stripping the Earth of its supply. We hit our peak oil supply in 2008, and since then there has been nowhere to go but down. Quite simply, our need for energy supplies keeps growing higher and higher, and we do not have the ability to meet this need. 

So what happens when our oil is simply gone? As this article in the New York Times points out, it may mean food shortages, a collapse of the economy, and a breakdown of civil order. If you poo-poo the idea of “Peak Oil,” I would caution you to take a closer look at what it means first. You don’t have to be a survivalist like me to see that there is proof of it all around us.  Two members of Congress, one a Democrat and one a Republican, even formed the Congressional Peak Oil Caucus.

I know that over the past year or so, we’ve all been perched on the edge of our seats, waiting for the economy to make an astounding and triumphant comeback after its pitiful decline. But unfortunately this is not what’s on the way. Because of peak oil, instead what we’re in for is an economic decline that will include high(er) energy prices, and food shortages when lack of fuel causes food and supplies to not reach grocery stores. Common products such as plastics and petrochemicals will become much more expensive. Imagine how scarce good will be come when EVERYTHING that is transported to stores by diesel fuel or gasoline simply cannot be transported. 

 

Did you take a look at the previous link to the New York Times article? If not, do it now. It offers some valuable suggestions for how we can all be nest prepared for an energy crisis. Here are some suggestions of my own: 

  • Stock basic supplies and necessities.
  • If you have not already, plant your Survival Seed Bank now. A crisis garden is totally self sustaining and the best way to insure that you have a reliable food source.
  • Consider converting your stocks and investments into physical assets, such as gold and silver.
  • If you feel lost or overwhelmed, seek outside assistance, such courses through Post Peak Living.
  • Reduce your dependence on modern medicines. Instead, begin learning how to use natural remedies and cures. I would highly recommend planting a Survival Herb Bank. You can grow your own natural treatments for everything from diabetes to headaches.
  • Assemble an emergency preparedness kit, with items such as pocket knives, multi-tools, folding shovels, hatchets, saw blades, mess kits, compasses, an emergency water filter system, and LED flashlights.
  • Read up on how to live a self-sufficient lifestyle. Click here to see Enomni Massage Clinic’s suggestions for survivalist reading.

Herbs Are Good For Man’s Best Friend

Many people chuckle when I say that I planted a herb garden just for my dog. But it’s true. My dog, a faithful mutt named Hatchet, has his very own little herb garden in a corner of my yard. The majority of the time, he’ll wait for me to pick the herbs and add them into his food. Sometimes he’ll snatch a good mouthful right from the patch. Of course, my garden is completely organic so there’s no harm in him doing this. In fact, I encourage him because the herbs that I’ve included in Hatchet’s Herb Patch are particularly good for him, and help to keep him in excellent health. Here are some herbs that I would recommend  planting for your own four-legged furry friend:

    Parsley–  This is Hatchet’s personal favorite. Sometimes I catch him just licking the fragrant leaves of the plant once they get a little bit warm from the sun. There are several different varieties of parsley that you can find. Most are very hardy and will grow to be as large as 3 feet in height.  In the hot summers, parsley does definitely need a good dose of water every morning.

Parsley is a wonderful herb because you can use every part of it: the leafs, roots, and seeds. I grab leaves by the handful and add them into Hatchet’s food. Not only is it a nutritious supplement to his diet since the leaves are packed with chlorophyll, but it is also very helpful in combatting nasty dog breath.

If Hatchet gets into the garbage or seems to have a bit of an upset stomach, I’ll give him a handful of parsley leaves twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, since they work to improve digestion.  By the way, you can also give your dog a fresh clove of garlic if he has an upset stomach. Garlic is great for your dog’s digestive system, it’s just not as friendly on the breath as parsley is. If your dog has arthritis, (which fortunately Hatchet does not yet) try making a tea out of parsley roots. It is helpful for the holistic treatment of arthritis, and is a cleansing diuretic as well.

    Valerian– Valerian is such an amazing herb for a wealth of different reasons. I got my first Valerian seeds from my Survival Herb Bank, and I can’t even begin to tell you how well it has grown with very little effort on my part. My Valerian plant is nearly a good 5 feet tall. It survives through the winters here in Virginia; all I’ve done is placed some mulch around it. I’ve heard that a good Valerian plant is strong enough to survive even in very cold regions such as southern Canada! The plant is supremely adaptable and seems to do well both in sun and part shade.

Now Hatchet, like most dogs, has a tendency to have a bit of a panic attack during thunderstorms. And don’t even think about setting off fireworks around him. He nearly foams at the mouth because he shakes and barks so hard on the fourth of July. Since we’ve learned what Hatchet’s triggers are, we’ve learned when to employ the trusted Valerian root. Once ingested, the root’s calming properties take effect in as little as an hour. My son jokingly says that it makes the dog high, but really Valerian is just pleasantly calming. This is true for both dogs and humans.

I harvest my Valerian root in the fall. The plant blossoms with tiny little fragrant white blossoms in August- don’t plan to harvest your roots until after the plant has bloomed. But, make sure you do it before the first frost of fall. So your window of time is going to be around September or October. I would recommend waiting until your plants are at least 2 years old to harvest the roots, otherwise there won’t be much there.

Once you have uprooted the medicinal root part of the plant, wash it very thoroughly and dry it with paper towels. Then, place your roots on a cookie sheet. The quickest and easiest way to dry out your roots in to place them in your oven on its very lowest setting for a couple hours. Check them every thirty minutes or so, and remove them from the oven once they are completely dry. They will become very brittle, but you must make sure to dry them completely, otherwise they will grow mold and rot.

If you are planning to use the root yourself, you may wish to grind the root using a mortar and pestle, then turn it into a capsules. Most people prefer this, as the roots have an extremely pungent smell. Something interesting, however, is that the smell is very attractive to dogs, cats, mice, and other animals. Legend has it that the Pied Piper actually filled his pockets with Valerian root to attract his critters. So for my dog, all I do is grind up about a teaspoon of root and mix it in with his food. I also keep a little fence around the Valerian plant in Hatchet’s Herb Garden. Otherwise, it’s likely that it would be uprooted by the neighborhood’s bunnies, or by Hatchet himself.

    Calendula– Skin conditions such as hotspots, dryness, and flakiness are pretty common for dogs. While our first instinct may be to give the dog a bath and a good scrubbing, this can actually worsen the problem. When Hatchet gets a bit of dry skin, I make a tea with Calendula blossoms, allow it to cool, and place it in a spray bottle. It makes a safe and gentle remedy for his dry skin.

Calendula is a wonderful herb that has a great number of uses. It can be used for everything from calming insect bites, to treating post-surgical wounds and keeping them free of infection. Calendula can also be consumed to help treat menstrual cramps, ulcers, and upset stomachs. I received my Calendula seeds from my Survival Herb Bank, and the plants are always amazingly healthy. If I continuously water them and snap off dead blossoms, they continue to produce blooms throughout the year.

The part of the Calendula plant that I use for Hatchet’s skin soother is the blossoms. It is best to harvest them when they are in full bloom. I then hang them upside down from the ceiling in my shed to dry them out. You can do this in pretty much any dry place, such as an attic or closet. Once the blossoms are dry, I boil them whole to create a sort of tea, then strain the liquid into a spray bottle. It is remarkably easy. You can even try storing the spray bottle in your fridge for the next time you get a sunburn. A cool Calendula spray is very soothing to dogs and humans alike.