Rebuild Your Soil with Wine Cap Mushrooms

wine cap

If you have poor soil and want help from the garden store, they will test your soil sample. Then they will recommend a bunch of products and fertilizers to help you grow the plants that you want. However, these products won’t build soil. In the long term, they may degrade the soil further by continuing to unbalance it. Wine cap mushrooms are the natural alternative to this approach, but before I go on, let’s talk about soil.

What is Soil?

Soil is often called the “skin of the earth.” It is made up minerals, water, air, organisms, and the decaying matter. Soil is important to all life as it is home to many creatures like worms and foxes. Plants also live there. These plants directly or indirectly feed most organisms on earth.

Bacteria and fungi dwell in the soil and break down decaying matter and turn them into nutrients that other organisms can use. The creatures within the soil breathe and exhale carbon dioxide which cycles back to the plants.

Soil holds water that the plants and animals within it can use to live. It also filters water to keep it clean. So you can see that soil is important in so many aspects of life.

Contrast this with “dirt” that is soil that has lost its life-giving properties. This happens through erosion, pollution, loss of habitat, tilling, intensive monoculture farming, use of chemical fertilizers, not allowing the land to rest, compaction, intensive grazing, and road building. Although there is lots of dirt around, we are losing soil at an alarming rate. No soil, no life.

Wine Caps to the Rescue

So, what can YOU do to contribute to the restoration of soil? Grow wine caps. Wine caps (Stropharia raguso-annulata) are some of the easiest mushrooms to grow. They are super easy to care for and edible! So as they are creating healthy soil for you, you can eat the flowers (mushrooms).

How do they do this? Well, we start with wine cap spawn, organic mulch, and cardboard. We’re going to make spawn lasagna in the shade. You can do this in spring or fall.

First we lay down the cardboard, cover that with two inches of mulch, then spread the spawn on top. Do that again with a second layer. Now, we keep it moist long enough for the spawn to begin growing. Leave it undisturbed and wait.

Underneath the soil, the spawn will begin producing mycelia. Mycelia are microscopic threads that branch out and exchange nutrients, provide water to plants, and boost immunity of plants and animals in the soil. This is the web of life in motion. The wine caps break down the mulch and transform it into life giving things that it uses and shares with others.

All you have to do to keep this love chain going is water it, feed it (hay, wood chips, etc) and wait. Nature will do the rest.

How to Use Your Soil

Once you have living soil, you can transplant this anywhere you want to create healthy soil. Just dig out a pile of soil, wine cap mushrooms, and mycelia and put it where you want healthier soil. Fill in the hole with mulch. Feed and water the old and new areas so that both continue to create new life.

If you put it in your garden or lawn, you may get mushrooms there! Don’t worry. This is a good thing. It’s a sign of health. Just let them flourish. Or eat them. They are yummy.

Tips for Creating Healthy Soil

  1. Don’t till the soil. Tilling the soil is ripping into the skin of the earth. If I tore into your skin, I could do a lot of damage, right? Skin keeps good things in and bad things out. That’s its job. So don’t till the earth.
  2. Fertilize with manure or compost. These are all natural and have less chance of unbalancing or contaminating your soil.
  3. Plant herbs with deep roots, like comfrey and stinging nettle. They are great for your herbal medicine chest. Additionally their deep roots will bring up nutrients that lie deep within the soil to the surface.
  4. Add earthworms. Sterile soil won’t have worms. If you have put down chemical fertilizers, they may have killed your worms. Worms stay where there is food, so you may need to help them along by adding them to the soil where they will reduce compaction, aerate the soil, and provide nutrients.
  5. Compost your weeds, trimmings, annuals, and other “waste.” They contain nutrients you can return to the soil.

When you set out to rebuild the soil, it’s hard to know whether you are making progress or not. But when you see those beautiful, abundant wine caps popping out, it validates that the work was worthwhile. You have stopped the loss of habitat in your corner of the world and raised some food for yourself.

Make Your Own Rosewater

rose water

Roses are here! If you are like me, you’re thinking now is the time to make your own rose water. If you’ve never done it before, don’t worry. It’s easy. And I will tell you how, but first let’s talk about why you want to.

Benefits of Rose Water

  • reduces skin irritation of eczema or rosacea due to anti-inflammatory properties
  • reduces skin redness
  • helps cuts, scars, and burns heal faster
  • the smell enhances the mood. It has anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, and libido boosting properties!
  • when used in a compress, it can relieve headaches
  • reduces wrinkles
  • when used internally, it can help with stomach upset
  • when used internally, it can sooth sore throats
  • helps to prevent and treat infections because of its antiseptic properties

So now that you want to have a bottle on hand all the time, let’s talk about how to make it.

How to Make Your Own Rosewater

Start with organic roses. If you are growing your own, that will be ideal as they will be fresher. Fresher is better. You can use dried in a pinch or in the winter.

Different roses have different scents. You can experiment to see if you have a preference. Generally speaking, red or pink roses with thick, velvety petals will have more of the classic rose scent. Yellow and white roses have a lighter scent that can mimic other flowers. Climbers, ground covers, and big blossoms will work, so it doesn’t matter what type you use. The roses with the best reputation for scent are: Mr. Lincoln, April in Paris, America Climber, Double Delight, Tropicana, and Don Juan. These are very common in the USA and are easy to find anywhere.

You will need:

  • a stainless steel pot with a lid
  • a glass bowl that is smaller than your pot
  • distilled water
  • organic rose petals
  • ice

Instructions

  1. Gather your rose petals.
  2. Wash petals to remove any dirt.
  3. Add the glass bowl to the pot.
  4. Put the petals in a stainless steel pot. Add enough distilled water to cover them. Make sure neither the petals nor the distilled water are in the bowl.
  5. Turn heat to medium taking care not to boil the water.
  6. Put the lid upside down on the pot. This will help the distilled water to gather in the bowl below.
  7. Put ice in the upside down lid. This helps with condensation. Replace ice as needed.
  8. When the roses have faded, pour the water in the bowl into a clean, glass jar and store it in the refrigerator. Use as needed in recipes, tea, facial toner, or medicine.

This is a pretty simple process that will save you tons of money. If you keep it in the refrigerator, your rose water should stay fresh for about six months. So give it a try. Let us know how you like it.

Why Your Pollinator Garden Doesn’t Have Many Butterflies and Bees

pollinator garden

Did you plant a pollinator garden only to find out that the butterflies and bees didn’t come? Nobody wants to go to the trouble of creating a buffet only to find that no one eats. So here’s some tips to figure out why your pollinator garden doesn’t have many butterflies and bees. Let’s make this year different!

Why Pollinator Gardens?

Before we talk about how to attract more pollinators, perhaps we should talk about why we even bother. First, since butterflies and bees like flowers, pollinator gardens are usually lovely to look at. They make us happy. When we bring the flowers inside, they spread cheer indoors too.

Most importantly though, pollinators are losing habitat to manicured lawns, pesticide use, disease, urbanization, pollution, and invasive, non-native species. They are having to travel further and further to find food. Their numbers and health are challenged by the use of chemicals.

Pollination happens when butterflies, bees, moths, wasps, hummingbirds, bats, and ants transport pollen from flower to flower. If these animals didn’t do this, about one third of the crops we eat couldn’t survive! So, when the numbers of pollinators decline, our whole ecosystem suffers. Life literally depends upon the pollinators.

What Do Butterflies and Bees Like?

So let’s talk about what butterflies and bees like. Butterflies and bees feed on nectar and pollen. They like brightly colored and sweet smelling flowers. Butterfly larva eat other plants like dill, fennel and milkweeds. So a successful garden will contain both nectar, pollen, and the plants that the larva can eat.

Some favorites are: Ajuga, Allium, Alyssum, Aster, Bee balm, Begonia, Black Eyed Susan, Borage, Butterfly bush, Calendula, Canna, Clover, Columbine, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Dandelion, Daylily, Delphinium, Dianthus, Echinacea, Fennel, Four O’clock, Foxglove, Globe thistle, Goldenrod, Hollyhock, Hyssop, Lavender, Liatris, Lupine, Marigold, Mint, Mullein, Musk mallow, Nasturtium, Oregano, Phlox, Queen Anne’s lace, Rosemary, Sage, Scabiosa, Skullcap, Shasta daisy, Sneezeweed, Stonecrop, Thrift, Verbena, Violet, Yarrow, and Zinnia.

Trees that pollinators enjoy: Almond, American Elm, Crepe Myrtle, Dogwood, Hawthorn, Holly, Magnolia, Oak, Tupelo, Yellow Poplar, and fruit trees.

Mix In Annuals and Non-invasive Non-Natives

While most ecologically conscious gardeners like to stick to native species, if you want your pollinators to eat all year long, consider non-invasive non-native and annual plants. Many of these are early bloomers. Many bloom all season long, so they extend the feeding season and cover periods when food would otherwise be scarce. This means that hibernating creatures can go to dormancy with fuller bellies and have a greater chance of survival. The diversification may also attract more pollinators to your garden.

Keep It Organic

I don’t want to take for granted that we all know that pesticides and weed killers have a deadly impact on plants, animals, and humans. Even some organic products are deadly to bees, so educate yourself. Choose hand weeding and other methods to keep plants healthy. If you must use something to keep pests away, do it when the bees are not on open blooms.

Provide Shelter

Insects need safe places to shelter. Artificial nesting boxes (mason bees, bats), wild areas, dead tree trunks, and wild, uncut grass can provide places for them to live. These are wild creatures. The human desire for order and perfection takes away their natural habitat. Relax.

Give Them Food and Water

A bird waterer is a great way to ensure that everyone has water. Just be sure to change it regularly to discourage mosquitoes! Male butterflies consume minerals from the soil, so giving them mud puddles helps them to survive. If you’re feeling generous, you can cut up fruit to leave for them. The smell attracts visitors. Once they are aware that food is present, they will tell others and return. Just put a smaller plate inside a larger one. Fill the larger one with water to create a moat. This will keep the ants out.

Creating a pollinator garden is a great way to beautify your living space and give back to creatures who give us life. If you follow these tips, butterflies and bees will be all over the place in no time. Let us know how it goes or send pictures!

How to Make Elderberry Syrup

elderberry syrup

A couple years ago, few people knew what elderberry (Sambucus Nigra or Sambucus canadensis) syrup was. After a nasty flu season, I started to see it everywhere on mainstream grocery store shelves. Elderberry gummies, juice, teas, wine, capsules, jam, and lozenges are all the rage.

Good news can’t be suppressed, so it’s no wonder the knowledge about elderberry has exploded. They are packed with vitamins and anti-inflammatory properties. They may protect the heart too. Lots of people use them to reduce the symptoms of cold and flu.

Fresh or Dried?

Elderberries are only in season for a short time – five to fifteen days between July and September depending upon the climate. Fortunately, they don’t ripen all at once, so if the birds get them one day, you can try again the next. Another bit of good luck is that these plants are found virtually everywhere. When they are out of season or don’t grow in your area, you can use dried elderberries..

Elderberry Syrup Recipe

  • 2 cups dried organic elderberries or 3 cups of fresh elderberries
  • 4 cups cold distilled water for cooking
  • 2-3 tsp. organic dried ginger root
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 -2 cups raw, local honey (to taste, more will extend the shelf life)
  • a cup vodka or brandy (optional, to increase shelf life)

Soak dried elderberries in cold, clean water in a stainless steel pot overnight. Drain in the morning.

Put soaked dried or fresh berries and 4 cups of distilled water in a stainless steel pot and heat until boiling. Turn the heat down low. Simmer for thirty minutes. Don’t simmer too long or the liquid will become very bitter. Strain through a cheesecloth, squeezing all the juice out. Return to the pan and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.

Add honey, lemon juice, and alcohol. Mix well. Store in a sterilized glass jar with a lid. Take one tablespoon per day during the winter as a wellness tonic or as needed for illness.

I believe elderberry syrup is here to stay. I doubt it will be vanishing from the store shelves any time soon, but if you want to feel empowered, get close to Nature, and provide for yourself, now you can make your own!

*Note: Red elderberries Sambucus racemosa, are poisonous and should never be used.

Wild Violet is Here!

wild violet

I love this time of year. Old friends come back to revisit the earth for a while, and the newest one is wild violet! Some say that this is a horrid, invasive weed that is hard to get rid of. I say it’s a useful part of Nature. Let’s take a look.

Using Violets Medicinally

Violets stimulate the lymphatic glands to help you eliminate toxins. They also strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. When used as a tea, they are good for sore throats, sinus infections, respiratory symptoms, colds, and insomnia. A tea compress applied to the back of the neck can relieve headaches!

Don’t get carried away though! Violet is also good for getting the bowels moving.

Violets as Food

The flowers are edible and can add sweetness and color to salads, greens, and sandwiches or as a garnish. In addition, they are healthy. They are high in Vitamin C, A and other vitamins and minerals. You can use the raw leaves in salad as well, or cook them.

To make violet vinegar, fill a glass jar halfway with unsprayed flowers and top with vinegar. Seal the jar and leave it in a dark place for a few days, and then it’s ready to use on salads. You can also use it in the bath, as a hair rinse, on sunburns, or to soothe wasp stings.

Violet Lore and Magic

If you receive violets as a gift, they mean “faithfulness.”

Use wild violets in spells with lavender to increase your luck in love. You can also use them in protection, wishes, peace and healing spells.

Violets are affiliated with Venus, hence the love connection, and Pluto. Pluto  gives them an association with death and rebirth, so they are the perfect spring flower.

Wild violet is an abundant, beautiful plant that is found in shady places. It’s hardy and easy to cultivate. If you’re not using it, why not give it a try now? See how Nature provides.

Planting Your Medicinal Herb Garden

medicinal herb

Nothing creates connection to Nature quicker than growing your own food and medicines. It’s spring! If you’re considering planting your medicinal herb garden as a way to develop that connection, read on! You will find that it also cultivates sovereignty because you will become more self sufficient, too. As an added bonus, getting your hands in the soil will help to keep your natural, healthy microbes up. So let’s get stared!

Planning Your Garden

Before you get started, you have to consider some things and make a few decisions.

  • will your garden be indoors or out?
  • is your soil suitable for what you want to grow or do you need alternative arrangements?
  • how is the sunlight?
  • what grows naturally in your area?
  • which herbs are most versatile and useful?
  • how much care do your plants need? Can you provide this?
  • will your chosen herbs grow well together?
  • how will you deal with pests?

Indoors or Out?

If you have poor soil, want herbs year round, don’t have a yard, have a window with strong sunlight for 6-8 hours, and don’t want to fuss with weeding, indoor herbs may be the way to go. Indoor herbs grow best when each herb has its own pot. You can also choose herbs that may not grow well with others because each pot will have its own soil. You can move them around so that shade loving plants aren’t near sun loving plants. Those that need lots of water are separated from those that only need a little. You can have lots of versatility with indoor herbs.

If you choose to put it outdoors, you can still use pots, create a small or huge garden, or incorporate the herbs into the landscape. Plants that spread out, like mints and echinacea, do better in pots to keep them contained, or in spaces all to themselves so they don’t take over other plants.

Dealing With Poor Soil

In the old days, gardeners would till the soil, add peat, vermiculite, compost, and other additives to make poor soil more productive. Many natural gardeners now opt for the no till method for its ecological benefits. Tilling destroys fungal networks and the sticky exudates of soil organisms that hold soil together. Tilling also destroys humus, the organic component of soil that is necessary for plant life. All you need to do is put down a layer of cardboard where you want to place your plants. Cover with 2 inches of compost. Put your seeds or starter plants in the hole, and cover with mulch.

There is no tilling required. Although weeds will grow here, they will be easier to pull out because the soil always stays loose. So don’t walk in your garden so it stays that way.

Situating the Garden

Be sure to situate your beds in a place where your plants are most likely to grow. Many herbs like full sun. Some are better in shady areas. Some will stay where they are put, and some spread out. Consider this when designing your beds. It’s also useful to put plants that inhibit insects or fungi near plants you intend to eat or use as medicines. For example, lavender, garlic, sunflowers, petunias, and marigolds are commonly used as natural plant protectors.

Which Medicinal Herbs to Plant?

When choosing medicinal herbs, you will want to consider what grows naturally in your area. While some herbs are well known for their medicinal properties, you might consider whether or not to import non-native species into your environment. Sometimes these can become invasive and disrupt the natural ecology. If you haven’t moved, your internal environment (microbes) evolved with your external environment, so chances are, what works best for you is something that grows locally.

A Beginner Herb Garden

For beginners who want a good variety of herbs that are easy to grow and use, I suggest planting: chamomile, echinacea, yarrow, lemon balm, and peppermint. You will recognize many of these as teas.

People all over the world have used chamomile tea for centuries to promote sleep, ease digestion, promote urination and relieve colic. It’s also used for washing wounds and sores. Other uses are : soothes inflammation, infection, colic, muscle spasms and tension. The pretty white flowers are also visually appealing.

Everyone knows about the immune boosting properties of echinacea. Echinacea grows easily once it’s started. It produces tons of seeds so it’s easy to keep going. It’s not picky about sunlight and can tolerate long periods of drought. You can use it fresh or dried in tea or tincture it for use throughout the year.

Yarrow is one of my favorites! It’s considered a weed so it grows just about anywhere, is very hardy, and I think it’s also really pretty. Use it to reduce inflammation and muscle spasms and relieve pain. Some say it helps with digestion and anxiety too. You can use it as a tea to help with colds and fever. It’s also very handy for stopping bleeding.

Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love lemon balm. Lemon balm reduce fevers and treat colds by inducing sweating; calms the digestive tract; relieves spasms related to cramps and headaches; and helps with insomnia. It also inhibits the growth of fungi and bacteria. Since it’s best used fresh or recently dried, and because it can take over and spread, you may want to grow this one indoors in a container. Or maybe put a little outside for the creatures to enjoy, too.

Peppermint is another one that can take over. Some people avoid it for that reason. It’s got such great healing properties that you might consider it though. Peppermint is widely used in tea for stomach complaints. People also use it for insomnia, nervous tension, colds (by inducing sweating, it was thought to purge the infection), cramps, diarrhea and nausea. Recent research has shown that the essential oil contains substances that relieve muscle spasms and inhibit the growth of bacteria and viruses.

Some Other Suggestions

The suggestions above cover a wide variety of ailments. However, if you want an herb garden that tackles specific complaints, here are some suggestions.

Herbs for immunity– Echinacea, elderberry, andrographis, astragalus, and garlic

Herbs for anxiety/sleep – ashwaganda, bacopa, chamomile, kava kava, St. John’s wort, lavender, lemon balm, passionflower, valerian

Fertility herbs– red raspberry leaf, alfalfa, stinging nettle

Women’s reproductive health herbs – black cohost, crampbark, motherwort, mugwort, calendula, chamomile, fennel, basil, wormwood, rosemary, rose petals, fenugreek, lavender, partridge berry

Herbs for pain– willow bark, turmeric, feverfew, ginger, thyme, ginseng, St. John’s wort, devil’s claw, oregano, botswelia. The best herb for pain will depend on the cause of the pain.

Herbs for infections- garlic, ginger, echinacea, goldenseal, clove, oregano, anise, myrrh, pau d’arco

Gardening is healthy. It gets you outside. You have a relationship to the plants that help your body thrive. You start to see how all of Nature is connected. Making your own medicines empowers you to take charge of your own health, too. It’s a beautiful thing to do for yourself and your family.

Why You Should Consider Planting Heritage Seeds

heritage seeds

There are three different types of seeds: heritage seeds, hybrids, and GMO. Heirloom or heritage seeds (the terms are used interchangeably) are open pollinated. This means that they will either self pollinate or will be pollinated by birds, animals, wind or other natural means. The offspring will produce plants that are like the parents. In order to be called “heirloom,” they must be at least fifty years old.

Hybrid seeds combine the qualities of one plant with the qualities of another to get specific, desirable characteristics. These plants do not create offspring that look like themselves. For an animal example, a Rhode Island Red rooster that is bred to a Barred Plymouth Rock hen will result in a black sex link. The black sex link is the hybrid. However, if you breed two black sex links, they will not create other sex links.

Seedless watermelons are a plant example of hybrids. If your plants look very uniform and picture perfect, they are probably hybrid seeds. If they are seedless or sterile, they are hybrids.

GMO stands for “genetically modified organism.” Plant seed DNA is altered to have characteristics that it did not have previously. Genetically modified corn, for example, is designed to have a bacterial toxin (Bt) grow inside each corn kernel. While Bt attacks corn’s greatest predator – the corn rootworm – and help to get a better crop, the side effects when eaten are things like severe food allergies, infertility, and cancer.

Benefits of Heritage Seeds

Since they produce seeds, you can collect your own seeds from the parent plants rather than buying new ones each year. This saves you money.

They taste better. Garden grown vegetables are always more tasty than hot house grown food. That’s why we flock to farmer’s markets as soon as the produce starts pouring in. But heritage seed grown plants are even tastier still. Don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself. This is probably the top reason that people choose heritage seeds.

Heritage seeds produce more nutritious plants. With poor soils and ineffective fertilizer practices, this is a big deal. Our food is no longer all that healthy. Planting heritage seeds is one link in the chain to turn that around.

Heritage seeds produce plants with more variety. They don’t look perfectly uniform and don’t ripen all at once so you don’t go from having no tomatoes or cucumbers to having them coming out of your ears.

Heritage seeds may be more sustainable. Nature created these plants over thousands of years. They are likely to be more drought, disease, and pest resistant. This contributes to food security.

What’s the Downside?

Okay, we have to be fair and look at the downside. If there were no downside, there would be no motivation for hybrids or GMOs. Heritage seeds produce plants that are probably not going to be as visually attractive. They may not travel as well over long distances. They may also be more prone to disease and have lower yields. Usually none of this matters to a backyard gardener, but it’s good to know that your results will be different.

 

Rowan Full Moon Ritual

rowan

The rowan tree’s strongest energies are: protection against enchantment or manipulation, discrimination, astral travel, connection to ecstasy, universal unconditional love, higher consciousness, connection to the mystery, and gateways between this and that. As we are nearing the Winter Solstice, a liminal space between peak darkness back into light, the rowan will be our guide back into the light.

Meditating the the rowan, or just sitting by one, lifts the emotions, enhances relaxation, and helps people let go of tension, stress, and strain. This opens the way to healing, strength, and purpose.

The Rowan Full Moon Ritual

For this ritual, you will need a dark space, candles, soothing music, and something to eat.

If you would like to purify your space and yourself, start by doing that with white sage, palo santo, incense, water, or Florida water.

Once you have separated your ritual space from the apparent reality,  call in and acknowledge the energies that you wish to inhabit this space with you. You can say something like:

I call to the Moon, the Sister in the sky who helps me become comfortable with my darkness, my softness, my emotions, and the divine feminine within. Please come be with me on this my full moon ritual.

I call to Mother Earth. I thank you for all the ways that you see to my needs. You ground me and provide for me. I ask that you come into this space today to support me and give me healthy boundaries.

I call to the Rowan, the protector and guardian of liminal spaces. Please be with me on this my full moon ritual. I ask for your guidance to help me grow in love.

Read through the following meditation. Feel free to edit it to fit your particular circumstances. You can either read it into a voice recorder to play back to yourself or guide yourself through the meditation in darkness.

The Meditation

Find a place where you can sit or lie down without being disturbed for the next few minutes. If you can be in the moonlight, that would be ideal.

Turn on your music.

Make yourself comfortable, and take a deep, cleansing breath, in through the nose and out through the nose. Inhale slowly and deeply without straining, just nice easy and relaxed. And let your breath just fall out of your body as you exhale- pushing it all the way out. Yes, that’s right. Let’s do that again, one more time.

Now, as you inhale and exhale slowly and easily, creating a rhythm so that the inhale and exhale are the same length… nice and relaxed. Forming a soothing, easy rhythms. Breathing in from the bottoms of your feet to the top of your head. As you breathe in from the bottom of your feet, imagine that your feet are connected solidly to Mother Earth. She is holding you safe and stable and all the air that you bring into your lung is infused with her love. She’s cleansed it with the Earth so that all that you bring in is love and light. That’s right. Feel that love and light entering your body. Cleaning, healing, repairing your whole mind, body, and spirit.

And each time you exhale, you bring out with you any pain, stress, strain, toxins… any feelings of failure, shame, guilt, – or anything that is stuck and holding you back –  so that you can solidly connect with the pure love that is inside of you. That space that is clean, healthy, vibrant, and alive. Let it shine clearly. Radiating peace, calm, love, and joy.

That’s right. Now, imagine with me that we’re going for a walk in the woods. It’s nighttime. The air is warm and comfortable. And even though it’s nighttime, there is a full moon above illuminating everything is a silvery blue glow. There is more than enough light to see very clearly. All the same, you walk slowly, savoring the beauty of the night. Walking towards a small clearing surrounded by a group of trees. With each slow step you take, your mind becomes more and more focused on every small detail of the woods. You are so focused on the journey that you remember to forget the pain in your heart. That’s right, just remember to forget about it for now.

Now, we know that pain is a symptom of an imbalance and we don’t want to overlook that. We just want to disconnect from that pain long enough to follow it to the root. So with each step you take into the woods, it feels are though the pain moves further and further away.

In the woods ahead, notice that there is a dome of light that seems to create a sanctuary, a space of protection where you are perfectly safe. Head towards that and notice an almost imperceptible shift in the energy as you pass through. It’s as if you have a halo of safety and protection all around you. Anything that is not safe must stay outside of the bubble. Here you can move freely, breathe freely, and just relax. And since you can relax, you feel that warning light of pain just move further and further away. If we need it to come on later, it will be there letting you know that something is still out of balance, but for now, in this space of protection, we can turn it off.

So let’s head now to the center of the wood where there is a small clearing. As we reach the clearing and you notice the different trees. Some have leaves, some have needles. You find yourself drawn to one with small, elongated green leaves and scarlet berries. This feels like just the right place to sit down, so you make yourself comfortable, and sit with your back up against the tree- feeling deeply supported. You can let go. The tree will hold you up so that you can rest, relax, and let someone else do the work for you right now. That’s it.

Let yourself open up to the energy within you. Letting that love and light that you’re breathing in expand your energy field around your body. You may even notice, if you are sensitive and paying attention, that your energy field can feel the energy field of the tree behind you.

Notice that you’re well supported by the tree. You see, this is a rowan tree. Like people, all trees have energy. The energy of the rowan tree is to protect, banish, and sustain. It is a doorway that can open or close gates. Also like all trees, the roots can carry your pain into Mother Earth where she can filter and transmute it back into life giving energy.

So feel free to continue breathing from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet, and each time you exhale, and imagine what it would be like if you could give all that pain now to the tree. And that tree sends it to the Earth and away from you. It could be that easy. Just give it all away.

You are in the perfect place now to do some permanent healing. Rowan trees can banish energies instantly. People do heal spontaneously without a lot of work. It can be easy. The moon is here to assist in your healing too.

You see, the moon is a symbol for the deepest feminine energy. She is our darkness, our shadow. When she is full, she shines a light into that shadow so that we can see it fully. Once exposed of course, we can work to acknowledge it, accept it, heal it, love it. Sometimes it’s as easy as that. Sometimes the moonlight shines a light on how to help ourselves. Maybe we need to make a change. Maybe we need outside help. The moon can show us the way.

So, open your mind now, and let the moon shine on what it is that you need to heal fully and completely now. You might get the answer right away. It might come later. Sometimes it comes in dreams or in a song. When you get the answer, it will be crystal clear. Or perhaps you already know the answer. However it comes for you is okay.

I’m going to give you a few minutes now to breathe, relax, and enjoy the moonlight with your rowan tree. You may get more insights, but if not know that whatever is meant to happen right now, is exactly what is happening right now.

Alright, it’s time to leave our healing grove. Before we do take a moment to thank the moon for her loving support. Know that every time you look up at her, she’s blessing you with her light.

Thank the Earth for all she does to sustain our bodies and support us.

Thank the tree for her healing energy.

Once you are done, continue breathing and walk out of the protective bubble within the woods, bringing back the peace and calm, and open your eyes. Give yourself a moment to adjust and return to the world feeling refreshed, relaxed, healthy, and whole.

When you are fully present again, light the candle. Illuminate the darkness and bring back all that you gained from your travels.

Be sure to eat something to help yourself get grounded again.

You may wish to write down what you experienced so that you don’t forget it.

Finish by acknowledging and releasing what you called in. For example:

I thank Mother Earth, Sister Moon, and Rowan for being here. The circle is now open.

Resume your day!

Cut Your Chicken Feed Bill to $0 With Composting

cut your chicken feed bill

It’s fall. There isn’t much for free ranging chickens to eat now. Egg production is down too, so if you are paying for chicken feed, you’re putting money out without getting much back. So, you might be feeling the pinch.

If you want to cut your chicken feed bill to $0 with composting, read on!

Benefits of Composting With Chicken

Before we get into how, let’s talk about why.

  • Saves you money. One huge reason is obvious. If you aren’t paying for feed, you’re saving money. Depending upon how many chickens you have, this could add up to a ton of savings. You will probably want to buy a few things to get the compost started, but expenses are few and limited.
  • It’s all natural. Most people have chickens because they want cleaner, fresher food. Feeding with compost doesn’t get more natural.
  • It’s good for the environment. Having a compost pile attracts worms, bugs, and all kinds of critters that are great for the soil and the environment. Everything feeds everything else naturally. So you can say bye bye to chemical fertilizers and expensive soil conditioners. Just let Nature do the work.
  • It’s healthier for the chickens. Most organic chickens in the store are labeled “vegetarian fed.” I’m not sure what that means because chickens are omnivores. They eat bugs, seeds, berries, vegetables, worms, and small reptiles and rodents. So compost fed chickens are actually getting a better, healthier diet than their grain fed counterparts. This means their eggs and the chicken itself is healthier for you too.
  •  You’ll avoid toxic additives. Bagged feed contains soy, grains, antibiotics, growth hormones and other artificial ingredients. If you’re not buying it, your chickens aren’t eating it, you’re not eating it, and nobody is pooping it out into the soil and water table. If we don’t buy toxins, manufacturers will stop making them.
  • It saves you time. Feeding chickens isn’t very time consuming, but it takes zero time to do it naturally with compost!
  • It gives the chickens something to do. Free ranging chickens scratch. If you give them a place to do it, they are more likely to do it where you want them to rather than where you don’t want them to. It makes them happy, too.

Composting the Lazy Way

If you just want the compost for your garden or to enhance your own soil, you might want to try composting the lazy way.

Gather up your organic wastes. These are things like manure, hay beds, fresh kitchen waste, grass clippings, weeds, flowers, cardboard, and dead plants. Avoid avocados, citrus peels and fruits, long-cut grasses, garlic and onion, bones and meat scraps as these may negatively impact egg taste and production. When you’re first starting a pile, you may wish to add lime to help with the decomposition. It’s good for hard shells too.

During the growing season, you can go by grocery stores or farm stalls and ask for their throw aways. These are the scraps that didn’t sell, are going bad, and would be thrown away anyway. Most people are happy to have this waste go to some use, but be careful what you accept! If you put heavily sprayed foods or wood shavings in your pile, you will no longer have a natural, healthy food source for the chickens.

Place it in a pile. You can do one big pile or do four smaller ones. If you do four smaller ones, you will “feed” one pile for a week, then move on to the second, then continue rotating. All that is left to do now is to wait. At first there won’t be enough living critters inside to tempt the chickens. Give them time. Once it starts teeming with life, they will start to scratch and eat.

Add more material to the top of the pile and let them eat it or mix it in. That’s it! When you’re ready for compost, just scoop it out and use it wherever you like.

Word of warning. This is going to make a mess! Chickens spread this everywhere. If you want to keep it more contained, you can fence it in to confine it to one area. If you want to sell your compost, it makes more sense to fence it so that it stays in one place as well. For land that is on a hill, you could use fallen logs or wood to create terraces so that the rain doesn’t wash it all away.

Each setup will have its own variations. Some will need a sunshade. Some will need to water the compost pile periodically. If you have crows and no dogs, you may need to cover it to keep the crows away.

Making it complicated. Now, you can make it complicated by measuring the ratio of green to brown, turning it yourself, and adding things to the pile. It makes  it neater, faster, more efficient, and easier to sell. The chickens will love it whether you do it the lazy way or the neater, more efficient way.

In the USA, thirty to forty percent of food is wasted. By taking up composting, we return food back to the ecosystem where it can be used for energy by many other creatures. It’s a way of living naturally and in harmony with the world. Composting can make you and your chickens feel better about how you move in the world.

It’s Fall! Time to Grow Mushrooms!

grow mushrooms

It’s fall! Flowers and trees are dying back, but this doesn’t mean it’s time to stop gardening. No! It’s time to grow mushrooms! If you have a 10 x 10 shady spot, you can grow mushrooms.

Why Grow Mushrooms

It’s Fun

There is something very satisfying about watching life unfold. First there was nothing. Then there is something. Each day it changes until it’s ready to be harvested. It’s like the whole life cycle happening before your eyes. And you had a hand in creating it. Amazing.

They’re Tasty

Many mushrooms are edible. It’s also quite satisfying to eat something that you grew from scratch. This may open the door for you to experiment with recipes. So your diet may expand. If you feed them to your animals, they get healthier too.

They’re Medicinal

Mushrooms have a variety of health benefits. Whether you eat them whole, tincture them, or powder them and take them in capsule form, they can boost your health. You will want to check out the specific type that you are interested in growing to see how they help the body stay healthy. Some of the typical benefits are: immunity boosting, lowering blood pressure, lower cholesterol, helps to inhibit plaque build up in blood vessels, reduces inflammation, helps you age more gracefully.

They are Beautiful!

Mushrooms are like flowers. They are all so unique. They spread out in a variety of ways and make pretty shapes. If you want to ooh and ah in the forest, just let a mushroom catch your eye. You will be impressed!

Self Sufficiency

We all like to feel accomplished. When you can create your own food and medicine, you feel a lot more self sufficient. You learn a skill that actually has value. Who doesn’t want that? Not only that, you could even sell them and increase your income. That’s also a way to become self sufficient.

It’s Educational

Whenever we interact with Nature we learn something about life, ourselves, and other organisms. There is a whole world in the dirt that we never take the time to explore. Fungi are an integral part of the cycle of life. If you grow some, I think you will deepen your appreciation of the cycle and miracle that is life. Anything that does that is a fabulous way to deepen your animist practice.

They Help the Soil

Soil health is not just about composting and worms. Mushrooms help to break down nutrients and transfer them from organism to organism where they can be used. Mushroom compost makes an excellent growing medium for your vegetables and flowers. Food grow in this is healthier. Life relies on healthy soil.

They Clean the Environment

There have been many studies done on how mushroom can clean toxins from water and soil. They have removed heavy metals and even nuclear waste. Mushrooms to the rescue! If you have environmental concerns, mushrooms could be the answer. But here’s a tip. Do not eat the mushrooms that are grown for this purpose!

Is your interest piqued? I hope so! If you want to get started, here are some U.S. spawn suppliers where you can get what you need.

Fungi Ally – they sell plugs, grain and sawdust spawn. They have oysters, shiitake, lion’s mane, and chestnut mushrooms.

North Spore – they sell plugs, grain and sawdust spawn with lots of varieties of mushrooms

Field and Forest – they sell plug, grain, sawdust, thimble, peg spawn and have a huge variety of mushrooms to choose from

Too much? Want to start small and have mushrooms grown inside your house in ten days? Try this tiny grow kit.

If you are like me, you will quickly get addicted. I have wine caps, turkey tail, and oysters growing. Let’s share pictures and stories! Happy growing!