Tag Archives: gardening

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…

If you would have asked me 25 years ago if my life would be anything like the way it is now I would have ‘laughed-out-loud’.  That’s the funny thing about life though; it evolves, molds, and paves ways most of us wouldn’t have chosen.  I can say that I LOVE my life and I couldn’t fathom a life any different than the one I am living.  However, this life was given to me by many circumstances that was completely out of my husband’s and my hands.

My husband has been a home builder for over 20 years.  We have moved and started from scratch six times over the past 13 years.  Starting from scratch isn’t for the faint of heart.  Packing, storing, keeping the houses ‘show ready’ and never being able to put down roots hasn’t always been easy.  We have lived in barns, fifth wheels, and campers while we would establish our property enough to live ‘properly’ in.  My husband would joke and say that we were the 21st century pioneers.  We have homeschooled for 10 of those years, making our ‘moves’ even more challenging, but we always managed to land on our feet.  With each home we learned so much.  Sure, I would dream that each home could be our last one but God grew the ability of detachment in me as it was all vanity.  Through the years, we have learned to simplify our needs and to focus on our healthy lifestyle.  The path that led me to study as a Holistic Practitioner was due to a few personal health issues and a very personal vaccine injury in my family.  This really made me focus in on how I am raising my family and how I can help to improve their health.  My main focus through the years has led me to live as natural and toxic-free as we can.

I am very happy to say that, Lord willing, we have found our final resting place and even though we are starting from scratch…..again, we are thrilled that we finally get to call a place “home”.   We have taken all the lessons over the past 20 years, downsized our dreams just a bit, and are fulfilling our current dreams that have been placed in our hearts.  My husband, the provider, has worked very hard to allow us to live debt free.  Me, the country hippie, animal lover, and garden dweller…well, I have the dream of running a year-round, organic-producing farm.

With that being said, I have put a list together of a few of my favorite things that I couldn’t live without. Whether you live on a farm or not, these products have made my top ten list and I know you will love them too.  These products have made our lives easier and healthier and I can’t wait to share them with you.

My Top Ten Must-Haves

 

#1  NurtiBullet

The first product that I would be lost without is my NurtiBullet.  This is a new product to me but it has changed my life.  While studying to be a Holistic Practitioner, one of the key health points we learn about is the importance of REAL, raw, organic, nutrient-dense  food.  Smoothies have been a great way for my family to eat raw foods (and the kids don’t always see what goes into those smoothies).  Smoothies are also a great way to detoxify and help your body to run smooth.

#2 6 Quart Icecream Maker

This is a summer treat that my family absolutely loves.  This product allows me to make a completely organic treat for my family.  I don’t have to worry about unwanted ingredients and harmful chemicals like Polysorbate 80. This is a toxic ingredient found in many ice creams.  It has been shown to negatively affect the immune system, cause infertility issues, and it is also an ingredient found in some vaccines.

By making my own ice cream I don’t feel guilty because I know exactly what is going into it.  Yes, it is an occasional indulgence , so don’t overindulge.

My handed-down recipe for homemade icecream is here:

The World’s Best Homemade Ice-cream

 

#3 Mortar and Pestle Set

If you are a culinary extraordinaire (or at least you pretend to be), a hobbyist herbalist, or even just beginning to learn about how important herbs are, you are going to want to invest in a good mortar and pestle set.  From muddling mint for mojitos to grinding dried  pepper flakes, this set will be your best friend.  Plus, it makes a killer guacamole.

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#4  Cast Iron Set

Once you move to ‘the other side’ of toxic-free living, you will soon learn that you need to ditch the ever-so-popular, non-stick cookware.  Yes, cast iron cookware does need some attention and love but they are worth it.  If you think about how often you cook with contaminated cookware, it would be cheaper to buy a set of good cast iron and worth the maintenance to keep it nice than a heavy metal detox….and speaking of heavy metal detox…. if you’re needing one, let’s talk Cleansing Options. 

#5 Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filtration System

I really shouldn’t have to talk about the importance of good, clean water, but, alas….here we are.  You should be consuming half your body weight in ounces of pure H2O every single day.  If you’re not, you are backing up one of your body’s main elimation pathways.  No…..coffee, tea (not even green tea), energy drinks, etc. do not count towards your daily ounces of pure H2O.  City water treatment plants are not as healthy as you think.  Depending on the level of chlorine, you might even think about putting a filter on your shower head to block out the chlorine.  Heating chlorine is NOT your friend. We are blessed to have our own well drilled, but as soon as our living arrangements are finalized, this filtration system will be in place.

 

#6 Coffee Press

We are now living three months with no electricity except with the occasional treat that the generator gives us.  I invested in a good coffee press right away.  I only drink a cup a day and I make it super charged.  Sitting outside, sipping on some coffee on warm summer mornings while overlooking our beautiful pond and thanking the Lord for another day is one of my favorite times of the day.

My Morning Coffee

Colombia Jo

MCT Oil

Organic Turmeric

Organic Cinnamon

And, either a splash of organic half and half or coconut milk.

 

#7 Diffusers

Talk about diffuser withdrawal while being off-grid.  I run them when ever I can while we have the generator running.  But, when we have permanent electricity, I do have a diffuser in every room.  They have wonderful effects on our limbic system.  They help support not only or physical needs but also our emotional needs.  There are some tips and tricks to using EOs and diffusers.  One thing most people do not know is to NOT over diffuse.  We tend to think, the more the merrier.  This is not the case with essential oils.  You can become sensitized to them and actually develop an allergy to them.

If you need some EO education and support on how to use this wonderful modality, I would love to help.

Online Aromatherapy Class

 

#8 Etee Wraps

Ditch your plastic and keep your food fresher, longer.  Toxic plastic wrap, storage containers, and aluminum foil are no longer needed thanks to my washable Etee Wraps.  I use them to wrap up sandwiches, cover bowls, and store food safely in the frigde.
100% Hand made and 100% all natural, organic, non-GMO.

#9 Is My Top Farm Products

This could have dominated my list of favorites so I combined them into a sub-category.  I have had to learn a lot about running an organic farm and I am sure I still have LOTS to learn.  The care and products my animals receive are very important to me.  After all, they are giving us great nutrition in return.

1) Diatomaceous earth, Food grade

Whether you are maintaining a parasite-free coop and stable or ridding parasites naturally, DE is one of my favorite products to have on hand.  There are some health precautions to know about with handling DE.  Make sure it is food grade.  Do not inhale while dusting animals or the stable floors.

2) Colloidal Silver

Silver is always with me.  It is in my tack room ready for any occasion that I may come across,  I recently was able to help a new chick that had developed some congestion with silver along with helping a badly injured leg from one of my does.  When it comes to fighting off infection, this is my go-to product.

3) Apple Cider Vinager

Okay, really, what can’t ACV do?  All the farm animals get ACV in their water. It is especially helpful for chickens in egg production and helps feather growth when molting season arrives. For more on what ACV can do read my blog https://myfitfarmlife.com/2018/07/09/apple-cider-vinegar-uses-on-the-farm/

#10 Dyson V7 Motörhead  

I never knew I could love a vacuum so much.  This is a workhorse that can go from carpet to floor to couch with no conversion necessary.  I love that it is cordless and can be converted to a handheld in seconds, which works great when I use it for the cars.  Even my kids enjoy vacuuming because it literally takes minimal effort!

I am always on the lookout for new ways to make our lives simpler, healthier, and easier.  What are your favorite must-have products that make your life easier, but healthier?

As always, I am here for any questions or health concerns you have. Feel free to email me and don’t forget to follow me of FB, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Blessings,

Stacey Upchurch, CNHP
Star Member through Young Living

Disclaimer
All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.

*This post may contain affiliate links for products I love. This means I earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of these links.*

Drying Herbs

I have loved cooking with fresh herbs my entire adult life.   It has always been so rewarding going into your garden to snip a couple of fresh herbs for dinner each night.  What I didn’t know was how easy and affordable it was to grow your own organic herbs to be dried for the winter when those fresh herbs are not at your disposal.

This is the first season that I attempted drying my own herbs and I am very pleased with the success of it.  Simplifying steps and thinking through the process has really made this not only a pantry stocker but also a fun new hobby!

If drying herbs is new to you, do not let it overwhelm you.  Pick a couple of your favorite herbs to start with and let it grow from there. You will soon know your herbs very well, from where they grow best, to when it’s time to pick them.

I wanted a decorative herb garden this year so I splurged a little and ordered a stackable herb garden container.  IMG_0315I have been pleased with it.  I started all my herbs early, around March, and have gotten two cuttings off it so far.  I planted thyme, oregano, cilantro, sage, parsley, rosemary, and dill in this container.  I have lavender and basil growing separate.   I ordered my herbs from Rebel Gardens and have been very pleased with the quality.  Next year, I will start my rosemary and lavender sooner.  I will have a late crop with those two, as we have a short enough growing season here in Colorado.

Knowing when to cut the herbs has been my biggest investigative element to this project.  Each herb is a little different so make sure you know exactly when to cut and dry the herbs you choose.  For the most part, it is best to harvest late morning after any dew has been dried up.  Choose a warm, sunny day.  This helps maximize the essential oil content, which is what we want in our herbs anyway.  Also, use sharp scissors.  This will help with minimal damage to your plant, and in some plants, it will only prune them with continual growth.   Some herbs needs the bloom before you snip, like dill for instance.  If you are harvesting dill seed, you have to wait until the entire flowering process has cycled, but for me, I wanted dill weed this year so I harvested before any blooms.

My sage, parsley, and dill were the first to be picked this year.  They have been grown, cut, hung to dry, stripped, and bottled.

I used an old jewelry hanger to dry my herbs on.  It worked perfect and is super affordable.  In my climate, which is very dry, it took about one full week for the herbs to dry out completely.  Once they were dry I crumbled them off the stem, bottled and labeled them for storage.  I LOVE these  apothecary bottles I found.  I use them for many things and they store nicely in the cabinet.  Another great investment is labels with a chalk pen.  I have used these over and over.  The chalk can be washed off so you can reuse the label over and over.

So, to recap:

1) Choose your herbs you wish to grow.

2) Grow them in organic soil mix and watch the soil pH.  You can read up on the importance of correct soil pH in my blog, Preparing Your Garden Soil.

3)  Cut herbs at peek time.

4) Wash herbs and hang to dry in sunny, but dry location.  In front of a window would work great.

5) Once herbs are completely dry, strip them off stems, crush, and bottle of storage.

 

Now you have fresh, organic herbs at your disposal all winter long.  It is such a good feeling knowing that the foods I prepare for my family have pure, chemical-free herbs to be seasoned with!

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Happy Seasoning!!

5 Easy Steps to Keep House Plants Happy

Nothing makes a house more ‘homey’ than house plants.  They just bring an extra element into your home not to mention the health benefits they also provide.  If you are new to plants in general, here is a list of some of the most beneficial plants to have in your home.  Really play around with adding plants into different rooms.  You’ll be amazed at the balance and harmony they bring.

House plants, just like any other plant, need special attention at least twice a year. Besides the weekly watering that most of my house plants receive, twice a year I bring them outside and give them a conditioning bath.  This allows me to get all the dust off them, see if any are getting root-bound, and give them an extra layer of feeding soil.  I turn to a natural feeder that is quick and easy.  I don’t want any chemicals going into my house plants.  They have a hard enough job cleaning all the toxins out of the air as it is.  The benefits of Epsom salt for house plants.

5 easy steps to keeping those house plants happy

  1.  Give them a bath at least twice a year.  Remove any dead leaves and prune if they need it (make sure it is a nice, warm day and not windy).

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2.  Check to see if any plants are root-bound.  If they are, simply transplant them into a larger pot along with Feeding soil .
3.  Give each plant a couple handfuls of feeding soil.
4.  After their bath and they’ve dried off a bit I give them a salt bath.  Mix 1 Tbsp.  Epsom salt with 1 gallon water and give each plant a drink (I continue to do this every 6 weeks).

 


5.  Check each plant weekly to see if they need water.  It’s best to keep the soil moist not too wet or too dry.  Most of my plants need a good drink once a week, but I live in a dry climate.
Developing these habits will pay off and you will get to enjoy your beautiful house plants for years come.

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Happy bathing!

Preparing Your Garden Soil

Growing up my parents were ranch hands on a large cattle and hay ranch. Occasionally we would harvest some wheat, but the majority of the ranch’s income was in hay and beef.  There was never a dull moment for this ranch kid.  From bottle-feeding orphaned calves to sleeping all night behind my dad’s seat in the hay swather, every day brought a new adventure.  In my opinion, that was the best way to grow up.  We lived off the land and from the food our animals would supply for us.  It was very humble, but I thought we were the richest people on earth!

Some of my earliest memories are of my family’s garden and working along side my mother in that HALF ACRE GARDEN!!!  The rows of green beans and corn seemed to go on forever when it came to weeding and harvesting.  The conversations that I listened in on while I helped my mom and aunts snap peas were the kind that made a child day dream of the future.  This is where I developed my love for gardening.  I am still convinced that any problem can be sorted out over a bowl of snap peas.

Today so many people hobby-garden (which is AWESOME), but the success of our family’s garden determined how well we would eat throughout the winter.  My mom worked endless hours prepping veggies to be frozen or canned.  I remember my parents praying for the ‘hail storms’ to pass and for much-needed moisture to drench our land in time of drought.  One thing is for sure…I don’t ever remember missing a meal.  God is GOOD!

Today I do have the luxury of purchasing fresh, organic produce, however my roots simply fight against this option.  I want to be in control of my produce and know I am getting nutrient-rich greens.  I want to know that the occasional little nibble on my lettuce is there because there wasn’t any harmful chemicals sprayed on my produce.  I love the satisfaction of sowing the seed, reaping the harvest and seeing the excitement in my children’s eyes when our hard work pays off!

Something that I have since learned from that time of watching my parents plant that enormous garden is that the soil is the most important component to a successful garden. That was not something I paid attention to as a kid.  When I started out with my own small garden, I was not yielding the crop I had hoped for.  What the heck?  I have soil, I sow seed, I water, AND nothing!  This led me to research out what my plants are needing from our nutrient-deficient soil.

Three easy adjustments lead me to have a perfect pH balance in my soil.

1. Manure (boy, do I have enough of this!)
2. Wood ash (Read the benefits of adding wood ash into your gardens)
3. Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)

As soon as my garden is harvested in the fall, I leave some stalks behind to decompose through the winter and then I leave it completely alone until the spring thaw.  I’ll even throw in some grass clippings and dead leaves.  Once the ground is workable (for my location, it’s in April) I till the ground to loosen and get the composted material deep in the soil.  I will start adding in wood ash and Epsom salt a couple weeks before I start sowing seed.  I will check my pH balance (Get this tester, it will be your best friend) one last time a couple days before sowing or transplanting.  I also put about 1 tsp. of Epsom salt in each hole then cover with a layer of soil when planting tomatoes and peppers.  They LOVE magnesium sulfate along with roses!

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Since adjusting my soil’s pH, my crops not only produce a great harvest, but they just look happier.  Depending on your pH test results, you might need to give your garden a salty bath about once a month, along with a sprinkle of compost/manure mix.   This will give you a happy, perfectly-fed garden all summer long.  Mulching will help tremendously in dry climates like the one I live in.

Knowing what different plants need will help with your harvest.  This is a great read for understanding the importance of your soil’s pH level and why certain plants need more acidic soil and why others need more alkaline soil.

We are now at the beginning stages of planting for this season and we look forward to the beautiful summer, conversations over snap pea bowls, weeding competitions with my girls and of course, the bountiful harvest.

Happy planting!

For the Love of Kiwi Part 1

The kiwi fruit…also known as Chinese gooseberries…is one of our favorite fruits. Per serving, this little super food is packed with amazing nutrition that our taste buds just scream for. It’s like our mouth knows how good this fruit is for us. Check out this bad boy’s nutritional content here.

Living on a homestead in Colorado has its many perks, but having a fresh supply of kiwi fruit is not one of them. Farmer’s markets come around during the summer/fall season and the closest Whole Foods is 40 minutes away so needless to say, it is an occasional treat.

As I was cutting into my daughter’s favorite snack one day, she asked me, “Mommy, why don’t you grow your own kiwi? You grow everything else?” Not having a sufficient answer for her, I decided to start my research.

With my growing season cut short by late and early frosts and not having an official greenhouse….yet….I needed to know if I was even able to accomplish growing this delicate fruit. It’s not as simple as planting a seed, transplanting into a large pot, and waiting for the fruit to appear. This little plant has challenged the inner-gardener in me for sure!

First, you need male and female plants…. who knew? The vines do not self-produce, so you need both. One male vine should be able to pollinate up to 8 female vines.  Find out how to tell the difference between male and female vines here.

Second, you need space. Planting each vine up to 12′ apart can get a little tricky. Finding an area that has well-drained soil and full sun with that much space is going to be a problem for smaller backyards, but not impossible. They like it warm but not hot so if your region gets excessively hot, find a shaded place for them during the hottest part of the day. A seasonal trellis can help with this.

Third, you have to fight the frost.  If you’re like me and live in a harsh winter zone, you’ll have to take extra precautions during extreme, early, and late frosts.  Protecting your vines a few times during these unpredictable seasons will pay off for you in the end.  Extra mulching and even covering with plastic will help to ensure the survival of your vines.

If you can adjust to these growing conditions, then you can grow your own kiwi. So let’s get started at the beginning…

1. Choose your fruit. Select a nice organic fruit to harvest your seeds from.

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2. Slice your fruit lengthwise, then scooping out as many seeds as you can. I place them on a paper towel to help absorb liquid.
3. Next you have to dislodge any flesh from around the seed. The best way that worked for me was to place seeds in a stainless steel Tea mesh ball.  Rinse repeatedly until all fruit is removed from seed.
4. Place seeds in a glass jar, fill with water and set in a sunny area for about a week. Be sure to change the water everyday to discourage any bacterial growth.
5. Once you see the seeds start to crack open it is time to place them in their make-shift green house. I did this by using a plate, paper towels, and an old plastic food container. Place a paper towel on a plate and saturate with water. Scatter your seeds around the paper towel. Poke several holes into the plastic container and then place it over seeds. Place your little greenhouse in sunny, draft free area for 4-6 more days until you see sprouts. Make sure the paper towel is constantly wet.

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6. Once 1/8″ sprouts have emerged from the seed, you may then transplant the seeds into seed-starting containers. Use a good seed-starting soil, organic of course. I use this  organic potting mix.

In about 6-7 days your sprouts will have emerged and you’re well on your way to kiwi fruit.

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7. Water daily, to keep the soil moist but not too wet. Once your little vines have developed a strong root system, you can transplant them into larger containers to help them grow.

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8. Once the kiwi vines are hardened off, you will transplant the vines into their final resting place. Water well until the roots have taken hold. Mulching will help keep the moisture in.

Now it’s time to enjoy the ‘fruit’ of your labor…hope you’re patient. It only takes 3-5 years for your vines to produce fruit but it will be worth the wait. Stayed tuned for Part 2 of this post. Happy planting!!