Cultivating Mushrooms, Collecting Herbs, and Table Top Distilling - Book Reviews

Just yesterday I lugged myself through the grocery store. Though I am grateful for the ease and convenience, it just doesn't compare to picking/growing fresh produce in your own backyard. So I am thrilled to add 3 new books to my collections for doing just that!

The first book that showed up on my doorstep was Mushroom Cultivation - an illustrated guide to growing your own mushrooms at home. This book is a great overview of which mushrooms to grow at home and how to go about doing it. It's pretty slim and easy to read. It goes over which trees to use - and tree identification. I am a fan of the information and the pictures! Now to get the ambition to break into the mushroom world....

The second book was The Homesteader's Herbal Companion. This book also has great pictures - and how-to's and recipes for making salves, essential oils, and medicines. It even has a forward by Joel Salatin! I am in agreement with most of the herbs in this book, but as an active forager - I have a few complaints.

In my opinion, some of the best foragable plants (medicinally speaking) are missing, and there is a major error in the listing for Mullein. This is a fantastic and very useful plant (more uses than mentioned) but it is also dangerous. There is no mention about the hallucinogenic nature of the seeds or that it was traditionally used to poison fish. The book does discuss using the leaves and flowers, with no mention of the seeds.

This is one of the major dangers in comprehensive "herb" or "wild" plant books. There is a lot of parroting back in forth between books but if someone does not have extensive knowledge of each particular plant, it's dangerous to repeat bits and pieces of information.

The last book - Tabletop Distilling - inspired me to want to buy my own still. Let's just add it to the menagerie of solar ovens, dehydrators, kraut crocks, butter crocks, food get the drift! But it did motivate me to want to try and make some of my own essential oils.

With our 40 acre farm, I can certainly grow enough herbs/flowers to give it a shot. The book is detailed and full of useful information. A great reference guide for sure!

I will come back and update this post if/when I accomplish any of the adventures described in the books above.

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Forty Things I Wish I'd Told My Kids - Book Review

What is your role as a parent? Most parents would agree on a few of the important issues - keeping your child safe, feeding them, etc. But not everyone things about the end game. What is your actual role? Is it to be their life long friend, cheerleader, coach?

My thought is that it's most important to prepare them to stand on their own - all the rest is extra. Of course you should cheer them on, be the shoulder to cry on, give them a boost, feed them....

And then there is adulthood. Scary for some people - those who are not prepared. Prepare them by making sure they know how to function on their own and are confident in who they are. That's where a book like Forty Things I Wish I'd Told My Kids comes in. You know - it's actually a good book for anyone, but really important for preparing children.

What is it? It's a book about life. Things you should know. Advice on how to enjoy life more - to be your best self.

It's a very quick read. The chapters are short, the material not difficult. You can stop and start and come back without missing a beat.

That was the one thing that struck me as different about this book - it is succinct. I recently finished a book that should have been a few hundred pages - at most, but the author stretched it out to a thousand. He added so much extra nothing that the book was horrid to read.

The author of Forty Things does not do that. I read it in e-book form so I'm not quite sure, but I would guess it's more pamphlet size in real life. The book is straight and to the point and almost everyone could benefit from it.

I would recommend it for graduation gifts, coming of age birthdays (14+) and for anyone trying to find direction in their life.

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Is there a God? Who the hell are we? The story of humanity - a review of the book Sapiens

Last year, the book Sapiens came across my screen and I put it on my Christmas list. Long story short...I just finished reading the book. It's a good one to read, but it's not all inclusive. I guess I just expected more from it, but with every book I read I try to take away at least one nugget of new knowledge.

From the book Sapiens - I take an all encompassing/big picture view of humanity from start to finish. And finish is the new aspect. My interpretation of the book's message was that we are destined or are evolving to become ONE.

We started out as many tribes - maybe thousands but at least 11. This has been known for a long time. Following the haplotypes (mitochondrial dna lines - always passed down from mother to child,) we know that were at least 7-11 original mothers. No Eve. Eve(S).

At least 7-11. Not every human being has been typed. In fact a very small percentage of the human race has been genetically sequenced. We may find that there were 100 original mothers - that still have surviving offspring. Mother groups may have died out and there could have originally been thousands. (Incidentally - this is how they determine your "ethnicity" when you do DNA testing.)

It's almost as if humanity started as a multiplayer video game with 2000 original players. 1000 mothers, 1000 fathers  - all in geographically distinct areas. Each of them had their own skills, advantages/disadvantages, and genetic differences.

Some were better suited to cold or warm climates. Some started in cold climates but were not suited to it and had to learn/adapt in order to survive. Some of the original parent and parent tribes died out. Some of them survived. All of them moved.

When they encountered each other the did a few things - they intermingled, they fought, they learned from each other, and sometimes they exterminated each other.

And it all lead up to where we are today - a global society. No longer separated by oceans, language barriers, and cultural differences. Or hardly so, compared to what the original peoples and our most recent ancestors were encountering.

As the age of the internet, the new world order, the use of one currency and one universal language, there will be even less separating us. We will become one.

E Pluribus Unum
Out of many, one

Scary stuff, but incredibly cool. Almost as if this was the plan from the beginning. Which leads me to a few beefs with the book. The author does a great job of being politically correct and not offending anyone. This is not something I see as an asset, but it does allow the information to be spread without bias/anger.

He seems to be quite against the Christian religion - I'm guessing a personal bias entered in, but it is not really relevant. I, myself, am not a Christian but I am not an atheist. I have seen and experienced way too much to believe that there is not a master designer - even, at minimum, an uninvolved watchmaker. Anyone who has delved into biochemistry or basic quantum physics would have to admit the same (except in public, of course - we must be politically correct.) Frankly, anyone who has ever quietly watched the world would see it's design.

But I digress. I have issue with his atheist stance because it's irrelevant. You can see the design and discuss the progression without worrying about the intricacies of religion.

My other issue is with the timeline, but this author does a much better job of separating out the different homo species to make a lot more sense of human history.

This author does discuss activities 100,000 years ago, 2 million years ago, etc. This is always just a guess - even though it is presented as facts. We can not assume that radiocarbon dating is correct. It gives us a guage - based on our current understanding but is not definitive. Science is not definitive. We are always guessing (hypothesizing) and everything is up for debate and dethroning.

So we are assuming that radioactive atoms decay at a continuous rate for all time. That is presumptive. So we have observed that for 1-200 years. And then extrapolating the data for millions of years. It may be right. It may never jump around, speed up, slow down, change because of external forces, etc. But it is foolish to lay down dates as absolutes. Even when they give "ranges" those are still "best guesses."

Those guesses help us to put things in order, but we  may be off by millions of years in the process.

Why am I so hell bent on this topic? Because I read a lot of history. I have read many books written between 600-2018 AD. I read on a lot of topics - health, food, agriculture, biographies, war chronicles, scientific discoveries, diaries, religious texts, etc. I read them to get an understanding of specific issues, but have come away with much more - a firm understanding of humanity. Here is what I have discovered....

Humans have been the same for all that time. Books written by people in the 1400s are as intelligent, thoughtful, curious, insightful, and caring as those written today. The humans are JUST as smart as we are today. They were always on the cusp of something.

Based on the knowledge they had (and we subsequently RELEARN!) I can not in good concsious believe that human beings have been around for more than around 10,000 years (give or take a few thousand.) Yes, they were stopped by famine, distance, evil kings, wars, diseases. But they really weren't. Our ancestors were amazing - go get 'em, discover and conquer people. They created, the lived, the explored, the discovered....they survived. They were never stopped. Just slowed in comparison to our rate of growth. The reason we are so much "faster" is not because we are smarter but because we are more connected. Written language, Clean water, More people, efficient transportation, decreased infant/maternal mortality, human equality, More food, Electricity, Interent connectivity, Global trade... all of these things make us able to learn/do faster than our ancestors. But they would be able to do the same if transported into this side of history.

Looking at how things developed through the documented years (approx 3000-6000BC to now), it's pretty clear that there is not much more to history than that - for humans, at least. This is not a Bible thumping proclamation. The bible claims humans have only existed for 2000 years. Obviously not the case. But we were not on some slow evolutionary chain for millions of years.

Actually, I highly doubt that the humans of 10,000 years ago were much different from us at all - genetically. Yes, we are more mixed now from generations of breeding - but there were no "evolutionary" changes in that time.

The author of Sapiens separates this by breaking down what scientists call humans. Homo erectus, homo denisovan, neanderthals, and homo sapiens plus others. He says that homo sapiens have been roaming the earth some 13,500 or so years. That makes sense.

When scientists say we have evidence of humans at an archiological dig from 300,000 years ago - they are not referring to homo sapiens. Maybe homo erectus. Maybe something else. Where they human? Maybe - but not like us exactly. Were they homo sapien ancestors? Maybe - or maybe they were bred into us in some groups. It's all a maybe.

For a better understanding of what really happened all those thousands of years ago, I would recommend Fingerprints of the Gods. Again - this is not a religious sermon. That just happens to be the title of the book but it does explore when/how/why Sapiens appeared 13,500 years ago - it uses ice dating information and goes over what might have happened - a freeze and a flood that are part of every ancient human origin story - across cultures and across time.

There is much to learn from looking back - but the best gift the book Sapiens gave me was a clear idea of going forward. We are to be one. Out of many - one.  Out of chaos - order. This is the grand plan. Do your part, contribute your unique talents, and enjoy the ride.

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On the Hunt for the PERFECT bath towels!

As we age, we tend to learn more and more about the basic things in our life. I always thing - wow, if I had only known this when I was twenty... But there is no way to know it when you are younger unless you had very experienced parents that took the time to teach you the nitty gritty behind it all - and they had great parents and so on.

One of the things I have really improved upon in the last year is clothing management. Sounds crazy....but after 4 decades, I can finally wash clothes well enough to tackle almost any stain. I am much better at picking out quality, long lasting, and well fitting clothes, and am so much better at getting rid of the clutter/garbage that used to swamp my closet.

I also do a much better job with keeping our sheets and blankets washed and buying only quality blankets. For some reason, we had so many "bed in a bag" sets that turned to garbage after just a few washings. Not anymore! Now our beds have good quality washable wool blankets and down comforters. Yes, these things cost more, but can be found at garage sales, thrift stores, or on sale. And they last a lifetime.

The one area I am still working on is towels. When we got married, we pooled our towel resources together, both of us bringing our parents castaways. We still have all of those towels - so there is something to be said for their longevity. But they are not soft and not visually appealing.  Our kids use them in their bathroom.

We got fancy 10 years ago and bought ourselves new towels. We searched high and wide for affordable quality towels. We got some ho hum towels that have held up, but again are not soft or visually appealing.

I have come to the conclusion that pima or egyptian cotton is where it's at when it comes to towels. Now to find one that is affordable and high quality... The search is on, but I may be headed in the wrong direction. If anyone knows the answer to this high quality towel situation, I would appreciate your input.

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Perfect Planting! Seeding Square Review

It's just about that time!!! Actually, if you are in a warmer climate - it probably IS that time!Time to start the garden. It's the most exciting time of the year... I am a few months from planting the garden but I've already put out my winter sown seeds.

And I am anxious to use the Seeding Square when I plant my greens, peas, and beans this spring! You can use it for more than just those plants, but those are the only seeds I'll be planting this spring.
So what is the Seeding Square? It's a perfect 1 foot square with a guide for each type of seed you want to plant (at the appropriate spacing.) I've been gardening for years and I've done it all sorts of ways. I've tried just putting down seeds anywhere and I've tried being organized.

When you are organized, you have better results and it looks so much nicer - but it's not easy!! Soil is dark and crumbly and movable - and seeds are small! It's almost impossible to remember where the last seeds were and how much space you need for each plant.

The seed square does all the hard work for you! It is solid and leaves a nice imprint in the soil - so you can see where you have been and where to go next. The solid square does not move, so all holes are visible and able to be worked with.

I am obsessed! My husband has long complained about my messy gardening. I have only had one year where it was all lined up according to his liking. It took me way to much time and was super stressful. The seed square will make that problem go away.

This spring I am planting tomatoes (as plants), swiss chard, peas, and green beans. That's it. We are going to be so busy at the farm that I can't manage much more in our home garden - and the seed square will make sure I finally have straight and evenly spaced rows!

The only issue I have with the square is that I like to be very minimalist so I'm not fond of having extra tools. The good news - you only need one square. You pick it up and move it along - plus it's flat - so it doesn't take much space.

I am looking forward to a nice organized garden this summer. I will update pictures as things are planted and begin to grow!

This seed square would make a fantastic mother's day gift!! Moms and Grandma's would love this - it's practical and fun! Throw one into a new gardener kit too. New gardeners are more likely to stick with the hobby if they see success - and straight rows are pretty encouraging!

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Grain Free Granola Review - #KitchFix #granola #paleo #breakfast #cereal #honestreview #ad #productreview #sponsored

We are all trying to eat healthier these days. In our house, we have started to limit the amount of grains we eat. Why? Because our diets are dominated by grains. It's an unfortunate truth. With all the diversity in the world, we should let one food group dominate our diet.

Limiting grains has been harder than expected. They predominate all of the grocery store foods - and the foods we grew up eating. Take granola, for instance. That usually contains oatmeal, right? Or puffed rice.

We were very fortunate to come across some grain-free granola mixes by Kitchfix. We sampled the original mix and the honey pecan. The first thing I did was read the ingredients. All whole - real food products and no grains.

Like any granola, it is a high energy food - but it made for a tasty breakfast and/or snack around our household. I preferred to eat it milk but it was also good plain.

It was really tasty and very filling. I didn't miss the oats at all. Honestly, since granola is cooked at a low eat, the oats in granola are almost raw - which can reek havoc on your intestines (its called translocation and is worth a quick search...)

In all - we really liked this granola and would buy it again.

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Will I have a hard time getting pregnant? 3 questions to ask your mom

Are you the type of daughter who can talk to your mother about anything? Or are you the type that avoids speaking to your family as much as possible because of being a subject to a lot of drama? Or are you in an unfortunate situation with being on non-speaking terms with your parents?

If you are no longer talking to your mother due to the fact that she had narcissistic qualities and she was too toxic to be around, then, unfortunately, you cannot approach her about anything. You did the right thing by cutting her out in that case. Sadly, as a result, you will not know whether or not you could potentially have a hard time getting pregnant, genetically speaking, if she did.

However, if you are speaking to your mother whether you share everything with her or you speak to her once in a while, and if you are thinking about getting pregnant, you need to ask her if she had difficulty conceiving. Because if your mother did have trouble, or had a history of miscarriages then, unfortunately, the odds are that you will experience the same as well.

Yet at the same time, if your mom had an easy time getting pregnant and had easy pregnancies, that doesn't mean the same will happen. On the flip side, if your mother had trouble conceiving, carrying to term or had complications, it doesn't mean that will be your fate either. Fertility is complex, and environment, as well as lifestyle, play a huge role.

If your mother was a smoker and had trouble conceiving, and you are not, then you may not have that same trouble with getting pregnant because you don't smoke. If your mother ate healthy when she was younger and was at a reasonable weight when she conceived and became pregnant fast, the same will not apply to you if you are overweight or underweight and eat fast food and sugary snacks often!

The last thing you want to do is make your mom or yourself uncomfortable by asking questions that may be difficult for your mother to answer especially if she did have problems with her pregnancies. However it is important to know her history for your sake and that is what you must tell her as to why you are asking her about her pregnancies. You need to know her history for yourself because you need to know what to potentially expect.

3 questions to ask your mother her fertility:

1. Did you have irregular cycles, facial hair and weight problems that played a role in troubles getting pregnant?

Today there is a name for the condition that causes irregular cycles, increased weight and facial hair due to high testosterone levels in women and that is Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. When your mom was pregnant with you, whether she had PCOS or not, she may not have ever known there was a name for that condition at the time. She may have struggled getting pregnant with irregular cycles you and/or your siblings while suffering from the above mentioned, never realizing what it was.

If that is the case and you are experiencing the same thing, then chances are you have PCOS and you will need to look into ways to help your chances of getting pregnant. PCOS can be genetic and if your mother had it, there is a 50% chance that the daughter will too. I have PCOS, and I needed help with conceiving my daughter. I had the signs of PCOS before I even was diagnosed with it. However, my teenage daughter does not have signs that point to her having the condition, and I hope in the end she doesn't at all. However if it turns out that she has a milder case (women with the condition can be asymptomatic as well), then there is help for when she is ready to make me a grandmother!

2. When did you go through menopause?

Menopause was once a taboo subject, but not so much anymore. In fact, it is important to know when your mother went through menopause. Menopause happens when a woman has stopped having periods for a year. Most women start perimenopause which is a time of hormonal changes that lead up to menopause around their late 30's or early 40's. Perimenopause can take 5-10 years before menstruation completely stops.

Menopause usually happens around 51, but some women can have premature menopause before age 40, or early menopause between 40-45. The later your mom went into menopause, chances are you will as well. If your mom went into early menopause or even premature menopause, then you could as well. That will affect your ability to conceive. Especially if you end up waiting too long!

3. Did you have endometriosis?

When endometrial related tissue is found outside of the uterus where it naturally is meant to be inside of it, that is endometriosis and it can be a painful condition for women, or women may be asymptomatic if it is mild enough. No one knows what causes it, but it is found to be genetic and affects roughly 1 in 10 women. Even though a diagnosis of endometriosis does not automatically cause a woman to be infertile, there is a higher chance that women with the condition will have fertility problems than those who do not. It is best to be aware of that possibility, especially if your mother indeed suffered from that condition. That means you will need to be checked for it as well, even if you do not have symptoms.

However, those are not the only factors to worry about. If your mother has diabetes, then you may have a higher chance of developing gestational diabetes during your pregnancy even if your blood sugar is normal right now. If your mother has high blood pressure and has had problems with it, you could potentially be dealing with high blood pressure as well during pregnancy. You see, it is best to know your family history in regards to health.

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