Recently I’ve been getting curious questions and glamorous praise for the homesteading, seed saving, salve-making natural life posts I’ve been making. It’s so interesting to me that this move to natural-living is becoming ‘trendy’ and ‘modern’, and there is a deep desire to know more about it. I feel honoured at the number of messages I receive from people wanting more info on how to make their own powerful natural things. Canning, drying, planning, compost, making natural goods –these are all actually our roots. I believe these things are actually just in our bones.
And yes, it’s a lot of work. I choose to haul fruits home in 50-pound loads to dry on my Saturday, post-market day. I could also go out and blast those funds on drinks and party. I don’t. I crank music, chill with myself, prep this magical fruit in a few different ways, knowing I am making my own medicine, honouring organic and local farmers, and prepping for the seasons ahead. It makes me reflect on my ends, where I spend my time, and what I consider important in my life.
Hey, and the good news is I am self-taught, meaning you can be too! I’ve spent loads of time just sifting through methods, finding what is right, honouring that this knowledge is all out and about, just within your reach. I also experimented. A lot. I tried many things, asked loads of questions, read books, looked on the Internet, but mostly I trust my intuition. Yes, that is all “new age”, but it worked when I transitioned over to being the main farmer at our house about 3 years ago. Meaning I had to set up my game to plant, grow, seed save, compost, preserve, plan, and make. I trusted that I could and would know what would work. I know now, after so much watching and learning what every little sprout coming up in my garden is and its time. I have been staring at the same backyard farm for 7 years, longer than I have ever lived anywhere before. The medicine making and all other parts of natural living came in time.
Looking for a place to start? Start now. Do anything! Decide what you want to grow and read charts to see when to plant it. And remember: nature was a boss ruler before we came into control and wrangle. Plants want to grow, flowers want to flourish, and bees want to snack. Things have cycles –we just interpret them to make it better for us.
The best thing I learned was to watch the cycles of plants; from seed, to sprout, to plant, to flower or fruit, to seed, to drop, to decay. It’s amazing. It also means that you can let it do its thing –and let seeds fall and it will grow. My farm is a kale and swiss chard sanctuary. Some planting, but most on its own cycles. Did you know seeds stay dormant under the soil for seasons, even years? Kinda like waiting for just the right moment to sprout up and rejoice! I have watched many of these ‘volunteer’ plants show up and produce amazing flowers and foods, pretty much on their own!
Tea: I make a lot of own teas. I save and dry mint, sage, lemon balm, rose petals, yarrow and calendula as main yums! Its easy –you just watch for when the leaves are ready. Collect, dry and spread them out on an old screen from a window, or a straw mat, and boom. Tea. Dry it completely and store in jars. My trick is I put them in baskets on top of my dehydrator, and you have a warm and fast drying space.
Drying: I have 2 dehydrators, including an old, yet badass Excalibur. The last few years I have been drying peaches, pears, plums and apricots. I aim to dry enough to make it until the spring, when fruit is back in season. It’s a lot of money and time in the beginning, but worth it. And in Vancouver, people have fruit trees that they don’t harvest. So don’t let money be the deterrent. Wild Forge, call out, hunt for fruit. I can’t tell you how thick to cut the fruit because it depends on what you like. I sometimes do half an apricot, for longer drying time. Or sometimes I do thin slices, faster drying. Depends on what you want, and you still have to keep them in until they are all and completely dry, so you gotta watch and trust.
Seed saving: My fav! I love, love, love to let food follow its natural cycle, produce seeds that birds eat, some that drop to become volunteer plants later, and some I save for the day I have my own massive organic yoga farm school! Dream and save now! It becomes clear when seeds are down, when the plant lives its full cycle and essentially dies in the process of changing to a seed making plant. Think seeds, just like the fruit or greens of a plant, need to go through its full cycle to complete. I dry seeds –keep them clean and dry in jars and label with the name of the plant and the year. I currently have in my seed saving cellar: kale, swiss chard, sage, mint, beets, shiso, basil, calendula, borage, lettuce, sorrel, cilantro, nasturtium, poppies, lemon balm and lots of flowers. I think there are more, but this is just off the top of my head!
Canning: This one is a bit tricky at first, mostly because of fear of the unknown bacteria. There are tons of online resources on how to do it. It depends on what you are canning. I do pickled peppers, beets, and other veggies. I can salsa, tomato sauce and pesto. I rock out canned pears, jams and berries. Once I realized how easy it is, I can’t stop. It’s so yummy. But still, it’s a process that requires effort, and requires tools. But I can’t explain the feeling of accomplishment when you crack open canned pears in the middle of winter. It’s summer in a jar, pure food medicine: local, organic and not sitting in chemicals in a plastic lined can. I mean, really food is so, so much healthier jarred. You can do it! I recently got a pressure cooker at a garage sale for $10, ordered the missing part for $15 and boom! My next step is to learn how to rock it. Good thing I have some serious homesteading friends to ask! For now, I actually love the process of cleaning and heating jars, creating the culinary contents, processing in hot water bath to jar, cooling it and looking at its post canning glory. And yes, it requires time. I often party solo on a Saturday night with my canning supplies: dehydrator, good tunes, nice vibes and vegan chocolate chips on the side for inspiration. Canning is my favourite meditation practice. Cut, dry, cook, can. Great mantras!
Salves: I adore making my own beauty products. I haven’t touched a snip of makeup since the late 90’s. I don’t use synthetic chemical anything in, on or near my body –it’s my temple. What touches it should be it praises and offerings instead. I make salves and potions with a shea butter base and have made my own toothpaste and deodorant. All these recipes are on the internet; you can copy one or gather pieces from many and trust your kitchen witching intuition will guide you.
I hope this post inspires you to trust that you have the knowledge and skills to do these things, it’s in your bones from your grandmother’s past! Trust your intuition and learn from your mistakes. I have had so many request for my vegan recipes over the years, I promise I will be making more food loving blog posts!
I would love to know the things you need support or making, or even share up your favourite recipes in the comments below.