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Traditional Healing Wisdom has been with us since the beginning of time. Exploring where we are with that today is my main topic for this edition of the Peaceful Heart FarmCast.
I want to take a minute and say welcome to all the new listeners and welcome back to all of the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast every week. I appreciate you all so much. I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week.
- Homestead Life Updates
- Traditional Healing Wisdom
- Stinging Nettles Infusion
Homestead Life Updates
Wytheville Farmer’s Market
Life is moving along at a rapid pace here at the homestead. The Wytheville Farmer’s Market is having the last winter market this Saturday. We will be there from 10 – 12 noon. The following week the market opens up for the summer season. We will be there each and every week from 8 am to 12 noon.
I have decided to let go of a lot of the celery starts I planted a couple of months ago. Celery is hard to get started but pretty easy once you get it going. Stop by and pick up a plant or two. Celery grown in your own garden is nothing like what you would buy in the store. 110 days and you will have wonderful celery. Fresh celery is so different from store bought. It has an intense flavor and smell that is almost peppery. I planted Utah Tall. It is the standard for green celery.
Yesterday Claire’s udder was so big and tight it looked like it was about to burst. We thought, “surely tomorrow it will happen.” And . . . It did. She had trouble last year and I wasvery anxious at this point for her to deliver without issue. Shortly after I got to the Farmer’s Market to set up, I got a call from Scott. Claire had her calf without issue. Yet another bull calf. Two more to go. Will we get a heifer? That’s a girl calf for those who are not farm animal savvy.
We are still waiting on one ewe to have her lambs. Oh, and the triplets are a unique situation. A couple of days ago I noticed one of the triplets was hunched over. He was also much less bulky than the other two. I’m sure he got colostrum in the first day or he wouldn’t have made it as long as this. It is absolutely required for any young ruminant animal to survive more than a few days. But his mom was definitely not standing still for him at this point, or perhaps the others were pushing him out.
That brings me to the interesting situation. We started giving him a bottle to supplement his nutrition. However, we left him to run with his mom and siblings. She doesn’t let him nurse but she let him hang out. He is very fast and keeps up with her very well. He stays closer to her than the other two. We were hoping to get him to come running to us so we didn’t have to chase him down to give him his bottle. Our sheep are not wild, but they are not tame to our touch either. We can get to about 10 feet from them before they all run off. We have a Shepard’s hook to catch him up. We get close to them and then I get a little closer and kind of force them to a point where they will run past Scott. He reaches out and snags the little guy as he runs by. Once we have him, he eagerly drinks that bottle. He knows where his food is coming from.
This morning we had to alter that plan a little. He is just not thriving. He is still very small compared to all the other lambs. We decided to keep him close and feed him more often. Scott caught him up again and put him in a dog cage that we have for just this situation. Lambert has straw bedding and is keeping Scott company while he lays blocks for the creamery.
The strawberries are now all planted in the garden. We bought straw to use as mulch. Bad purchase. It was full of seeds. We have all kinds of wheat grass growing in the strawberry bed and also in the potatoes where I piled it high to cover the potatoes. Using straw mulch on potatoes is normally a great idea. Using straw instead of dirt is much lighter cover where the potatoes will form. There is less resistance for those potatoes so they can grow really big. That is if we can keep the wheat grass pulled out.
As far as the Herd share status, we are working with the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Organization to get our contracts in order. They are a great group of people that help small farmers all over the country with legal issues. As soon as the contract is ready, I will let you know so you can purchase your part of the herd and get going on having your own milk products available for weekly pickup. I’m experimenting with yogurt and I must say it is the best yogurt I have ever had. And I eat a lot of yogurt.
Another plug for the Farmer’s Market. I will have samples for tasting each week. These cows truly are unique and your yogurt, butter and cheese will reflect that.
Traditional Healing Wisdom
Today I want to talk a little bit about traditional healing wisdom from days gone past. Much of the issues with health care up until the later part of the 20th century revolved around access to care. I know it seems like people died from all sorts of things that we can treat easily today, and there is truth in that. But I want to point out that much of the problem in the past was how spread out people were and how little access most people had to anyone who had any knowledge at all about medicine. It was all herbal medicine back in the day and a lot of it worked pretty well. But again, if you weren’t at least an herbalist, your chances of getting medical care in a timely manner were greatly diminished.
I want to take a moment here and point you in the direction of a resource that I have used for many years. Herb Mentor and Learning Herbs.com. I started with them shortly after they started their mission to see an herbalist in every community. There is so much valuable information on their website, I couldn’t begin to fully describe it here. There are courses from the vary basics all the way to advanced courses for full-time herbal medicine practitioners.
The Village Herbalist
Village or community herbalists are the mainstay of herbalism, the nurturers and protectors of good health. Their ideal to have someone educated and experienced in the use of herbs for general health and minor illness and injury is a very noble one. The role of the herbalist complements the work of other holistic care providers and even modern medical providers. A community herbalist can be invaluable in educating people about good health practices and in helping them recover from common family ailments. They are first in line to give people answers about how plants can assist in their basic care.
When I was growing up, I was fortunate to have a mother who was not afraid of practicing some home care medicine. While she wasn’t a village herbalist, she was educated in what to do for cuts, bruises, colds, diarrhea and so on. She even knew exactly what to do when, at 12-years-old, I burned by left hand very badly. I spent 2 weeks in the hospital healing from that. But her quick thinking, calmness is the face of disaster, early action with cold water and ice, and a methodical but hair-raising drive to the local clinic were invaluable to my healing process. The hospital treatment was an age-old one. Silver nitrate. It forms a crust on the burned surface where skin used to be. Leaking fluids due to no skin to hold it in runs neck-and-neck with infection as the leading cause of complications and death in extensive burns.
Traditional village herbalists can and do provide education and healing techniques to their local communities. I want to stress the importance of education. Again, because I had a wonderfully educated mother when it came to basic first aid, I benefited and also learned much of the basic medical knowledge that I believe every woman in the world should have. Teaching basic first-aid for everyday use and using herbs for specific therapeutic purpose has long been the province of the village herbalist. However, many people today either never had it or have lost this traditional link with basic survival skills developed over millennia.
Return to Our Roots
The desire for a return to this basic understanding—moving away from conveyor belt apparatus that is our modern healthcare service—to a simpler and more natural lifestyle grows ever stronger as human experience becomes more complex and the further removed from our connection with the Earth. Western culture pushes incessantly for more modern access to medical care, but how much of those costs would be reduced if we were simply educated in what to do for a fever, a cough, diarrhea. More will always be balanced by less somewhere else. Today’s “less” is less knowledge of how to take care of ourselves and our families during the simplest of illnesses. And don’t let me forget to mention that a HUGE part of that education is knowing when you need that specialized medical care that can only be obtained from someone with far more education. Context matters. Looking at our medicine—how we care for ourselves—reveals the need for greater knowledge and more personal responsibility for the health of ourselves and our families.
A functional health care system, first and foremost, takes place nearby. Caring begins with people who know us. This is where you or someone you know can be that village herbalist. Certainly, conventional medical care serves a good purpose in apt situations. We definitely want that 7 to 9 minutes with a doctor should the need arise. Yet somewhere between our body’s innate ability to heal itself with a little knowledgeable support and conventional medicine’s high-dollar attempt at a cure lie many situations that can be bridged by common sense and a compassionate connection to the community we serve.
Is it truly “alternative” or is it simply a return to the basics of what has worked throughout our time here on earth?
More than 83 million Americans reported using what is termed “alternative medicine” in 1998, according to a nationwide survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The therapies most commonly used were chiropractic, herbs, massage, and relaxation techniques. Yet the numbers are not the telling consideration here. People are turning to healing modalities that work effectively, cost less, and do the desired good with fewer side effects than mainstream medicine. The term alternative medicine is revealing, for it completely overlooks the fact that from the perspective of someone born in the 1800’s it might seem as though the medical profession threw out the baby with the bath water as each modern technique became the new miracle, the connection to the simpler forms of health eroded. History shapes all cultural destiny, and medicine is no exception. Shall we examine the thousands of years of herbal knowledge garnered from plant-based experience that preceded the allopathic doctoring to which many now turn to in times of illness or injury?
Doctors have been quoted as saying that a good three quarters of the people coming to see them have come to the wrong place. Patients often come at the first sign of discomfort or irregularity, expecting a quick fix for obvious symptoms. Over-the-counter medications possess all the glitter that advertising can muster, yet a pill prescribed by a doctor carries a heavier stick. Naturally people want assurance, and to understand the current predicament of their bodies. We are fearful, inconvenienced, and downright whiny. We place our responsibilities at the feet of professionals and pay for expensive services rather than take it upon ourselves to learn a little bit about the human body and how to work in harmony with it.
To Doctor or Not to Doctor
It has been estimated that 70 to 80% of the people who go to doctors have nothing wrong with them that couldn’t be cleared up by a vacation, a pay raise, or relief from everyday emotional stress. This is the education and support that a local herbalists could easily provide. Education and coaching. Only 10% of patients visiting their doctor for that 9 minutes—that required half a day off from work—require drugs or surgery to get well, and approximately 10% have diseases for which there is no known cure. Most illnesses run a benign course if left to what the Hippocratic physicians called the healing power of nature. The natural healing mechanisms of the body build in an 80% recovery rate from all illnesses regardless of medical intervention. . . . But the mothers and other caretakers would need to know how to treat at home and when it is beyond their knowledge. It’s a scary thing, I know. It’s so much easier to just go to the doctor and be done with it.
We are thankful for good doctors. Medical intervention proves itself whenever the surgeon repairs bones or remove stones, the internist uses antibiotics or insulin appropriately, or the pediatrician spots a problem and nips it in the bud before it can cause greater damage. Yet many situations call for more personal involvement and homegrown understanding.
Interfering in the natural processes of the body can cause trouble. Iatrogenic (treatment-caused) harm is every doctor’s worst nightmare. The listed side effects of pharmaceutical drugs often gives us pause to consider the additional health risks incurred to obtain a predicted benefit. Working humbly within these limitations makes physicians good at what they do. I do want to point out however, that doctors are as human as the rest of us. They are not infallible. They do not know your child the way that you know your child. Educate yourself or find a local herbalist to help you understand. It will be well worth it.
Responsibility for Ourselves, Our Families, Our Communities
Taking care of yourself and your family for the majority of everyday health needs is both plausible and sensible. Empowerment begins with knowledge. Herbalists can help people use plant remedies respectfully and intelligently. Going to medical school is not essential to be able to help people feel better. We have deeded the legal practice of medicine to an elite group on the basis of one type of training.
Interest in an herbal approach to health is growing rapidly. However, this high regard for natural living is often accompanied by an allopathic perception of illness we’ve been raised to view as routine. We now take this herb for that condition. Modern medicine insists upon a physical explanation for each cause and effect. Symptoms are treated accordingly. Yet the whole of the matter often goes unresolved. Holistic plant medicine goes well beyond this kind of narrowminded, simplistic thinking. Each individual has a different Constitution. Different therapeutic strategies for seemingly similar conditions must take into account the biological, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of each individual. A good herbalist not only helps people become medically self-sufficient but also shares the journey into the big picture of who we are. There is no one-size-fits-all in good health care.
Traditional Healing Wisdom
Using plants as medicine predates written history. Anthropologists believe that people learned how to use plants for healing by trial and error and by watching birds and animals. Many wild animals possess an instinct to seek out plants that are good to eat and filled with vital nutrition, while avoiding those that might be poisonous.
Plant by plant, humans have added to a collective knowledge that is been handed down through the ages by word-of-mouth and later in written documents. Regardless of a given cultural understanding of plants, where blood flowed, Yarrow stanched it. When influenza raised its head, garlic was universally applied. Plantain for bee stings is another treatment that spanned continents. Such plant remedies showed their effectiveness time and time again.
Here in North America, the aboriginal people had a multitude of uses for the plants of this continent. The Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and other tribes on the planes were the first to discover and use Echinacea for its immune-stimulating ability. You saw the Eastern Woodland tribes boil wild mint and inhale the steam to help relieve congested lungs and sinuses. The Apache, Hopi, and Navajo rubbed powdered cayenne on arthritic joints to help block pain and reduce swelling. The Chippewa and other Great Lakes tribes boiled willow bark and drank the tea to reduce fevers and headaches. Modern science has identified many of the plant components that validate the use of each of these treatments exactly as they were prescribed.
As the European population of the US grew, many learned the Indian ways of using the local herbs. These treatments were passed along to eager settlers and pharmaceutical entrepreneurs needing knowledge of native botanical medicine. European herbal lore and Native American plant wisdom joined together. They united many traditions under one banner and Western herbalism was born.
Today much of the world population continues to use herbs as their primary source of medicine. The world health organization (WHO) estimates that 80% of the world’s people rely on herbs for their health. An unbroken chain of herbal knowledge has continued to be passed down in many, many cultures around the world. Take for instance, the long-standing teachings of Chinese and Ayurvedic health practitioners. Unfortunately, for many of us in the Western world this chain has been broken. We have fooled ourselves into believing that synthetic medicine made in a lab by people wearing white coats has more worth than the humble dandelion in our backyards.
We still need the perception and conscious intelligence of our ancestors to be embodied anew in every generation by women and men who are called to be healers. They include the country doctor who is well-versed in spending time with patients; the village herbalist who uses plant medicines for treating an array of disease; a midwife who assists with home births in the home. We don’t have to go back very far in time to find such these healers who diligently cared for their communities to the best of their ability.
For many of us it was our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers that taught us the basics but we dropped the ball. We dropped the ball for the quick trip to the doctor’s office instead of the continuing education that is readily available in our modern society. The internet offers any amount of education in the body and its systems. Books galore on your kindle can provide the basics that a mother needs to know about how to treat a fever and when to abandon home remedies and get to the ER immediately. What better way to pass the time during pregnancy than educating yourself in the care of your children? Too often I see that women have been convinced that attention to a career is so much more important. I just can’t see it. Caring for my family seems a much better choice.
Women: Traditional Keepers of the Hearth
Traditionally women are the keepers of the hearth. The responsibilities of cooking, tending the herb garden, drying the herbs, making medicines, and brewing the brews traditionally have been met by their loving hands. Women tended to the birth of babies and care of the sick in the homes of their families and friends. The unique ones heeded a call to serve the wider communities. Are you one of those? Is it brewing inside of you and you haven’t responded to the call? I urge you to reconsider.
People will always need good medicine. Accordingly, a process of trial and error has been going on for thousands of years, always directed at the same goal of making us well. Therapies that worked were passed down to subsequent generations; those that did not were forgotten. Plant remedies that survived this test of time, and especially those shared by different cultures from around the world, have tremendous validity. Coming to understand how these remedies work—the job of objective science—will never alter the fact that they do work. Let’s bring back these traditions. Why don’t we get away from the cold, impersonal medical office and return to the native community support provided by your village herbalist.
This is an energizing infusion. It works on the adrenals to build energy and stamina. Conversely, with strengthened adrenal function you can expect to rest better and to experience less anxiety. Four to five quarts of nettle infusion weekly can yield results in 3 to 6 weeks. That’s right. Three to six weeks. True health is not a pill that you take. You didn’t run yourself down in one day. It takes time to return your body to balance. But return it will.
Nourishing infusions ensure that your body stays in tip-top shape. Once you’ve achieved a balance, a quart a week should be sufficient. Using nourishing infusions becomes part of your daily lifestyle.
As far as I know there are no contraindications to stinging nettle infusion. However, you may experience side effects such as thicker hair, softer skin, stronger veins, an uptick in your enjoyment of life.
What You Need
- 1 oz of dried nettle herb
- 1-quart boiling water
- Salt (optional)
What To Do
- Place the herbs in a glass quart jar. Fill the jar with boiling water.
- Steep for at least four hours; More is fine. Overnight is fine.
- Strain herb from the water with a cheesecloth. (You can use an old white T-shirt as well.) Add salt if desired.
- Compost the herbs and drink the infusion. Refrigerating and then drinking cold is great but finish it within a day or two lest it ferment.
No matter how stressed fast life goes for Scott and myself, we just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Our life together here on the homestead is everything we could have ever dreamed of and more. We are blessed each spring with the gift of life in your animal offspring and the plants in the orchard and gardens. I invite you all to go to our website and sign up on our mailing list. We’ll let you know when our farm tours kick off. We’d love to meet you in person and hear your stories, your hopes and your dreams.
In the meantime, you can come to the farm and shop our grass-fed meats on Tuesday mornings from 10 am to 12 noon and on Saturday afternoons from 3 to 5 pm.
I hope you incorporate nourishing infusions into your daily routine. You might consider replacing your infusion of coffee with an infusion of nettles. Well, that may be too far for some of you, but at least give it some consideration.
I have not spoken before about my herbal formulas. As I continue to grow the website, I will be adding listings and information about the herbs I use. You can join our mailing list at www.peacefulheartfarm.com to stay up to date. Currently, there are 3 formulas that I use regularly. Echinacea and goldenseal, a formula I call Sleepwell, and a heart tonic I call Heart Health. I’d love to talk with you about what they contain, when I use them and why.
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As always, I’m here to help you “taste the traditional touch.”
Thank you so much for stopping by the homestead and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.
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