From the Ground Up

22 Natural Remedies for Everyday Ailments

James WhiteYou don’t have to pop a pill for everything. Some people aren’t big fans of taking conventional medicine, and there’s no reason to for minor issues. If you’re looking for some home remedies, check out these ideas for common complaints you can cure naturally.

1. Use Eucalyptus to Clear a Stuffy Nose

A few drops of eucalyptus oil in a humidifier will help clear a stuffy nose. The minty essential oil helps loosen up mucus and reduce swelling.

2. Honey for a Sore Throat

A spoonful of raw honey will instantly help ease a sore throat. As an added bonus, it will also help quell coughing fits. Mix a tablespoon of honey with a squeeze of lemon in a warm cup of water for a soothing drink.

3. Basil for Bug Bites

A bit of crushed basil on a mosquito bite will help relive the itchiness. Plus, it smells much better than anything from a bottle.

4. Coconut Oil Aftershave

If you have sensitive skin, using coconut oil as an aftershave lotion can help immensely. Dull hair can also be revived with an oil soak. Mix coconut oil with any essential oil of your choice and smooth it through your hair. Let it sit for a least half an hour, then wash it out thoroughly. This is best for fine hair, although it can be used on all hair types. Just make sure to investigate the best way to use oil for your hair!

5. Apple Cider Vinegar for Bloating, Diabetes, and Heartburn

Organic apple cider vinegar has a host of benefits, from relieving bloating to preventing diabetes to helping those with heartburn. Learn more about the benefits of apple cider vinegar here.

6. Calm Nausea With Ginger

An upset stomach can be helped with ginger. Ginger can also help with sea-sickness. You can buy an all-natural tea with ginger, or keep a piece of fresh ginger in your fridge (or freezer to make it last longer), and then just shave off a few pieces to add to hot water. Steep for 5 to 15 minutes before drinking.

7. Lesson Heartburn With Baking Soda

A touch of baking soda in a glass of water will clear late-night heartburn up in no time. Just be sure not to use too much, or you’ll be up burping instead!

8. Keep Bugs Away With Peppermint

You don’t have to pile on a chemical bug spray to keep annoying pests away. Place a few drops of peppermint essential oil into witch hazel or water and spray when needed. Just make sure to avoid your eyes!

9. Chamomile for Sleeplessness

Chamomile is great for promoting relaxation and preparing you for sleep. A cup of chamomile tea is a great way to get ready for bed.

10. Baking Soda for Bee Stings

If you or a child is stung by a bee, make a paste with baking soda and water, and rub it on the sting. The pain will stop instantly!

11. Peppermint for Headaches

In either tea or as an essential oil, peppermint is a great way to relive a tension headache. The cooling effect can be very effective at giving you a bit of stress relief, too.

12. Lavender for Restless Leg Syndrome

Do your legs and feet start to bug you at night? Rub a few drops of lavender essential oil on the areas of your legs that hurt (such as the ankle). Lavender is also known to help relieve anxiety, so it’s a great way to get your mind ready for a calm, restful sleep.

13. Marshmallow Root for Irritation and Sore Throats

Marshmallow root has been used for more than 2,000 years to calm irritation and help with sore throats. It helps moisten and reduce swelling in mucus membranes throughout the body, and reduces irritation as a result.

14. Witch Hazel for Your Face

Witch hazel is best known as a natural astringent. It’s a wonderful agent to help balance your skin after washing and helps shrink pores. If that’s what you’re after, then this is what you need in your skin care routine.

15. Green Tea for the Jitters

Green tea is known to help relive anxiety and lower blood sugar, especially when drunk regularly. However, it does have caffeine in it, so try drinking it before noon.

16. CoQ10 and Magnesium for Heart Palpitations

For many people, heart palpitations are caused by anxiety. A great way to keep your cortisol levels in check and stop palpitations is by taking CoQ10 and magnesium on a daily basis. (Consult with your doctor to make sure you don’t have any other serious heart issues.)

17. Use Witch Hazel for Hemorrhoids

The astringent properties of witch hazel can help with hemorrhoids. The alcohol causes the blood vessels to contract, reducing swelling and tenderness.

18. Honey for Minor Scratches

Honey is a natural antibiotic. Applying it to minor wounds can help prevent infection and help a wound heal faster.

19. Reduce a Fever with Linden Flower Tea

A cup of tea can help calm a low-grade fever and give everyone the rest they need. Be sure to go to your doctor if the fever gets too high!

20. Tea Tree Oil for Minor Infections

For minor skin infections, try combining one drop tea tree essential oil (often called Melaleuca) into five drops of coconut oil. Rub together and apply to infected spot twice a day. Most skin infections will clear up, but if the infection gets worse, go see a doctor.

21. Thyme for Snoring

While thyme has many antibacterial health benefits, a drop mixed with a few drops of coconut oil can be a quick remedy for someone who snores. Lightly rub some of the mixed oil to the bottom of your big toe before you go to bed. Or you can diffuse thyme in your bedroom a half-hour before you go to sleep.

22. Turmeric, Willow Bark, or Cat’s Claw for Arthritis

Turmeric, willow bark, and cat’s claw are known for helping calm inflammation. Instead of taking aspirin, use one of these natural remedies to help arthiritis.

As with all natural remedies, it’s important to consult your doctor before using. Also if you’re not sure if you are allergic to the new herb, try it in a small dose to see if you have a negative reaction before using it regularly.

This is hardly an exhaustive list of natural remedies for common ailments. Any issue you might have has a potential cure out there. It can’t hurt to look around!

Photo from GraphicStock

4 Tips For Developing A Solid Cattle Feed Plan

James White

No matter when you're reading this post, somewhere in America, a hamburger is being eaten. That might be a slight exaggeration but not by much.

Total U.S. beef consumption hovers around 24 billion pounds. That breaks down to around 71 pounds of red meat eaten by each citizen, vegetarians excluded. By any definition, that's a lot of beef. It also puts a lot of weight on the shoulders of the nation's cattle farmers. Feeding cattle should become a matter of routine, but that starts with a solid cattle feed plan. Here are some of the things to keep in mind:

Here's a cattle feed planner printout created by Arrowquip (great for encouraging kids to take part in homestead activities):

cattle feed plan by Arrowquip

Beef Needs Protein

In one of those "circle of life" moments, beef cattle are a great source of protein. They also need protein in their diet. For cattle, that source of protein could be from legumes. We're talking soybeans. Added to the soybeans would be cottonseed meal and linseed, both of which provide an extra protein boost.

Other nutrients that help support growth in beef cattle are minerals and vitamins. Unfortunately, there isn't a ginormous Flintstone Chewy Vitamin for cows. Instead, a mineral block can be placed in their shelters. To cows, these are like salt lollipops that will give them the minerals they need.

Taking the Cattle Out to Pasture

As any good cattle rancher will tell you, "Good pasture makes good beef." Cows that are put out to pasture for feeding require a bit more labor. However, cattle that can be promoted as grass-fed will also fetch a higher price.

You can't just turn a cow loose in a field and say, "Tuck in." You have to constantly monitor the seed mixture and soil. Pastures also have to be rotated. It's kind of like moving the herds through a grid. While they're eating in one zone, the next one is resting and growing back.

Make Sure the Hay Stays Dry

If you need to bring your cows in for the winter and will be feeding them with hay, then make sure you've got good storage for that hay. A well-ventilated hay shed needs to keep the hay dry to avoid mold. Moldy hay isn't good for the cows, but it can work as compost.

Don't Forget the Water

Cattle can drink anywhere between three to 30 gallons of water during the winter. When the weather turns warm, they need to drink at least one gallon for every 100 pounds of body weight. It's not enough to fill up the trough and let them have at it. You have to make sure that source is free of algae and manure. It might be better for you to control the water than to let them drink from a stream, where there’s too much risk of added bacteria.

Once you've worked out your cattle feed plan, you can also plan your schedules for the day, month and year. Make it a good plan. Your cows are counting on you.

Photo by Fotolia/Ċ½eljko Radojko

5 Delicious Meals to Make with Veggies Fresh from the Garden

James White



zoodle recipe
Photo courtesy of DIY Home & Health 

My garden has bloomed into full glory. I have tons of ripe zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, green beans, and romaine. My herb garden is bursting with basil, thyme, dill, parsley, and rosemary. The bounty is ripening so fast, in fact, that I can barely keep up with picking everything that’s ready to eat.

I know. It’s a great problem to have.

To get the most out of my garden, I created a weeknight meal plan that uses as many of these fruits, vegetables, and herbs as possible in each dish. Check out the below recipes for some serious garden-fresh inspiration:

Thai Zoodle Recipe

There has been at least one enormous zucchini hiding in the vines practically every day for the last few weeks. Just when I think I picked them all, there’s another that just appears!

I used to be a one-trick pony when it came to zucchini. In the summer, I liked it on the grill as a sidekick to steak. The end. That was before I discovered the culinary phenomenon known as zoodles. After reading DIY Home & Health’s zoodle recipes, I bought a spiralizer and started cutting my zucchini into long, noodle-like strands. In this form, zucchini is so versatile.

This meal is a real winner, as it allows me to use not only a giant zucchini from the garden, but it’s versatile enough that I can include one of my red bell peppers and a few carrots. Cut the carrots into strips and sauté with the rest of the veggies, or put them in the spiralizer and add some texture to the zoodles. If you don’t have access to wild-caught salmon, use chicken instead. Either way, this is a delicious dish bursting with color and flavor.

Beef Over Garden-Fresh Salad

Simple salads make for a great summer dinner, especially when served alongside a steak. Ceramcor created this awesome infographic to show you how to grill a steak perfect. Afterwards, just add it to a bed of chopped lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and sweet peas. Fresh basil and balsamic vinaigrette dressing complement both the meat and the veggies.

Cucumber Salad With Greek Yogurt

While I’m on the topic of garden-fresh salad, this one is really easy. I toss three to four thinly-sliced cucumbers (I use my spiralizer also for this!) with a small, diced red onion with a cup of Greek yogurt, a few tablespoons of lemon-infused olive oil and chopped dill and parsley.

Garden Tomato and Basil Soup (With Grilled Cheese, of Course!)

I know what you’re thinking. Soup?! In this heat?!

Yes, I believe in eating soup in the summer, but only if it’s made with fresh tomatoes and basil plucked from the garden. Tomato basil soup is simple and delicious, and it helps me put to use the mountains of ripe tomatoes and basil in my garden.

Bonus points if you make the accompanying grilled cheese right on the grill.

Summer Veggie Quinoa Bowl

Quinoa needs a heavy dose of added ingredients to pass the test in my house. That means — you guessed it — lots of vegetables and herbs.

My favorite quinoa bowl recipe is super simple. While a cup of quinoa is cooking, I dice and sauté two tomatoes, a bell pepper and half of a red onion in a lemon and thyme and rosemary-infused olive oil. I then snap the ends off a few handfuls of green beans and add them to the sauté along with a handful of edamame. When the quinoa is tender, I add it to the saucepan, toss and serve. If there is any left over, this dish is even better the next day, hot or cold.

There you have it — five recipes from the garden guaranteed to satisfy your summer taste buds.

5 Creative Garden Design Ideas

James Whitehanging strawberry vertical garden

A garden can be an outdoor refuge that allows you to escape the stress of everyday life, show off your gardening skills to family and friends, or even be an outlet for your creativity. You can make your design truly unique with labyrinths made from tall hedges, cobblestone paths and strategically placed water features. There are many different ways to create a garden. No matter what your design preferences, you’ll find something that speaks to your gardener’s heart and soul.


Hugelkultur is a process for composting. Basically, fallen wood and other natural debris is used as the base of a raised bed with a growing compound placed on top. The process is similar to what happens in the forest naturally, creating a nutrient-rich, moist environment for plants to grow. This type of gardening works well for areas that are a challenge to gardeners, such as urban lots or areas with poor drainage.

Hanging Gardens

If you don’t have a lot of ground space, hanging gardens may be the perfect addition to your home. Hanging gardens are a beautiful accent to your indoor or outdoor décor. The best veggies and fruits for hanging gardens include: lettuce, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, peas, some smaller types of peppers and Asian eggplants. Herbs also make excellent plants for hanging.

Keyhole Garden

Keyhole gardens are popular in Africa, but have made their way to the United States in areas where it is hot and dry. If you were to look at a keyhole garden from above, it looks like an old-fashioned keyhole, round with a notched area on one end. This notched area is where a compost pile is kept to add rich nutrients to the raised-bed structure of the garden. Use stones for a natural look to build up your keyhole garden. You can also add a pipe down the center for better irrigation.

Vertical Gardens

Urban areas in particular can benefit from vertical gardening. This means utilizing a wall and allowing plants to vine up it. One example might be to place a long rectangular container against a wall and plant tomatoes in it, but to also have cucumbers vining up a trellis that is placed against the wall.

Hanging vertical bags can be used to grow strawberries. You can also build a vertical herb garden out of two-by-fours and rectangular planters. A PVC pipe with holes drilled in it can hold a variety of smaller plants.

Enchanted Food Forest

This is a design that is meant to mimic food being grown the way it would in nature. The key to this type of garden design is to make sure everything is working well together, including anything living in the garden — plants, animals, bugs. For an enchanted forest garden to work well, you must plan out how each plant works with others and place them so they help one another. For example, you have to create layers of vines, tall trees, shrubs and groundcover.

These are just a few of the garden designs you can use to overcome gardening challenges and make the most of the space you have. Today's gardening focuses on sustainability and making maintenance easier. The right design will allow you to get the most out of your garden and feed your family healthy foods for a fraction of the cost of store-bought.

5 Tips to Keep the Bugs Away When Gardening

James Whitebugs away when gardening

I hate bugs. Just hate ‘em. Too many legs, too many eyes, too many wings. I hate them.

Did you know that researchers have identified more than a million different types of insects? That’s not all: Scientists estimate that 30 million more bug species haven’t even been classified yet.

Surprised I have all these facts? I know my enemy. I have to. There are probably about 10 quintillion individual insects in the world. In case you’re wondering, that’s 10 followed by 18 zeros.

I do my best to keep bugs out of my house, but I especially can’t stand having them around when I’m gardening. I know, I know … not all bugs are bad for your garden and I wouldn’t have amazing veggies growing without those pollinators. But there are some things you can do to just keep the bugs away when you’re outside gardening.

1. Dress for Success

When I’m working in the garden, I always wear boots, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a hat. An extreme bug situation calls for clothing that’s been sprayed with peppermint essential oils. You can even buy clothes pre-treated with bug repellent.

Manufacturers add permethrin, which drives off a wide variety of bugs. The Environmental Protection Agency considers this clothing as safe to wear. However, wash it separately from everything else, because some of the permethrin might come off in the laundry.

2. Spray Your Way

Bug spray seems like an obvious and effective choice, but there are so many kinds. Which do you choose?

Repellents that contain DEET are at the top of my list. I know some people worry about side effects, but recent studies don’t find any problems if you follow the application instructions.

A product doesn’t need to be more than 50 percent DEET to keep mosquitoes away. You need at least 20 percent DEET to repel those nasty ticks.

If you’re still leery about DEET, other effective product ingredients are lemon eucalyptus oil, catnip and citronella.

3. Clean Your Scene

Mosquitoes are one of the worst offenders. They’re terrifically annoying, and some carry diseases.

I take steps to make my property an unattractive breeding ground. Mosquitoes love standing water. Even a little is enough for them to lay eggs.

• I don’t leave anything lying around that can hold water. No empty bird feeders, flowerpots, buckets, wheelbarrows, hollow logs or old tires.

• I clear my gutters of decaying leaves and other gunk every spring.

• I level off any low-lying areas that crop up during the winter.

4. Lifesaver Flavor

In terms of annoyance, gnats are not far behind mosquitoes. They’re so tiny, and they get everywhere. Have you ever inhaled one?

I rub a little vanilla extract along the brim of my hat. This seems to help keep them away from my face, at least. No more nose gnats.

5. Vent the Scent

Bugs like strong floral scents, so I never go outside smelling like a piece of fruit or a flower. My soap and shampoo are fragrance-free, and I don’t try to impress insects with cologne anyway.

Same deal for laundry detergent. It doesn’t need to make my clothes smell like a spring bouquet. It just has to get them clean.

I wish bugs would adopt the motto “Live and let live.” Leave me alone, and I won’t bother them. Until they have a change of heart, though, I’m going to go after them with elbow grease and a little ingenuity.

How to Get Rid of Mice in Your Food Storage and Garden

James Whitemice in barn

Mice and other small critters, such as voles and shrews, can cause major problems for you and your garden. Tearing through your food storage, leaving droppings everywhere and breeding like crazy are just a few habits that make these rodents more than just an annoyance. Thankfully, keeping your goods safe from pests doesn’t have to be a losing battle. With a few tricks, you can easily take back your garden and win the war against critters.

If you’ve been looking for methods to get rid of mice that actually work, take a look at the list below:

Peppermint Oil

Since mice have pretty poor eyesight, they rely on their noses to find food. Overpowering their senses with peppermint essential oil is a great way to deter curious mice from entering your garden or storage areas, but won’t do much to get rid of existing mice.

Soak cotton balls in undiluted peppermint essential oil and place them around problem areas. The overwhelming scent of peppermint will deter new mice from building homes in your garden or storage. You can also make a peppermint spray and generously coat entrances to storage to keep pests away.

Cat Patrol

Allowing a cat to prowl your property can reduce the number of mice and voles you have, though not drastically — one cat can only hunt so much. The threat of being eaten may be enough to cause some of the animal population to relocate. Once rodents catch a whiff of the cat near their home, they may decide the risk isn’t worth it.

Owls may also help reduce the pest population. To encourage owls to roost near your home, set up perches for them.

Lawn Maintenance 

Mowing your lawn regularly destroys areas that shrews and other small creatures could hide in. Mow around structures and check for signs of tunneling damage to see if you already have a pest problem. Rake up foliage and clear away dead branches or garden waste. Clear overgrown shrubs and low-hanging limbs that may entice pests to build a home nearby. Move firewood stacks into the garage.

Make Food Inaccessible

Most little creatures find food using their sense of smell, so doing your best to mask scents will go a long way toward keeping your supplies safe. Keep foods in airtight containers that mice can’t sniff out. Taking the appeal away from your shed is the first line of defense.

Always clean up any leftover bird seed or pet food. Although animal food is not the first choice for pests, they will eat it if it’s available.

Block Entrances

If your storage shed has seen better days, it’s entirely possible that critters are finding their way in through gaps in the structure. Thoroughly check your shed for holes or cracks. Even the smallest space may allow mice to get in — they can fit through spaces as small as a nickel. Seal any gaps you find or use a small wire mesh to cover them and prevent rodents from slipping through. 

Get Rid of Insects

Shrews love to chow down on insects as well as mice, snakes and even other shrews, so getting rid of things that attract insects will make your habitat seem a lot less inviting. Make sure there’s no standing water around your house that will attract bugs, and take care not to overwater your garden. Remove litter from the yard to take away insect breeding areas and throw out any containers that could trap water.

Check Items Before Storing

If you’re carrying items into storage that already have pests hiding away, you’ll have a hard time getting rid of them. Make sure you always check boxes before storing. Inspect any outdoor furniture or equipment you plan to put away in case tiny creatures are hiding there.

Getting rid of unwanted guests doesn’t have to mean breaking out the poison — you can easily control your pest problem without surrounding yourself and others in toxic fumes. Keeping pests out in the first place is always your best bet, but if that fails, using the tips above should have you back in control in no time.

The Average Farmer Is Pretty Old: Here's What the USDA Is Doing About It

James WhiteIt’s no real secret that farming in America is an industry in deep crisis. With each passing year, the age of the average farmer increases, and we see fewer and fewer young people adopting this difficult but supremely rewarding way of life. With nothing less than our nation’s food supply on the line, it’s a big problem.

According to the National Young Farmers Coalition, the average age of farmers in the U.S. currently sits at 57 and is steadily rising. There’s only one farmer under the age of 35 for every six farmers over 65.

Considering the important place that farming has in the American way of life, as well as the deep personal satisfaction that comes from homesteading and other forms of small-scale agriculture, this is a serious problem. Thankfully, the USDA is making strides to improve the situation. But will it be enough?

The Roots of the Problem

Part of the problem comes from the fact that farmers and their families, once they retire, have a tendency to remain in residence on the family farm. And more and more, modern farmers are encouraging their children to seek out a living elsewhere, thanks in part to the lack of support the U.S. government is showing farmers these days.

farmer couples

As a result, the USDA is renewing its focus on encouraging brand-new farmers to adopt this lifestyle, to fill the void left by families exiting the industry.

A website specifically targeted at new farmers received a complete overhaul recently, making it much cleaner and easier to use — a clear gambit designed to speak directly to a generation that grew up using the Web. According to Eric Hansen, of the National Young Farmers Coalition, the website is a “watershed moment” for a country that’s lost its focus on and esteem for the people who keep this country fed.

Empowering New Farmers

But you’d be right to point out that a new website isn’t enough to revitalize this ailing industry. While the New Farmers website is designed specifically to highlight the sort of USDA assistance that’s been going on for decades — farm subsidies, loans, day-to-day guidance and other important resources — it’s also set out to give these forms of assistance an overhaul of their own.

The short version is that the USDA is shifting its funding toward encouraging, educating and empowering brand-new farmers who want to break into the industry. It’s a difficult thing to do, seeing that Congress holds the purse-strings for the USDA and has been characteristically glacial in addressing the problem. So, while the Department’s source of funds hasn’t changed much in recent years, how it’s used is in the process of changing significantly.

One way the USDA is changing its monetary policies is to redirect funding toward new and upstart farmers. In 2009, for example, 30.5 percent of USDA-backed loans were earmarked for beginning farmers. But by 2017, USDA leadership hopes to raise that figure to 57-60 percent to reflect the changing face of the farming industry.

Hansen is quick to point out that existing farmers won’t be left in the lurch, but it’s clear that established homesteaders and farmers don’t face the barriers of entry that new farmers do. It’s a matter of priorities.

Another development that’s making great strides toward turning farming into a more enticing career choice is the rise of more efficient technologies. Companies like CAT have made a point to develop equipment and machinery that prioritize sustainability and efficiency — characteristics that can greatly lower the cost of entry for new farmers. To put it another way, farmers have better and better tools at their disposal to help lift some of the burdens that accompany a life in agriculture.

In other words, what we’re seeing in the agriculture industry is an uncommon example of the public and private sectors working together for the common good.

It’s a National Crisis

But apart from the question of funding, there’s also a distinct challenge before us: education. To put it simply, farming isn’t really thought of by young people today as an obvious career choice. The cause of this, or perhaps the result, is that the USDA is simply not “present” enough in the collective consciousness to encourage the younger generations to seek this way of life. For example: Did you know you could get a USDA-backed mortgage with no down payment if you buy a home in a less developed, more agriculture-heavy part of your state? If you didn’t, you’re hardly alone.

The truth is, the USDA is doing great work, but it’s not enough. The next step is for our Congress to re-address their priorities and empower farmers the way they used to. In the words of Nick Offerman, we must “exalt the farmer” and the good they do in our lives — nothing less than that will reverse this crisis.