I've been reading The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer while planning my own medicinal herb business, and they use a small wood chipper to chop their roots. Way less expensive than a hammermill, but you can't powder roots with it. Still, I think for my purposes it'll work...
Maybe it's an over-abundance of nitrogen? The plants that you mentioned are doing well - squash-family stuff - love a "hot" environment. They can grow happily in an active compost pile. Maybe your other plants are being burned by too much fertility? But that doesn't explain the fungus in the one bed and not the other...
One thing I'd be concerned about would be the shelf life of powdered veggies. When you turn something into a powder, you are exposing way more of it to air, which will increase the rate at which you will lose nutrients etc. I find that for dried herbs, they stay far fresher if I leave them as whole as possible, then grind or crush them right before use.
Perhaps instead of powdering them ahead of time, you could make the soup with the chunks of veggies and then use a stick blender to puree the final product?
It sounds as if you've accomplished a ton! I'd love to see some pictures if you have the ability to post them - I'm always interested in other permies working in cold climates. I've been on my property two years, and feel like I could be accomplishing so much more....
I would think that if you started with dried herbs and a clean jar, a 40% alcohol would be more than adequate to keep mold from forming. Generally speaking, you want the final tincture to be above 35% or so for preservation purposes. The green film could perhaps have been small particles of leaf powder? The final red color looks right for a SJW tincture to me.
As for fresh vs dried tincture, while I agree that in general fresh herbs make for a more potent tincture, I've made plenty of tinctures from dried herbs that worked great. If that's what you have access to, then go for it! And one very important thing to remember about making tinctures from fresh herbs: the water in the plant itself is going to effect the final alcohol content of the tincture, so you can't safely make fresh tinctures from 80 proof vodka. Most herbalists start with everclear or other high-proof alcohol, and do some math to figure out how much they need to dilute it to get the correct final proof. So for beginners, tinctures from dried herbs may be the best way to go.
Everybody has a different idea about the "best" woodstove out there - if you spend any time on woodstove forums, you'll a thousand opinions on a thousand stoves. That being said, after doing my research and reading a lot of reviews, I went with Pacific Energy's Alderlea stove, and so far I've been quite happy with it. It's not going to get you the efficiency of a rocket mass heater, but it kept our house plenty warm through a pretty cold Maine winter (though we do have an auxilliary stove in the kitchen - because of the layout, that room doesn't get the heat as directly).
I don't have a lot of experience with flowers, particularly, but I've been growing herbs and veggies from seed under lights for a while now. I personally start with 5 or 6 seeds per cell, or more if the seeds are tiny and I can't be bothered to separate them more carefully. I start early (beginning/mid February - here in central Maine I won't be planting these into the garden until the end of May at the earliest), and when the plants have a full set of true leaves (the second set to arrive, the first set won't look like the actual leaves of the plant you are growing, but the second set will) I separate them into their own cells for the first pot-up. I will pot them up again before they go out into the garden. It's a bit more work, but I like the extra head start all my plants get from this attention.
Once you get as obsessed as me, the biggest problem is finding enough space for all your trays of seedlings.
Here's a couple of pics of my seedlings at the moment:
No experience with that kind of building either, but I'd love to learn and help! My schedule is wonky, so don't count on me, but if you're getting something together I'll see if I can work it out. Might have to bring a 4-year-old along - would that be okay?
It sounds like a more casual version of Time Banking. I don't have a lot of experience with Time Banks, though there is one in my area, it isn't that active, and my life lately has been too crazy to get involved. I love the idea though!
Landon, I interpreted that part of Kevin's post as being indicative of a certain subculture's viewpoint towards the poor - not Kevin's opinion of those in poverty. It probably could have been worded better, but I think that his point (at least as I read it) is that in Western (American, particularly) culture, there is an idea that we must be compensated according to our merit, and that the Communist ideal of compensation according to needs is a dangerous line of thought that leads to (again, in some people's opinions) laziness, entitlement, etc.
I'd agree that the "fair share" part of the triad seems redundant if you are doing the first two. It's certainly important, I think, to acknowledge the rampant inequalities across our global community - the fact that I can sit here in this comfortable chair having an intellectual conversation through a magic box made of oil and electricity speaks to my abundant privilege. However, if we are really working the "people care" part of the equation, the "fair share" is going to come naturally from that, right? "Future Care" seems like it springs naturally from the other two, and it's way easier to wrap the mind around than "Return of the surplus". And it widens the picture wonderfully - it's not just this piece of earth and this community that I am trying to sustain, but the earth that our descendants will tend and the communities that will evolve from the work we are doing now.
I was taught (and I haven't verified this, so grain of salt please) that all grasses are edible, at least in that they are not toxic. The leaves are simply not digestible for humans, so the grasses we use for food are those with large seeds that we can harvest for grains - wheat, corn, oats, rye, barley, etc. Then there are grasses used for flavoring, like lemongrass. And grasses used for their sugars, like sorghum and sugarcane.
Welcome to permies, Gabriel! As far as online communities go, I don't think you can find a better one...
As for intentional communal living - have you visited other communities that are working well? I think it's really a great idea to experience what a good organizational structure looks like on a day-to-day basis. I lived in community for a year, back in 2000, and it was an amazing, eye-opening experience. I also took a road trip around the country about 10 years ago, and one of the things I did was to visit several communities on my travels, helping them out with farm chores and building projects in exchange for a bed and food. It can be invaluable to see how different each IC can be, and get a sense for yourself as to how you'd like to live.
Best of luck with your thru-hike and looking for land. I'm assuming in your title you mean Portland, Oregon? But if you happen to mean Maine, keep in touch - I want to encourage as much sustainable living in my adopted state as I can!
I would be thinking - where does that water go when it thaws? Is there a clear runoff pattern on your property that can be maximized using swales and ponds? While it's snow, you've captured it - it's after that that it escapes
Oh, take your time with it. It took me about a month (and I'm a girl who can devour a 500 page novel in an afternoon and evening, if it isn't too dense), and it really changes your headspace while you're at it. We can discuss it further when you're done, but you won't be sorry you took the time. There's nothing like it.
I've got my hubby reading it now. It's going to take him years, but he keeps reading other stuff in tandem.
This year I made a tea blend for my extended family's christmas presents (every year, I make something homestead-foodie, and my husband makes something arty). It was, in order of declining amounts: peppermint, spearmint, holy basil/tulsi, and nettle leaf.
I've been trying to regularly consume some nourishing herbs per Susun Weed - nettles, oatstraw, red clover...but I make other combos based on how I'm feeling, what I'm needing. I've been adding elderberry flowers during this cold and flu season, along with echinacea, yarrow, and mullein.
Mint is my go-to for adding to other herbs, both for taste and ease of digestion.
You can wilt the comfrey before adding it to the menstruum (the oil, in this case) to remove some of the water. Or dry it, if you want to take no chances with water infiltration, but I do like a fresh herb oil.
I make herbal oils without heat, and with fresh plant material, but you have to stir the mixture every day and get all the bubbles out. The water seems to evaporate over time this way, but if you aren't vigilant about the stirring, it will start smelling "off" and you'll need to toss it.
From the picture I can't tell...is the comfrey still in the salve? Once you've made the oil, before adding beeswax, you should strain out the solids. The finely chopped part is good, you want as much surface of the plant exposed as possible.
Okay, after reading Richo Cech's chapter on this in his Making Plant Medicine, he calls for comfrey salve made from dried comfrey (but the recipe says comfrey root, so not sure what he'd do with leaves). He also makes his herbal oils with heat, but only 110 to 120 degrees for a period of a week, stirring daily, and leaving the vessel open to evaporate water if using fresh herbs. He uses a crockpot with a dimmer switch installed (something I don't have).
I'm of the "might as well try it" school of thought - all you are going to waste is some potting soil and time, really. And while I've had the best luck with tomatos and brassicas, I've had old parsley seed sprout just fine (soak the seeds first), old carrot seeds the same. Also old onion seed, which is only supposed to be good for only a year. Parsnips, not so much. I've also found that if it sprouts, it acts like any other seedling, no worse than the fresh stuff.
You can try checking germination by wetting some seeds and putting them on damp paper towels for a few days. I never do that, I figure I'll just plant them and find out the old fashioned way .
I'm on the opposite side of the world from Hawaii, but Su Ba is a regular contributor here on permies who lives and homesteads there. Here is her profile, you can message her through there, if she doesn't find this thread first:
What else? I became obsessed with bindweed, and spent waaaaay too much time pulling the stuff out of my back field. The tomatoes got blighty pretty early on, but I still got lots of them. The slugs were a horror, and I'm not sure what I'm going to do about them next year. I spent a lot of time identifying my weeds, which always makes me feel happy (and I became my neighbor's local plant expert - they would come to me with strange clippings and flowers, and I would do my best to impress).
The cold and snow came on quick - I've got all this mulch I didn't have time to lay down, waiting for me under the snow.
Just recently I started planning my herb business, and this year I'm going to grow seedlings to sell, and then to plant in the gardens, so that by next year I can be making products. Below is the inauspicious beginnings....
I organized the CSA Fair at my husband's church, involving a dozen local farmers, a couple of local musicians, and some local curiosity seekers to round it out. This event is coming up again! at the end of the month...
I've started seeds for my new herb business - this year, I'm just going to sell seedlings, and plant whatever doesn't sell in beds to make products in the future. I've started yarrow, st. john's wort, new england aster, elecampane, lady's mantle, lavender, echinacea, feverfew, codonopsis, marshmallow, valerian, motherwort, sacred basil/tusil, blessed thistle, and skullcap. I've got my veggie seeds already, but I'll be starting them in a week or so. Garlic I planted last fall.
I'm glad to be seeing green shoots, with 3 feet of snow piled up outside....
What's going on with your lungs, exactly? Is there mucous? What does the cough feel like? Does it feel like there's an ongoing infection? Different herbs for the lungs have different effects, depending on what's going on in there...
I would suggest some yogic breathing, Pranayama, to strengthen the lungs and cleanse them. You're right, oxygen is a good idea. When I have lung stuff going on, I'll often do some steam inhalation as well - take a pot of clean, just boiled water and put your head over it with a towel draped over you to keep the steam in. You can add a few drops of essential oils, particularly if you think infection is involved - I use eucalyptus, tea tree, and oregano often - they can be strong, so go easy and close your eyes!
Also consider the root causes of your problem, and whether you can mitigate them in any way. Can you wear a mask for jobs that involve a lot of dust or possible mold? Herbs can help strengthen and tone, but they can't make us immune to the bad things we do to our bodies...
Generally speaking, fresh herbs are going to cost less than dried, for a couple of reasons. One is that a lot of that weight is water, so dried herbs are technically more concentrated (if they are fresh and dried properly, of course). Also, you don't have to figure in the cost of drying the herb, both in labor and energy/infrastructure.
That doesn't mean that fresh herbs are less valuable, though. Many herbalists are looking to work with fresh herbs, particularly if they are making certain medicines with them. Most herbalists whose writings I've read specifically look for fresh herbs to make tinctures with, providing they have access to high-proof alcohol (the water in the fresh herbs makes them unsuitable for tincturing in 40 proof alcohol, usually).
I'm not sure what your customer base is looking for, or what your particular market will bear, in terms of price, but I would start by making some calls to local midwives, and ask them what they are looking for. For prices, you can look at what fresh culinary herbs are getting at markets, versus what they command dried, for an idea of what you should be charging.
I am learning about herbs as well, so I don't feel qualified to tell you how to take herbs or which herbs to take, but I do have a few thoughts. First, taking herbs in combination is an age-old way of using such plants - you are right that Susun Weed likes the simples for her daily infusions, but she uses herbs in combinations as well for more complicated treatments.
Something to think about when mixing herbs would be what the single herb's actions on the body are. So, taking an herb that increases heat and circulation, say like cayenne, you may not want to combine that with a cooling herb at the same time. The two actions might cancel one another out. Conversely, you may not want to take two herbs together whose actions are very similar - they may be too strong together for what you are looking for. Of course, there are times you may want the strength of many herbs that do something similar together - a good example is a bitters recipe to help digestion.
That being said, there is a good reason to start with simples - as a learner, you can more readily tell what one herb's actions are when taking them alone. As you begin to understand a few herbs, taking them together can then give you a sense of how they compliment one another.
I've used reemay just a bit in my own garden - more so when working for other farmers. Most of the time I've seen clumps of dirt used, not a continuous line. Just take a shovel-full every couple few feet and toss onto the edge. It seems to work fine, but I'm sure you would get more complete blockage by using a continuous line of dirt. Maybe you should try a little experiment - do two rows, one completely dug in, and the other with just clumps every so often, and see what kind of difference in pest infiltration you see. Then you can decide if it's worth your time to do the more complete coverage.
I've also used rocks or bricks to weigh down my reemay.
I was surprised to see what looks like Tiger Lilies in your salad (very beautiful, by the way!)...I was always taught not to eat the spotted lilies! But upon further internet research, it seems I may have been misinformed. I do eat daylily shoots and flowers pretty regularly. I try to add edible flowers into my salads regularly - a favorite of mine is vetch flowers.
From everything I've heard about comfrey that makes viable seed, I don't want it anywhere near my gardens. It seems easy to find sterile rootstock (which is what I did, locally sourced) so as to avoid something so invasive. I've got plenty of other invasive pests to worry about without adding to the mix.
Is it edible? Maybe I'd eat it...the maniacal laughter is mostly for the theater of it...
If you don't want to have caffeine in your diet, I'm not sure that ephedra would be a good choice; it can make you seriously wired. I would also wonder about long-term side effects particularly on the heart. I consider ephedra a pretty serious herb - it has it's applications, but it has the potential for causing harm.
Also, I have heard not to take licorice long-term, but I can't off the top of my head remember why....
Here's an article listing some herbs that might raise blood pressure (written as a warning towards those who are already hypertensive, but I don't see why you couldn't put them to your use).
Dave - Thanks! That's the kind of thing I was looking for...
Brian - I do take your comments to heart, and one thing I need to be aware of is how to adjust between the seasons - I won't want so many plants in the house during the more humid summer months, so I'd probably want some that would do okay outdoors during that time. But here in Maine, dryness is a pretty serious issue in the winter, and where I live, on a windy hilltop, too much humidity is very seldom a problem. Right now the humidity in the house is around 20%, and my family wakes up with dry mouths and nasal passages without some kind of humidifier. That kind of dryness can lead to more sickness in flu season, something I'd very much like to avoid.
Right now, the outdoor air is around zero farenheit, and you're right, our 224-year-old farmhouse could definitely use some weatherization. We've started on insulating the basement sills, and have plans to do more, but there's only so much money and time for those projects.
Do you have any links that show a negative impact on air quality when using houseplants? Because if that's the case, I'd certainly like to know. I've only really heard good things about utilizing plants indoors...
Are there ones you can delegate? Maybe you need a new assistant, either on site, or on this site, that can take care of some of the email stuff, that you can forward a lot too. Do you have standard boilerplate written for frequently emailed queries?
You seem to take on lots of projects at one time. What kind of administrative help do you have? World domination requires underlings.