Growing and Preparing Horseradish

Horseradish is delicious.  I just ran out of the jar from last year but luckily it is time to harvest again!  Another round of snow is set to arrive Wednesday so I am busy in the gardens putting beds to sleep and harvesting the rest of the root crops.  Horseradish is one of them.

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If you could get a plant start from someone or from a nursery in the spring, horseradish will reward you with delicious roots for years to come as it spreads quite nicely.  I only take about half or two thirds so that there is plenty to grow back.  You may need a shovel to loosen a bit.

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Horseradish is medicinal (as most plants are), and is excellent for sinuses and upper respiratory infections.  You can tincture them in alcohol with Echinacea and garlic for a powerful antibiotic.  Or you can take the culinary approach to medicine.  A most delicious one, I must say.

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Scrub the roots clean in fresh water.  Cut into two inch pieces and place in a food processor.  I like to add a small beet to mine for vibrant color but we had no spring crops and very, very few fall crops this year, so no beets.  Grind on high for a bit until it gets nice and chunky.  Add in a touch of vinegar for consistency and preserving.  I used 2 Tablespoons for four roots.  Continue processing until it looks nice and blended.

One might want to take the bowl outside before opening the lid.  I never remember to do this.  The fumes are mighty and a bit stingy.  Beware.  Scrape down sides, see if it needs any more pulsing.  Pour into a small canning jar and keep in refrigerator.  The vinegar will mellow the heat over time.

Add to mashed potatoes or cocktail sauce or whatever you like.  What do you like to have horseradish with?

The Spiritual Tea Garden (and letting go)

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The community came together and helped save our shop.  An interest free loan from a customer helped smooth out stress.  The beautiful shop in Elizabeth will remain nurtured and cared for as Shyanne’s.  I am trying to release the need to control and know every outcome.  Maybe we will make it until the lease is up, maybe for many years to come, I must release what I cannot see.  For now, it is a lovely testament to a community who came together and helped us remain open.

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I am not sure when it began but what started as divine inspiration turned into stalking the bottom line.  Ideas became web domains and joy became stress.  I am trying to quiet my mind and listen and not plan out every detail of my next chapter.  I am letting it fall together in pieces of timely thoughts and guiding purpose.  I am not rushing to choose a name.  I am not getting the website. I am not plotting every detail as I have in the past.  The idea of jumping back into a full blown business defeats me at present.  Farmer’s markets, shows, promotion, packaging…it all exhausts me to think of it.  I want to serve and to be more generous.  I want to extend my wisdom and my heart to those around me and that gets lost when I am trying to reach a financial goal.  I don’t want a business, I want a purpose.

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Three years ago sitting in the prairie grasses beneath ancient cottonwoods with five owls perched around me, the names of herbs popped in my head that I had not heard of and I jotted them down.  I researched them and was astonished to learn their spiritual uses and properties.  My love affair with herbs as spiritual medicine ignited.

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As I worked with Native American elders I learned the uses of cedar, sage, tobacco, sweetgrass, lobelia, and others to help purify and bless spaces and people.  I found that I innately knew what herbs healed what spiritually.

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I am a medical intuitive and I see physical illnesses like tumors and breaks but I also see spiritual wounds and heartbreak.  The herbs that are used to heal physical ailments also work on the same system of the body for spiritual health.  Heartbreak, rejection, trauma, dementia, stress can all be healed by herbs, as well as manifesting love, clarity, inspiration, grounding, or connection with the divine to increase joy and purpose in every day.  I am fascinated by the medicinal and soul empowering aspect of herbs.

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I am listening.  I am not moving quickly.  I have a dream of many gardens filled with herbs and flowers.  I grew dozens of varieties last year and this year I hope to double that.  I had a feeling that I should purchase some organic base teas to blend with my spirit teas.  Organic Assam, Yerba Mate, Rooibos, smoky Lapsang Souchong, along with the Jasmine I grow will act as carriers for my herbal blends.  There is sacredness in tea.

I had a dream last night of raised garden beds of herbs with fairy lights around them.  I hadn’t thought of that. I always put the herbs along fence lines or along the house.  To designate space for specific herbs is a beautiful idea.

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The universe is my marketing director and those that need me will find me.  I can give back and heal and be generous and trust.  I stay quiet and listen to the plant spirits.  There is nothing to do right now but learn and be grateful.  And maybe have a cup of tea.

How to Respectfully Wildcraft (and the enchantment of medicinal plants)

 

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It is wild crafting time.  We have a very short growing season here and a year’s worth of herbs to gather in a short time, sustainably, and respectfully.

I love wild crafting.  I am in my element when outdoors.  Even now, I am on my balcony surrounded by plants.  I am outside every moment I can and being around plants is even better.  I gather wherever I go, friends’ houses, great aunt’s house, sides of barely trodden roads.  (Never in polluted areas and never on private property without permission.)

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There is a special way to properly wild craft.  When I was younger I foolishly thought that you could just gather what was in the yard and put them in alcohol and make a medicine.  There is so much more to that including the plants choosing to help you, full moon cycles, various transports, and intuition.  Wild crafting requires patience, quiet, and listening.

One must approach the plant humbly.  Ask permission of the plant spirits.  If a twig or leaf or root or flower will not come off easily it is saying no.  You can also see parts of the plants moving.  That is where they are agreeing to be taken.  It is really quite enchanting and I am afraid that we have been lost in our modern world and have forgotten these things.  We do not take roots if we do not need to.  The Oregon Grape Root, dalonigei, has a large underground network of roots and will be alright if one harvests the roots.  Echinacea, sochani, is not so easy or prolific and the leaves and flowers contain as much of the medicine within them as the root.  Always leave tobacco to thank the plant spirits.

Only take a third.  A third each for nature, for regrowth, and for your medicine.  It should look as if the area has been undisturbed.  No one should notice that you have wild crafted there.  Having gratitude for the plants and the availability of the medicines is important and humbly taking only what you need is to be remembered.

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There are few true medicine keepers today and it is imperative for the average herbalist (and large herb companies) to understand the importance of maintaining a respectful and ceremonial way of gathering in order to get the plants’ help in making medicines as well as keeping the energy of the medicine.

These things really cannot be adequately explained in print but it should be noted so that we can take care of our natural medicines (including dandelions!) and Mother Earth, Etsia Eloheno.

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Today I was blessed to gather sumac, spruce, cedar, mullein, calendula, Echinacea, and Oregon grape root from Aunt Donna’s.  Yesterday I gathered maple and dandelion from Rodney and Pat’s.  Tomorrow I gather roses, yucca, purslane, and lady sage.  I do love this time of year.

White Wolf Medicine (a new apothecary coming to Elizabeth)

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I could say that I wish that I hadn’t closed my shop on Main Street.  The Garden Fairy Apothecary was a quaint and charming shop that stood proud for three years before I decided to move the whole thing to the mini-farm we had seven miles away.  At the same time a gal in Elbert who had a large antique shop found herself praying for a new place due to needing to move immediately.  Her shop could not look cuter inside our old store. And I cannot regret because that was all part of the journey.

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Folks continued to find me alright and I happily farmed and grew herbs and made medicines.  The landlords couldn’t afford the house anymore and it belongs to the bank now.  We had to move and that was when we made the dreadful error of moving to the last place.  People couldn’t find me anymore and I grew weary of just sending mail ordered medicines.  I sold the company to my friend, whom I live with presently, and she and her friend love mail order and those that want their old medicines that are the same all of the time order regularly.

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When we lost everything and had to leave that place I wondered if I was done.  Done farming, done teaching, done with herbs.  I gave the stack of my notes that I have kept for the past seven years, recipes, ideas, formulations, to a friend of mine. (She recently gave them back!) Left with re-piecing one’s life there is only room to think of what is very most important.  It is interesting to see what comes forth.

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I figured I wasn’t needed anymore.  I had students opening apothecaries all over the state and many still ordered from Garden Fairy.  When in the dark, the glimmers of reality are bright.  Not everyone can do what I do.  In fact, herbalism is not just something I do, it is a part of who I am.  I AM an herbalist, a medicine keeper, and I needed that reality to reignite what I do.

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People were/are still asking for medicines and I wanted to create a new apothecary that reflected knowledge that I didn’t have when I first started.  I wanted medicines that could be taken by most anyone.  Something that could be blended for each individual that walks in the door.  Something potent and effective and safe and beautiful.  Apple cider vinegar and honey extracts brew jovially in the sun.  Dozens of herbs waiting to be placed in jars for teas and fomentations.  Salve ideas, creams, decorations dance through my mind.

It would have been nice to have a shop on the same property as the home but perhaps a shop among other shops works better for people to find it.  A place where people know where they can come, even if I have to move, the shop itself will stay put.

So, I have some calls out and am looking for the place.  My mom and dad are going to help out.  My daughter’s boyfriend’s dog is a natural model for the logo.  Doug will complete the logo this week on photoshop but his sweet face works great for now.  The name chosen and confirmed.

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I woke up at dawn of the new moon, met the sun, prayed, did ceremony, and began to create.

Our new website: http://WhiteWolfHerbs.com

Our new facebook: http://Facebook.com/WhiteWolfMedicine

Farmgirl Herbal Remedies (my new Apothecary)

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I know I always tell y’all to take a risk and jump off high cliffs to catch dreams and I do live that.  Why exactly I thought it wise to give up my main source of income and life calling, I know not, but we all have those moments of burn out or boredom and I had both.  My herbal medicine business didn’t look like I wanted it to and it was too late to change much about it.  You may think I am crazy, but it was going too well.  I became an herbalist in order to use my medical intuitive abilities, play with plants, and help educate and offer other folk alternative ways to effectively care for their family armed with the knowledge of thousands of years of practical Native medicine.  I don’t play doctor or diagnose, but I know my stuff when it comes to herbal medicine.  But, I ended up just shipping products all over the world and it lost its personal touch.  If I could pinpoint a place where I got off track, trying to put herbalism behind farming was my wrong path.  Herbalism is my calling.  We detoured back onto the main road now and are heading somewhere.

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Our investors/friends/clients really want us to reopen an apothecary.  I want to as well.  This time I am designing it differently.  Margie will have the Garden Fairy products in there and I’ll get commission.  My part will be seventy glowing single extracts where I can pour what people need at the moment or they could build their own tincture.  I will have over seventy herbs for teas, many that I have harvested.  I think we need some green teas and chai blends as well.  We will sell my books and art as well as a wide variety of herbal medicines in a small, airy shop attached to the house.  Can you picture it?

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I have been thinking about how to create my new extracts.  I have always done straight alcohol because it pulls the most medicine out of the herbs.  However, the taste is repulsive and sharp.

I would love to make honey tinctures but then I leave out any client under the age of one and how many bees would be killed in order to get that much honey?

So, I tried to imagine the perfect medicine.  If I wanted to give someone a gift of medicine what would it look like.  It would be slightly sweet, filled with antioxidants and health, and thoroughly infused medicine.  I think one part maple syrup (nutrient rich and anti-tumor), one part vodka (to infuse the herbs properly), one part live medicinal herbs, and one part homemade red wine vinegar (antioxidant and good for digestive system) would be wonderful.  Doesn’t that sound lovely?  I will try a batch and see how it is.

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It is fun dreaming up my new Apothecary.  Farmgirl Herbal Remedies will hopefully be open this autumn.

Harvesting From the Marsh (or one’s back yard)

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It was the first really warm day yesterday.  Beautiful.  The birds sang and the sun shone truly bright and comforting as I found my way through the foot high brush in the marsh.  Water snaked its way through patches as the large, old willow tree, in all its knowledge of history past hundred years or so, drank steadily and protected the greenery beneath.  Plantain has sprung up.  Used to heal wounds and also as food, it is a welcome sight.  Dandelions grow tall and bush-like, tantalizing me with its toothed leaves and delicious flavors highlighted by the sunny yellow flowers.  Dock rose up in long slender arms and invited me to have some.  It is a powerful blood cleanser, anti-cancer, and healing to the liver, but one wouldn’t know by its mild bite and delicious addition to meals.  Lamb’s Quarters showed shyly between wild grasses.

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Wild strawberry leaves sit between plantain leaves and take me to memories past.  A walk in the woods with my best friend some twenty-four years ago but really a day ago it seems.  We walked and dreamed.  Seventeen years old and filled with hope and certainty that our friendship would stand the tests of time.  We walked without shirts on, unbidden and wild and innocence, in dappled sunlight we walked in carefree youth and joy.  We agreed to meet ten years from the date with our families and walk this way again.  August 11, 2001 came and went as did 2011 and I only wish her great joy and blessings on her path in her own woods.  Strawberries will make a luxurious addition to our salads.

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We walked further, accidentally frightened frogs, and came across the pond.  Looking up into another ancient willow sat four birds.  Large owls sat in statue.  The husband, wife, and two infants, large and downy, flew one by one.  A gift for this fine day of free food and soulful walking.  How great is nature to provide vast amounts of food for us.  Free for the taking, ten times more nutritious than cultivated greens.  Cleansing, and filling, and healing.

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Try wild greens on mixed salad.  Or top pizza before baking.  Roast with potatoes and garlic.  Sauté with bacon and mushrooms.  Make into a smoothie.  Indulge.  Wild greens are actually milder than spinach.  There are many ways to prepare it.  In gratitude is the best way.

Dock has tasty greens.  Harvest the root in fall to make detoxifying extracts.

Dock has tasty greens. Harvest the root in fall to make detoxifying extracts.

Lamb's quarters are found in many back yards proving that weeds can be delicious!

Lamb’s quarters are found in many back yards proving that weeds can be delicious!

Dandelion flowers can be made into jelly or fritters and the greens sautéed, roasted, or eaten fresh.  The roots can be used to make immunity boosting extracts.

Dandelion flowers can be made into jelly or fritters and the greens sautéed, roasted, or eaten fresh. The roots can be used to make immunity boosting extracts.

Cut herbs like plantain with a sharp knife and only take up to one third of what you find.  Be grateful.  It makes the food more nutritious and healing.

Cut herbs like plantain with a sharp knife and only take up to one third of what you find. Be grateful. It makes the food more nutritious and healing.

Owl in tree.

Owl in tree.

Watching owls take flight.

Watching owls take flight.

Rainstorm moving in.

Rainstorm moving in.

Aloe Vera (Its miraculous healing ability and surprising flower)

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I have been around aloe vera plants my entire life.  I have always had one, my mother and grandmother always had one, my aunts always had one.  Aloe is the staple you will find in any bustling kitchen as it brings immediate and effective healing to burns, cuts, and wounds.  When the baby touched the wood stove on accident a piece of aloe was quickly dispatched, opened, and wrapped on the wound.  It didn’t even blister.

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My aloe vera plant is something else.  I have never seen such a huge specimen in my life.  All of my previous aloes and those of my family fit nicely in a kitchen window.  Mine oddly thinks it lives in the desert.  It outgrows its pot every year and this year is no exception.  I sell its baby shoots at farmer’s markets so others can have the beautiful plants in their windows too.

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This year my aloe did something I have never seen before.  It shot up a flower.  I have been waiting to see what it would look life when it was in full bloom.  It is beautiful and interesting.  What a fabulous plant!

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Aloe vera is antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiyeast, and is demulcent.  Which means you can use it on black heads on the skin, on warts, as a personal lubricant for yeast infections or herpes outbreaks, to remedy stomach ailments, to sooth inflamed skin, to fill a wound instead of stitches, to prevent infection in a cut, or to heal a burn quickly should you touch the wood stove!

Moving Time for the Herbs (successful transplanting)

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Not only are we moving our furniture and belongings, but we are moving an entire garden!  All the medicinal plants (save for a few annuals) are heading to the new homestead.  My friend, Deb, taught me how to transplant the herbs successfully when she gifted me with a few of them last year.  It’s pretty easy and only requires that it is done fairly quickly!

1. Place the shovel next to the plant and lodge it as deeply as you can and gently work it up to dislodge the roots.  This may take a few times.  When sufficiently loosened lift the plant into a waiting 5 gallon bucket or pot with a drainage hole.

2. Add good soil around it to fill in the holes and water well.

3.  Transplant within 24 hours preferably.  You want the plant to hardly miss a beat.  Into the truck the plants went the other night and yesterday morning we took them over to the new homestead.

4.  When you get to your new location dig a hole for the plant.  Put a little compost in the bottom of the hole and place the plant into it surrounding it with good soil (from the pot you brought it over in would be good) and water well.

5.  Now if I’d had more room in the truck I would have brought over a bunch of composted straw.  I will do that this week and nestle it all around the bases of the new plants to give a light feeding and protection.  It is a blanket of sorts.

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You can cut the plants down if they are overgrown.  I let the vigorous annuals stay full sized because I want them to drop seeds.

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This new garden is much smaller than the quarter acre I am used to here.  But there is unlimited potential for new gardens around the ten acres.  The fenced garden is 600 square feet and consists presently of four foot weeds.  I pulled weeds along the edges and planted my plants.  The middle is for another day.  My idea is that the new garden will be surrounded along the edges by my medicinal and culinary herbs as well as berries and perennials.  This will deter pests but will invite in honeybees, butterflies, and birds.  It will be a beautiful ring around the garden.  The trick will be keeping these crazy herbs in one spot!  They do love to jump and grow all over!

 

A Field Trip To 1860 (learning from an old homestead)

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We traveled back in time yesterday to 1860.  We visited the home of the Hildebrants from Germany at the Denver Botanical Gardens at Chatfield.  Completely as it was.  The added gardens are impressive and the acreage of farming provides a CSA program for the community as well as a ginormous pumpkin patch and corn maze for Autumn fun.

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As homesteaders, especially ones that are looking to delve further into the world of self sufficiency and off grid living, we look for valuable lessons, ideas, and inspirations from those that came before us.  They whisper through the walls of their old homes and the physical pieces left from a time of homesteading as necessity teach us many things in their silence.  Something in us understands them intuitively.

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We started at our dream house.  A clapboard house with a large porch and swing.  The interior was sparsely decorated with furniture and tools from the era.  The wood stove stood proudly waiting for a kettle of water to be placed on it.  Simple rugs, old quilts, hand tools, and kitchen accessories were displayed.  Many things that we have collected ourselves on our homestead.  I cannot wait until the next homestead when I get my wood cook stove!  How fun the second chapter of Farmgirl School will be!  The house was uncluttered, comfortable, and very welcoming.  We peeked through windows and pretended we lived there.

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A summer kitchen was erected behind the main house with another wood cook stove in it, a counter, and a table.  Heat up the smaller house and leave the big house cool in the summer.  Every year I think we will build a summer kitchen for canning.  Soon we will.  The root cellar was on the side of the house and entered below the home to hold staples for winter.

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The refrigerator is a shed looking building, larger than our present fridges but a small structure in itself.  We would locate ice from the rivers in the winter and place them in the ice house with sawdust to keep the shed nice and cool and keep our food chilled throughout the summer.

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The woodshed would be close to the trees, close to the house, and would house the winter’s worth of wood needed to stoke two fires in the home all season.  More wood stood under the eve of the back door to the house.

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We have two interns from New York right now that have travelled by RV to study herbs under me and work on our mini-farm.  If it were 1860 (though I think this rather quaint for right now as well) this is the house they would stay in.

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These raised beds are perfect for building over cement slabs or driveways and are tall enough to not cause too much backache.

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When we move to our next homestead it will be quite likely that we will encounter a good deal more predators than we do here in town, so we will have to build a large pen such as this one.

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This is the blacksmith shop.  A shed with all the important tools to provide horse shoes and for fixing iron implements around the farm.  The buildings were placed in close vicinity to each other along the creek and house in order to block the winds from the southwest.  Everything was close to the water as one could not exactly turn on the faucet and pay a water bill.  I do dream of the day when I can use a grey water system to water my plants, not wasting a single drop, and have fresh well water.

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After about having it with any type of automobile I am this close to getting a pair of work horses and a wagon!  My friends would probably nary blink an eye.

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This is the Granary where we would store all of our grains for the winter.  There are openings along the top of the walls to create airflow so that the precious grain would not mold.

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A barn is very important as animals are an important part of a homestead.  Goats waiting to be milked bask in the sunshine.

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On our quarter acre I have found that I am able to intensively farm and be able to feed Doug and I and a few occasional guests during the growing season.  I am not able to grow enough to provide food for the community or to put up for winter.  That has been an eye opener for me.  I would need at least an acre to provide enough year round vegetables.

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The Hildebrant homestead also has several orchard trees as well as an entire herb garden.  There were many medicinal herbs growing in the plot near the back door.  This would have likely been the kitchen garden that held herbs, lettuces, and things that mama would want to access easily without going out into the fields to pick.

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Looking over the bridge here I saw many medicinal plants as well as wild grapes and choke cherries.  If I could just have a quick word with the homesteaders that lived here a hundred and fifty years ago, the stories and lessons they could teach me.

Doug talking with a tiny bunny.

Doug talking with a tiny bunny.

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Having several ecosystems on a single farm is imperative for biodiversity, wild foods, and plants.  This woodland was so beautiful just steps from the fields of vegetables.  Animals and wildlife may add some troubles with farming but by and large add a great deal of charm and are important on a homestead.

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A homestead is a place to have family around to help with canning and splitting wood!

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and for adoring grandchildren.

This was the old school that was moved to the property.

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Such a beautiful life.  A life filled with hard work, bountiful harvests, and close family.  A place where one can feel proud of their accomplishments and enjoy the world of simplicity.  A homestead is the place to be.

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A homestead can make you very tired though!