Backwoods Homestead

Organics and a Subsistent Life

Kate MarloweMy family lives a subsistent life through hunting, fishing, foraging and gardening. We have a journey ahead of us to reach our goal, living a 100-percent self-sufficient life. The road has been long, adventurous and continues to have many ups and downs along the way. The one thing we know for sure, we are on the path we feel is best and love all the adventure, experiences and time centered on our family that it provides.

familyThis article is designed to give you a look inside why we choose to live subsistent on organic whole foods. Many experiences have led me to a life of homesteading and learning to live a subsistent life in the backwoods. The information I am providing is a combination of views, both professional and personal.  I have included research from my career as a wellness specialist as well as personal opinion, based on my own experiences. I am not a licensed medical professional. I am not diagnosing or offering treatments to medical issues. Talk to your medical professional for any dietary prescriptions, changes and guidelines.

Choosing an organic diet shows your commitment to health. The news and media project an overwhelming flood of claims that organic, whole foods are the healthier way to eat. A large number of people have jumped on the organic wave for numerous reasons including disease prevention, treatment for illnesses, or overall health. We choose organics for all of the above. This further supports our decision in living a subsistent life and providing as much of our food intake from sources we control.


fruit and veggies

Chemicals in our food supply, including pesticides, antibiotics and hormones, are linked to a variety of health risks including certain types of cancers and hormonal disruption. Choosing organic options reduces your exposure to these chemicals. It is also possible that higher levels of nutrients are obtained from organic foods. Dr. Andrew Weil, renowned integrative medicine professional, points out that higher levels of antioxidants assist the body in preventing disease, making these nutrients a valuable part of your healthy diet. His research and knowledge is stellar; a combination of Harvard M.D. with extensive research in alternative medicine and wellness as well as personal accounts through methods used by indigenous people all over the world. I highly recommend his work (including his book 8 Weeks to Optimum Health) and suggest following this link for more reading.

The EPA conducted studies that linked pesticides to various types of cancer and nervous system disorders. Grains full of these pesticides produce the breads and cereals you eat. Produce has these same health implications in addition to the increased risk of bacterial infection due to mass marketing. There is a list of produce available that guides you in making purchases. Antibiotics in meats are linked to the epidemic of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are being seen in the medical community. The Huffington Post reported on the FDA’s statement released showing health risk posed due to antibiotics in your meat supply. Hormones in your meat supply are linked to hormone and endocrine imbalances in the body.

This information, combined with research I conducted while working at OSU Medical Center, swayed my view on organics. It’s been a gradual cycle, beginning with a switch from mainstream foods to organic options at the store. There is a book I resourced (In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan) that I recommend; reading it convinced me to go organic and guided me in doing so. This has progressed to growing our own garden and living a subsistent life through hunting and fishing. We hope to progress to 100 percent of our food being provided through self-sufficiency. We now have greater control over what goes into the production of our food source.



Organic choices in your food supply may decrease the risk of chemicals that may cause disease in the body.

Your local grocer, farmers' market, health food store and area farms offering community supported agriculture have resources you can use to find organic foods free of these chemicals. Organic foods have also been found to have higher levels of nutrients than their commercial counterparts including antioxidants, according to Weil. Getting your needed nutrition from food each day is far easier when the foods you consume are organic.

We have chosen to go one step further than what is offered by our local grocer. Hunting, fishing, gardening and foraging are gradually becoming our primary sources for healthy, whole foods. There are a couple circumstances that have proven the benefits to us. My own health has been drastically improved by adhering to an organic, whole foods diet. This in combination with health issues of other family members, either improved on or treated with organic whole foods, reinforced this way of life to both my husband and me.

Expert Insights

Be selective in your choices for organic foods. Using The Environmental Working Group’s lists for The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen will provide guidance in making the choices for organic foods, staying within your shopping budget, and eating the healthiest diet possible.

I look forward to sharing adventures with you here as well as on our website. Be sure to view my profile and connect with us at Backwoods Homestead!



Dr. Weil: Four Reasons to Grow and Eat Organic?

EPA: Pesticides and Food: Health Problems Pesticides May Pose

Huffington Post: FDA Says Antibiotics In Meat A ‘Serious Public Health Threat'

Readings on advantages and disadvantages of organic foods:

Seattle Pacific University, Organic Foods by Bethany Fong

Fantastic Farms, Advantages and Disadvantages Organic Farming: Good Things, Barriers and Environmental Effects

EcoVillageGreen, Eight Advantages and Four Disadvantages of Organic Food

Pediatrics, Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages, a clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics


EWG Shoppers’ Guide

DIY Peppermint Toothpaste

Kate MarloweI have spent years searching for a great toothpaste. One that tastes good, is effective, easy on sensitive teeh and affordable. Good luck, right? A simple baking soda mixture has always been too harsh and the taste left little to be desired. Most recipes I came across contained ingredients such as guar gum and salt, either I would have to buy it just for this experiment or the thought of it didn’t sound good for either taste or health reasons.


Coconut oil, once again, is the latest craze with health benefits for the mouth, spouted off frequently in the media. OK, so I’m a supporter, even have my favorite brand of coconut oil. I use it in all my DIY toiletries such as the deodorant you read about earlier, but in my toothpaste? Do I really want to deal with the consistency? Will it soften immediately when brushing my teeth? I decided the only way to find out was try it, it’s in the cabinet, so what the heck! 

Verdict: I love it! The recipe works well and tastes great. The best part is that I have no more trouble with my sensitive teeth. I no longer take medicine for pain or have to use the bite guard I was prescribed for fractured teeth. Whether this is due to the coconut oil, lack of chemicals found in brand-name toothpastes or a combination of all, I will be sticking with this recipe. The best part is the recipe has an option to add peroxide for whitening, which hasn’t affected the sensitivity factor at all.


Pepperming Toothpaste
Yields approximately 6 ounces.

6 tablespoons coconut oil
4 tablespoons baking soda
1 teaspoon peppermint essential oil
1/2 teaspoon xylitol (sweetener)
3 teaspoons glycerin (optional to ensure preservation)
1 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide (optional as a whitener)

Mash together the coconut oil and baking soda until the oil is softened and mixes well with the baking soda. Add remaining ingredients and store in a glass container.

Place a small amount of the paste on your toothbrush. I just dipped my brush into the jar and scooped out the desired amount. Now that my husband is using the toothpaste as well, I use an old antique baby spoon to keep the toothpaste fresh.

Stay with my blog as I add new DIY concoctions from my pantry. Next, a peppermint mouthwash with a healthy aloe vera foundation. Check out more about our subsistence life at Backwoods Homestead