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Many people dream of living off the grid and creating their own homestead that doesn’t depend on someone else. But, for those that attempt it, there are some serious hurdles that lie in front of them. For starters, you need to know how to grow some common food items, like vegetables and herbs. Here’s how to get it done.

small homestead
Photo by Fotolia

Have a Backup Plan

First things first: There are times when food will be scarce. If you’ve never been a farmer before, be prepared for these times by keeping emergency food stocked in your pantry. You will want something that’s high-quality, ready to eat, and can be prepared with a minimum amount of fuss at a moment’s notice.

There’s nothing worse than not having any crops to harvest, no chickens to slaughter, and no eggs to eat. A food backup plan will help prevent starvation in dire times.

Be Willing to Learn From Experience

Homesteading and farming are trial and error sorts of gigs, so be prepared to learn from experience. The land that you tend will be slightly different depending on your location, and other farmers’ experiences may or may not help you, but basic guidance will.

If you choose to raise livestock, your animals will inevitably get sick and you may not know how to treat them. You could read in a book how to treat cows that are sick, in a book, but that won’t help you in the field the first time you see it. You may end up losing livestock. If you’re not comfortable with that, this might not be the right lifestyle for you.

Work with Someone Who’s Already Doing It

Of course, you don’t have to learn everything the hard way. You should learn from other farmers as much as you can. Consider working on a farm before you decide to start your own, even if all you’re planning on is starting a hobby farm.

Farmers possess skills that have taken them a lifetime to learn. Some of these skills were passed down from generations and knowledge like that can’t be found in any book. For example, how do you care for cows that live on pasture but end up being milked inside, on a concrete floor? Will their hooves crack? How do you prevent that from happening? You can pasteurize the milk, but what if you want to drink it raw? How do you go about this safely?

Farmers have been doing these very things for hundreds of years. But if you don’t know the proper techniques and sanitation practices, you could make yourself and your family deathly ill.

What about tending a vegetable garden? What should you do to keep it from failing? There are tricks with fertilizer, but beyond that, what can you do? A farmer can teach you how to properly rotate crops, use cover crops,  and if your farm is big enough, how to leave fields fallow and then make them productive again.

Do What You Can, When You Can

Don’t feel overwhelmed. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to homesteading. What you need to do is get comfortable with the idea of living off the land, on your own productive efforts, possibly get used to living without electricity or with reduced electricity, and how to dig your own well for water.

You may want bees, chickens, cows, horses, and all manner of animals, but you can’t just jump into all of it without knowing what you’re doing —not without making very expensive mistakes. Take it slow. Start with a small number of chickens, for example. Then, when you get the hang of them, being learning about beekeeping or how to take care of larger livestock animals. Keep building on that foundation until you’ve built yourself a self-sustaining farm.

What Kind of Lifestyle Do You Value?

At the end of the day, cultivating a lifestyle is what it’s all about. Being a homesteader isn’t for everyone. You have to be the kind of self-reliant individual who never gives up, doesn’t like depending on others, doesn’t care for authority figures telling them what to do, and you must be motivated enough to stick with it when things get tough—and they will.

Sometimes, the land doesn’t cooperate, your plants die, or you don’t get the harvest you thought you would for any number of reasons.

It can sometimes be a spartan lifestyle. Other times, you’re swimming in food that has to be processed quickly. If you’ve never grown up on or around a farm, it can be a challenging and, at times, frustrating experience. Tenacity is a character trait that all homesteaders have.

Allen Baler is a partner at 4Patriots LLC, a Tennessee based small business that provides products to help people be more self-reliant and more independent.  He resides in Nashville with his wife and 3 daughters.


Earth lovers know that summer is one of the best times to revel in nature. Cultivate a bright, cheery and unique garden in your own backyard. There’s only one catch: What happens when your colorful plants stop blooming?

Whether you’re a green thumb or not, it’s easy to ensure that your backyard oasis stays as beautiful as you envision for the entirety of summer. Read on to learn more about seven flowers that will keep their color all season long. After that, all you have left to do is grab a glass of lemonade, your favorite book and relax among the cheery garden you’ve cultivated yourself.

Photo via

1. Perennial Hibiscus

If you’re looking to make a big statement this summer, look no further than a perennial hibiscus. Their blooms measure up to 1 foot wide, so it’s no surprise that their stems reach anywhere from 2 to 8 feet in height. All they ask for is regular sunlight and lots of water in return.

Shasta Daisies
Photo via

2. Shasta Daisies

The Becky Shasta Daisy looks small and fragile, but don’t be fooled: They’re extremely durable and long-lasting perennials. They burst forth with crisp white petals in June and stick around until July. They’re also a great option for dry areas, as they’re drought-resistant.

wavy purple petunia
Photo via

3. Wavy Petunias

Get creative with the purple wave petunia: Unlike many other flowers on the list, this one grows downward, upward and out, like a vine. That makes it an ideal addition to your next hanging basket.

lavender flowers
Photo by

4. Lovely Lavender

We all know that lavender smells great, but it looks beautiful, too. It’s got woody stems, which means that it’s technically a shrub, but all we can see are its light purple flowers. Butterflies will stop by your garden more often with lavender around, too.

Blue Sea Holly
Photo via

5. Sea Holly

The sea holly might not be as pretty as some of the other plants on this list, but, boy, is it interesting to look at. Its spiky leaves and thistle-like center provide great contrast to traditional blossoms, whether they’re sprouting in your garden or sitting in a vase on your kitchen counter top.

Photo via

6. Marigold

Did you ever put marigold seeds in a cup and give the small sprouts to your mom as a Mother’s Day gift? If so, you gave her a long-lasting addition to her garden. These bright orange or yellow blooms add pep to any garden bed. They also come with a distinct smell that’s been known to keep otherwise hungry pests at bay. Now, you can really enjoy your garden for the whole season!

Photo via

7. Evergreen Candytuft

The evergreen candytuft is particularly beautiful in summer, when its whitish blooms emerge. Despite the fact that the flowers will wilt come fall, you’ll be able to enjoy your evergreen candytuft year-round; they hold onto their dark green leaves no matter what season it is.

Alicia is a kombucha-sipping writer who focuses on healthy and sustainable living via her family blog, Homey Improvements. She was born and raised in Alaska and dabbles in PR, Pilates, and is a princess for hire for kid’s parties.


Every year, nearly 2 million deaths occur from contaminated food or water sources and there are more than 200 diseases that can result. Some of these harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses are more dangerous than others. Many cases of foodborne illness will clear up on their own within 48 hours, but for more serious cases medical attention and a round of antibiotics or other medications may be necessary to help eliminate your symptoms. Although you may be feeling unwell, don’t jeopardize your health further by not asking your health care provider some very important questions about the medicine(s) you’re being prescribed.

Prescription drugs 

Aside from knowing how and when to take your medicine, there are a few more pressing questions you may not always think to ask.

1. Are there any side effects? If so, what are they and how likely is it that they’ll occur?
All medications can cause a host of unwanted side effects, from dizziness and nausea to more serious problems such as blood clots. By asking these questions you will know what to expect. You’ll also have a better idea whether what you’re experiencing is normal, and should you have any unexplained reactions your doctor can treat them accordingly.

2. Can I take herbal remedies with this medicine?
Certain herbs, although natural, contain chemical compounds that act similarly or in opposition to those found in prescribed medications. If combined, herbal remedies and prescription drugs may result in unwanted, and potentially harmful, side effects. The only way to know whether your current medications—natural, over-the-counter or otherwise—are going to affect your new prescription is to ask.

3. Have there been any recalls?
The FDA has noted that if a drug lands on the recall list there is “reasonable probability” that it will cause serious adverse effects, including death. The good news: If you’ve recently been given a recalled prescription, most pharmacies have a return/refund policy.

Don’t forget about properly disposing of unused or expired medications! For more tips on safely handling prescription drugs check out the infographic below.

Safely Handle Medication

Ashley Houk is the web editor for Mother Earth Living. When she’s not producing online content, she’s probably reading or writing blog posts of her own. Find her on .


April 22, 2015, will mark the 45th anniversary of Earth Day’s founding. Rachel Carson’s 1962 work Silent Spring, which exposed the harmful effects of chemical pesticides on the environment, fueled a growing momentum of environmental rights activists and preservationists concerned about the plight of earth’s natural resources.

In 1969, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson brought voice and vision to a grassroots environmental awareness movement that would become Earth Day. “Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam,” noted a November 30, 1969, New York Times story.

And yet, clear cutting of forest land continues. The burning of fossil fuels has not let up. Millions of gallons of oil have entered our waterways. The timeline shown here is evidence enough that successes and setbacks continue to be a part of this environmental story.

Earth Day shouldn’t be a one-day commemoration. Think of Earth Day as a continuing conversation of environmental stewardship, a core value of the curriculum at Vermont Law School. It’s your turn to lead. What will you say and do to positively impact our environment?

Earth Day Graphic 

Miles YoungMiles Young is a freelance writer, designer and outdoorsman. He’s worked as a roof contractor and part-time engine mechanic. He spends his free time fishing and tinkering in his garage. You can follow him on Twitter @MrMilesYoung.


Good sleep is key to good health. Yet educated people of all ages and backgrounds all over the world suffer from lack of quality sleep because their minds won’t shut down at night.  In order to retrain the body to sleep when you want it to sleep & reclaim your natural birthright to renew at night, sync with this simple and fun 11 step Ayurveda Healthy Lifestyle ritual.

Floracopeia aromatherapy oils

1. If you want to be in bed slumbering sweetly at 10PM, wake up and get out of bed no later than 6am.  Vata time is 2-6 am/pm, Kapha time is 6-10am/pm, and Pitta time is 10-2am/pm. If you wake up in the Vata time you will feel more energized, whereas if you sleep into the Kapha hours you will have a harder time waking up.

2. Drink a maximum of two (2) caffeinated beverage no later than 2pm and that is all for the day. Consuming caffeine such coffee or tea late in the day is a direct request to your mind/body to stay up all night. If you need more energy in the afternoon, have a little chocolate and a peppermint tea and move on to the next step.

3. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. We need to get our heart rates up, sweat, and use our muscles every day! I like to lift weights three times a week and do something like hike, cycle, jog, or swim daily. Find something you enjoy and stick to it or switch up if you get bored easily. If you exercise during your lunch break, chances are you will not be tired at 3pm.

4. Get a little sunshine. Our eyes need natural sunlight. Synthetic indoor lighting and wearing sunglasses outside confuses our body’s biological clock. Our body wants to know, “When should I sleep?” So get some sunlight in the early morning and again in the evening when you can skip the shades.

5. Wind down. Don’t do anything aggressive after the sun sets if you want a good night’s sleep. The setting sun is our queue to wind down. Make yourself a nice cup of relaxing herbal tea (chamomile, licorice, skullcap, valerian), turn off all technology and settle in.

6. Practice PM Yoga. Gentle moon salutations, forward folds, shoulder stands, and twists are a delicious way to unwind and prepare your body and mind for a good night of rest. Ask your body what it needs and how it wants to be stretched. Observe. Listen. Do.

7. Cleanse and oil your feet. At night, after I wash my face, brush my teeth and floss, I wash my feet and oil them. Washing and oiling the feet tells the mind, “The day is done. We are going to sleep now.” Use warm water and a gentle soap if needed. Towel dry. Now oil your fee: Take time to rub your arches, heels, and ankles. I use a coconut oil with Brahmi in summer and in winter I use sesame oil with Brahmi. Massage your hands, neck and head too. Your nervous system is beginning to get the idea that it is time for bed.

8. It’s not dark enough. If you live in the city or near street lights, hang dark curtains or a tapestry to make it extra dark; or buy a silk sleep mask.9. Add white noise. Introduce white noise into your sleep environment so you aren’t jumping at every new sound. I find the hum of a small fan is the perfect background noise for sleeping.

10. Add a few drops of aromatherapy. Once in bed, in the dark, with your white noise and clean, well-oiled feet, place a few drops of a very pure essential oil onto your wrists and on your third eye. I like Floracopeia Lavender, Blue Chamomile and Bulgarian Rose. I keep them next to my bed on a nightstand for easy access.

11. Review your day. Go through the day methodically inhaling the delicious aroma you selected. Focus on the things you are grateful for, congratulating yourself on all you accomplished. This works better than counting sheep. Feel yourself drifting ... zzzzzz.

Shar VedaShar Veda is an Ayurveda Lifestyle Counselor & Health Educator, Yoga Therapist, and herbalist living in Ashland, Oregon. She works with at-risk teenage girls and offers compassionate health and lifestyle counseling anywhere in the world via Skype or the good, old-fashioned telephone. Shar has had the great gift of studying with leading teachers in Ayurveda, Yoga, and herbalism for nearly 20 years. However, it was her adopted grandma, Doe (English-American and Blackfoot Native), who instilled within her profound appreciation for the supreme power of loving touch, healing arts, and world family. Visit her website for a video, full bio and photos, or find her on Facebook!


Imagine you’re an astronaut, and today is your very first three-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station. Even though breakfast was carefully formulated to minimize any gas-forming combinations, you soon know that whatever you ate is starting to bubble. Does that mean you have to breathe that foul odor over and over again for the next three hours and spoil the breathless inspiration of outer space? No, activated charcoal saves the day. Incorporated into your space gear, not only does the activated charcoal adsorb the noxious odor, it also captures CO2. The air is purified and you can breathe it over and over again.

space station


For many back on earth, flatulence is a constant source of embarrassment, never mind discomfort. More and more have discovered underclothing products that quickly and effectively minimize or eliminate flatulence at the back door. Whether it is charcoal underwear, Totally Scents-Less Pads placed in the underwear, or larger pads placed over chairs, many have found instant relief from the embarrassment of foul odor and noise.

odor eliminating briefs

Getting closer to the source of the gas war going on in the bowels, some have discovered—to their joy—that taking activated charcoal orally can significantly reduce, if not eliminate, gas throughout the GI tract in minutes. This may be a new discovery for some but it is not new. As advertised in the 1908 Sears Catalog:

“Every person is well acquainted with the great benefit derived from willow charcoal in gastric and intestinal disorder, indigestion, dyspepsia, heartburn, sour or acid stomach, gas upon the stomach, constant belching, fetid breath, all gaseous complications and for the removal of the offensive odor from the breath after smoking.”

It seems the general population was more enlightened about the many uses and benefits of charcoal in centuries past than they are in the 21st. But, that is all changing.

From space suits to charcoal underwear and gas masks to charcoal soap, air purifiers to charcoal insoles and hunting clothes to charcoal wound dressings, activated charcoal is there to minimize or eliminate all odor—good, bad, or ugly. Rather than take your breath away, charcoal gives the breath of life back to us revitalized.

Bad Breath

Bad breath can erupt from the stomach, but it can also originate in the mouth. A quick fix? Suck on a charcoal tablet or lozenge. Or, follow the lead of our great grandparents: Brushing your teeth with charcoal powder or charcoal toothpaste does a lot more than eliminate bad breath. It whitens teeth, even removing tobacco stains. Regular brushing with a fine charcoal powder can also improve gum health. Some have found that placing a small charcoal dressing next to an abscessed tooth helps manage pain until they can schedule a dental appointment. One very important reminder: Before going out in public, always rinse your mouth after using charcoal orally. If you forget, some will find you amusing, most will not.

Body Odor

Body odor isn’t just an internal problem, but also external and today there are more and more charcoal products that are able to capture personal BO and help to restore self confidence. Activated carbon cloth is used in athletic gear such as shoe insoles, socks, knee and elbow guards, and sports helmets. The Asian market even offers charcoal pillows, blankets and mattresses with replaceable pouches of fine granular activated charcoal. Charcoal soaps, charcoal deodorants, feminine pads and other innovative ideas are finding their way to markets around the world.

Wound Dressings

The first recorded use of charcoal for medicinal purposes comes from Egyptian papyri around 1500 BC. The principal use appears to have been to adsorb the unpleasant odors from putrefying wounds and from within the intestinal tract. In more recent times (1700s) charcoal powder was used directly on gangrenous wounds to control odor. In our day, activated charcoal is finding similar applications. Dr Agatha Thrash (board-certified pathologist and former Medical Examiner for State of Georgia) reports:

“We had a patient who had a large, deep ulcer (twelve inches in diameter) due to an x-ray burn on his back. The burn was from an overdose of x-rays used for treating a skin cancer. The ulcer became infected and foul smelling. His entire house smelled of the ulcer, despite the most fastidious care. We started dressing the ulcer by sprinkling dry charcoal powder from a saltshaker on all the moist areas before applying gauze. Instantly the odor vanished from the ulcer, and gradually left the house. Although the patient eventually succumbed to the radiation sickness, he and his whole family were grateful for the charcoal.”*

For those of you who have suffered a broken limb that required a hard cast to immobilize it, you are no doubt familiar with the bad odor that develops. Most often the smell is from dead skin, but it may be from an open, draining wound. These odors are not only unpleasant, they are themselves toxic and they slow the healing process. This requires that the cast be changed often.

To avoid such frequent changes, Dr. Frank Haydon, MD, at Fort Benning Army Base, Georgia, developed a simple technique. He took fifteen grams of activated charcoal (about three to four tablespoons) and mixed it with enough water to make a slurry. After the first layer of cast was applied, the charcoal slurry was then poured over the area of expected drainage. The remainder of the plaster was then applied over this wet charcoal. The cast appeared slightly gray, but was accepted well by patients. The unpleasant odor of draining wounds was controlled for much longer, and there were no adverse effects on wound or fracture.*

Is there a natural, man-made, unpleasant, noxious, toxic or deadly gas, odor or scent activated charcoal doesn’t help eliminate? In my second installment, we’ll look at innovative ways activated charcoal is being used to help sufferers of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) and to help prevent MCS from affecting the rest of us.

To see a variety of activated charcoal products for odor elimination visit Charcoal House

Purify Your Space

* The Complete Handbook of Medicinal Charcoal & Its Applications p. 149

John DinsleyJohn Dinsley is the co-founder and owner of Charcoal House LLC and Charcoal Gardens experimental organic farm. He is a Lifestyle Counselor, teaches public health programs, home remedies workshops, and drug cessation clinics. His award-winning book, The Complete Handbook of Medicinal Charcoal, is considered the most comprehensive manual on the medicinal applications of charcoal.


Many of us find restful sleep elusive, but we know that getting enough of it is crucial to our health. With that being said, there are a number of things we don’t know about sleep. Read on to discover 11 things you likely didn’t know about sleep.

Things You Didnt Know About Sleep 

Fun Facts About Sleep

1. Man is the only mammal that willingly delays sleep. (Source: National Sleep Foundation)

2. Most of us need seven to eight hours of sleep each night for optimal daytime functioning, but at least 50 percent of Americans struggle with sleep problems. (Source: How to Sleep Naturally)

3. Fatigue can lead to depression, irritability, headaches, concentration problems, gastrointestinal symptoms, increased susceptibility to colds and infections, increased mistakes at work, and an increased risk of car accidents. (Source: How to Sleep Naturally)

4. The human body operates best when it’s in sync with natural cycles, but excess lighting from large urban areas has thrown off our biological clock and its connection with the rising and falling of the sun. (Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine)

5. Fragmented sleep could be as harmful to our health as a total lack of sleep—just one night of interrupted sleep can negatively affect mood, attention span and cognitive ability. (Source: University Herald)

6. More than eight in 10 survey respondents think that people misuse prescription sleep aids. (Source: National Sleep Foundation)

7. Medical experts have found a link between lack of sleep and weight problems: Dieters who sleep longer burn more fat, while people who sleep less burn more muscle mass. (Source: NPR)

8. Interrupted sleep can impair memory. Research even shows that shortly after childbirth a mental fog sets in until children start sleeping through the whole night. (Source: Medical News Today and Mother Nature Network)

9. Sleep deprivation has been linked with lower libido and less interest in sex in both men and women. (Source: Medical Daily)

10. Nearly 30 percent of people who drink four or more caffeinated beverages daily are at risk for sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing is interrupted briefly and repeatedly. (Source: Business Insider)

11. The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours and 40 minutes. The record holder (who was competing in a rocking chair marathon) reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapses. (Source: Sleep Academy)

Gina DeBacker HeadshotGina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living, where she manages the health section of the magazine.

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Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

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