Missouri Herbs

Missouri Herbs
Our new website

For herbs I don't grow, this is my favorite place!

Bulk organic herbs, spices and essential oils. Sin
On our site, you will see selected links to books that have been valuable to our homesteading, permaculture, spiritual, health and natural building paths and links to products we use or feel are ethical. Purchasing any of these products through my site will help contribute to our homesteading success and our teaching others to do the same.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Joys and hardships of starting from scratch

The dream of building a simple homestead meets up every day with reality.  In the dream, equipment starts, when things get done they stay done, our bodies have sufficient energy and learning from a book is all that is required to make something happen.  In the dream, I would make herbal preparations to bring in a little income to the homestead and how hard can it be to build a website with a shopping cart? 

In reality, equipment breaks at a regular pace and we're not mechanics, we get tired and sore, and not everything is covered in the books.  In reality I don't have time to spend on online marketing and building a website is about to make me pull my hair out.  Food and shelter have to be the top priority.  So every day I have to think about what needs to be done to accomplish those goals and squeezing in everything else at the end of a long day. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Footers for dry stack block, earth sheltered house

 Lots of rainbows this week!

We poured footers for Judy's house today. Putting in the rebar and insulation were a breeze a few days ago.  The insulation board was perforated by chance for our size footer (17"x9")!  Snapping them in parts and laying them on the bottom and outside of the footer was easy.  To the outside, it lined up perfectly with the footer form. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lasagna or no-till gardening

Oh fall has been glorious!!!

This year we tested out a no-till or lasagna garden patch.  It seemed easy and required less money and effort than a typical tilled garden with equipment and gas considered.  Not only that, it's much better for the soil and the micro-organisms that live there.  A small patch was started in March with just paper in some places, cardboard in others and really old hay.  That's all we could get for the first patch and the hay was very old.  Should have used straw.   Not a "by the book" start, but with no real compost yet and little time, it's all we could muster.  After 7 months, the soil looks great!  Dark and crumbly already and we've done a second planting. 

Footer forms

In this picture, the primary interior mass wall footer is not shown.  The house building is moving at a slow steady pace.  There have been equipment problems, but we are back on track and the weather has been wonderful.  We're at the footer stage.  I made a drawing outlining and numbering each board length for the inside and outside track of the footers.  While Jeffrey made sure the rubble trench foundation, that the footers will sit on top, was well tamped; I cut and numbered each board for the footers.  I used 4x6's laying side by side on the ground to lay the wood on for cutting and made sure the end being cut off could fall freely to the ground so as not to bunch up the blade.  Thanks to my friend Anastasia for showing me that I could get over my fear of power tools that can cut off body parts. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Back from my Woodstock

I"m back from the Traditions in Western Herbalism conference and still processing the experience of my Woodstock.  Gladly it lacked many things from the original Woodstock, but had the healing and transformative qualities to make it something I will always remember and cherish.  It wasn't just the conference and the tremendous amount of information that was available. It was the landscape and the people.  No cliques and every type of age, sex, color, background and knowledge level were there.  Many grandmothers and young families.  I saw amazing couples where the husband came with the wife and hung out in this beautiful place with the kids, playing; while mom and sometimes another child took classes. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tony Chachere cajun spice

Here is a scaled down version with no salt and no MSG:

3 Tbl Black pepper
4 Tbl Red pepper
2 Tbl garlic powder
2 Tbl Chili powder


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Food time!

It's too wet to do too much of anything so I thought I'd post some delicious recipes I've tried lately and clarify something about my last post.

A friend thought that I started and hand dug the septic trench by hand.  Sorry if I didn't make that clear.  The backhoe driver roughed out the black water trench but couldn't get it to proper slope because of the rocks.  If he had dug any deeper to get the big rocks out, there would have been huge gaping holes that we would have had to fill later and all the excavation we paid for previously to get the house grade (the level part) would have been destroyed.  So we had to hand hammer, dig and chip the trenches to slope properly.  It took so long that several times it rained and slumped dirt back into the trenches we had already dug out causing us to re-dig and re-dig.  I don't think it would have been possible to start the trench out by hand because of the rocks.  Now if we hadn't gone down so deep maybe?

Right now it's VERY wet outside and I can't screen dirt or do much at the site.  The clay dam finally broke from all the rains and the paths to the spring are littered with huge trees that have fallen.  So today I've been planting trees and getting ready for the herbal conference next week.  Here are two AWESOME recipes that you must try!

I used to love Pappadeaux's crawfish bisque and for any special occasion, when I lived in Houston, that is what I wanted.  Recently I found a recipe for Corn and Quinoa chowder.  So I mixed the two recipes together (sort of) and came up with:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Trench warfare

An Earth sheltered home has many benefits.  The house stays cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, heating and cooling cost are minimized or removed all together.  The walls that are bermed, or have dirt up next to them, do not have extensive foundation requirements since there is no risk of frost heave.  Other than a footer for the walls to have a stable base, there is no need to dig below the frost line to keep the walls from heaving.  Frost depth is 2 feet in our area and we have to consider that for the non-bermed walls.  Most earth sheltered homes typically have the Southern wall exposed for solar gain and on our walls that are exposed, we decided on a rubble trench foundation. 

Frank Lloyd Wright used the rubble trench extensively in the early 20th century.  This method has been called the Volkswagon of foundations and we found it much more affordable than the typical poured concrete foundation wall.  The rubble trench has two functions, it provides a solid load-bearing base for the walls and drainage.  Basically a trench is dug, a base of gravel laid for a 4" perforated drain pipe (tile), the pipe is wrapped in a filtering cloth, covered with washed gravel and compacted. 

There was a bit more to it than that as we discovered when you have very rocky soil.  The trench has to be sloped 1" per every 8 feet and we chose to drain to daylight.  Our biggest delay in building has been caused by deciding to excavate the house site to 4 feet.  We thought that was about 1/2 of the height of the house and we would berm up the rest, or create a hill up to the roof.  In hindsight, 2 feet site excavation would have been much easier and maybe we could have started on the walls already.  After excavation for the house, you still have to dig down to the frost depth for the rubble trenches on the non-bermed sides.  On top of that the waste pipe had to be dug into this rocky soil at a slope of 1" per 4 feet and drain to a septic tank that is even lower.  The depth was just too much when added all together.  Off topic, but in a state like Missouri, the septic tank laws are not as strict.  We were able to go with a much cheaper, non-typical tank. There is plenty of info on line about making your own tanks or other things you can use when you live in a state with few building codes (there are stricter building codes in Missouri if you live in a city or certain counties obviously). 

The excavator had a very hard time with the boulders and we had a hard time hammering at rocks in the trenches with a sledgehammer for the last few weeks (or has it been months) to get the slope right.  After a lot of hammering, there is then a lot of filling in.  To get the proper slope we always tried picking the pipe up where we could and laying something under it in one place to avoid hammering down in another.  There were delays with the weather, equipment failure (digging out boulders is hard on a machine) and the trenches filling with water causing us to have to dig all the slumped mud out to get the slope back.  Though our operator used a 24" bucket, there are few places where the trench was 24".  Digging out big rocks and boulders means a trench with a wide and wiggly border, which equals more cost for gravel.  You can't dump a rock that weighs possibly tons back into your trench on top of the drain pipe.  So that all has to filled back in with gravel.   By the time we worked on the last trench to the septic tank and the hole for the septic tank itself, our arms were (and still are) exhausted with pounding rock.

I did find though that a really heavy, long handled sledgehammer worked much better for me than a pick axe.  It also worked better than the jackhammer we rented trying to finish the septic tank hole.  Being a woman of slighter build you might have people tell you (like a neighbor recently said to me) that you can't do this or "your not made for this type of work".  Hogwash, this isn't something that only men or people with big muscles can do.  If you do have to do this yourself, make sure to cover up as much of your body as you can, wear safety glasses and stretch out your muscles every day.  No matter how frustrated you get, keep good form.  Breathe out with every strike, be mindful of your stance and how you hold the hammer.  Even then, prepare for your face to be showered with rock flecks and wearing thick pants still won't keep the pain away when a big piece goes flying.  It's best to strike the rock with a glancing blow being mindful of your shins.  Sometimes I had to hit directly on top for a while to get a fracture going.  If we had only excavated the house site to 2 feet, I wonder if we would have had to do any pounding at all?  The top few layers of our soil is wonderful here which isn't always easy to come by in Southern Missouri. 

I think we started digging the trenches in July and they were basically filled at the end of August.  But on top of the delays at the site, we also had to get the RV levelled, water and solar power going, build a barn, outhouse and animal housing and the thousands of other things that go into making a homestead.  Of course I imagined the trenches taking a few weeks - hahaha. 

The excavator also dug gray water trenches.  These gray water trenches met up with the rubble trench's drain to daylight trench and are shared.  The fresh air pipe for the woodstove was also laid in the same trench. 

Using a transit made checking the slope of the trenches quick work.  Fortunately the backhoe operator is also a neighbor and we've had his transit on long term loan.  It was a lot of fun learning how to use one and surprisingly easy.  All these years seeing them used on the side of the roads and at construction sites, I assumed it was a complicated machine.  Basically just binoculars on a tripod and I learned to use it for our needs in about 5 minutes.  Now remembering that the bigger the numbers are means you are going deeper for some reason took me a while longer ;-)

If you are interested in rubble trench foundations, there is a wonderful article in "The best of Fine Homebuilding - Foundations and Concrete work" book.  After everything else that we've read, this was the best overall summary and includes drawings and photos.  The trench needs to be wide enough to accommodate your footer which in turn needs to be a specific size based on your walls.  All of this information was easily found in the great books we've read on home building such as Rob Roy's "Earth-Sheltered Houses".  We have 2 dozen or more books on home building, but these two books were referred to over and over again. 

We probably could have skipped the rubble trench foundation, built the footers on grade and used a sheet of extruded polystyrene insulation extending outwards laterally and slightly down to protect the walls from frost heave since frost will only penetrate at a 45 degree angle.  We didn't want to do this at the time because we didn't want to run the risk of something damaging this sheet and therefore putting our walls at risk of heave.  It didn't seem as permanent or as solid of a protection as the rubble trench.  Rob Roy calls this an insulation curtain and in his book there is information on how this would work. 

If we had known how much work was to come with rock pounding, we may have done that instead. 

Here is a drawing of our wall with the rubble trench for the South side.  There are a few mistakes on this drawing, like I called the finished floor the subfloor and I drew the footer too big.  All will be corrected as these drawings change frequently.  We are also going with 3" of gravel under the floor now since our site is very well drained. 

Next up is to finish roughing out the plumbing that didn't have to be buried.   Over half of that is done.  The trenches need to be tamped and Jeffrey found a used tamper online for under $180.  All the trenches and the floor need to be tamped.  Since there is much tamping to do, it was more econmical to buy instead of rent.  Permanent drainage around the perimeter of the site using french drains is one of the next top priorities.  The shallow drainage ditch we have now is working pretty well as a temporary fix.  It is pouring rain outside right now and it was wonderful to see for the first time water pouring out of the foundation drain pipe instead of watching the trench fill up!  We still need to cover the end of the pipe, but there is one more graywater line coming and they'll be covered at the same time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

There are flies in paradise

Partridge Pea
(P.S. I don't know why blogger is mushing all the paragraphs together and tired of trying to figure it out!)

Sometimes it feels like we're making progress and other times it feels like we are so behind.  Trying to be simple can be hard at times, but this is where we want to be.  Once we get systems set up though, like being able to pump water, things sure get easier and sometimes it seems easier than the "normal" way of doing things.  It is taking a lot longer to get to the footer stage than we expected. If we had not made the house so deep into the earth, it would have been a lot simpler and easier.  

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Trenches are partially dug

The building process is slow, but we are working hard every day. It's hot out, so we put 4 posts outside of the RV and strung up a tarp to cover it like a big circus tent. It's not as easy to string a big tarp over an RV as you would think. It makes it livable though and about 15 degrees cooler. The tarp is stretching out and we don't know how long it will last. Sometimes when it's really hot we run errands, go to the creek or to my mother-in-law's (Judy) house about 6 miles away. Otherwise we try to work in the shade. Judy's house is on top of a beautiful hill here in the Ozarks, big shade trees and a good breeze most of the time. She keeps us in cold fruit and it's a nice place to hang clothes! Judy is taking good care of us and it is so much easier with 3 people than with 2. We have help with almost everything we do and she always looks out for ways to help the most. She has stacked and sorted all the wood I use and today she worked on preparing the area for the cistern and root cellar. Did I mention she's 72?!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Excavation is all done

The excavation is done. Next we'll lay the site out again for the outline of the foundation walls and get some trenches dug for the rubble trench foundation.

The temporary dam I built at the spring out of clay is still holding. I've had to patch a couple of small holes but that only takes a few seconds. We have a good 2 feet of drop where the pipe is now. With a longer pipe we could get 3 feet of drop and use a ram pump to get the water up to a holding tank on top of the hill the spring comes from. Then from there it would be down hill to the house site. Gravity might get it there.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Posts and Spring

Today we started on a cover for the grill area using cedar posts. We're going to try lashing top posts to hold some sort of cover. And I have the blocks for the grill ready to go tomorrow.

We stuck a rock in the "spout" of the spring's "bowl". There is a ton of clay dirt around from the excavation, so we packed it around the rock and a pipe that extends the waters flow to a lower area where I can put a bottle. I laid rocks in the soft mud for a little walk way and the water continues on it's flow down the wet weather creek. I know it's probably very temporary, but it was fun and just an experiment. We'll see how long it lasts. The pipe angle in this picture was wrong. We changed it and really increased the flow. A bucket of clay was left for repairs. I can't wait to see how long this will last.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


If you are outside a good bit of the day; the sun, bugs and poison rashes can make this part of the year challenging. Look around and you'll find plant neighbors that our great-grandparents formed a partnership with to help make this season more enjoyable.

Right now the Swamp Roses (Rosa palustris) are in full bloom. Those are the pretty, pink 5 petal roses you see growing wild in arches along old fence rows and homesteads. If you are fortunate enough to find these beautiful flowers away from cars and where pesticides and herbicides have not been sprayed, then it's harvest time. Rose buds and hips are a good source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, Niacin, Bioflavanoids, K, E, polyphenols, pectin and Selenium. This is great for energy and combating fatigue during the hot summer. Rose petals contain as much antioxidants as green tea, making them a healthy, caffeine-free beverage (instructions below).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Update on burdock

I'm playing with these burdock vinegar wraps. Burdock poultice is good for poison ivy, like I said, but I didn't have any around. All I had were the wraps. When I applied the vinegar wraps the the older poison ivy on my arm, it felt great.

I have new patches coming up though and I wrapped them for a long time with the burdock leaves. The new poison ivy was irritated by that. Not too much, but enough I won't do that again. So I went to the creek and chewed up a bunch of violet leaves to put on there and we're back to normal again. Well normal for someone with poison ivy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

We're getting there.

We've been living in the RV full time for over a month now, I think, and the biggest lesson we've learned about this project is that it takes much longer to finish a step than we ever thought. By now we thought we'd have the site excavated already. Using those old beams for the barn slowed us down quite a bit, but the barn is finished enough to called done. The only things left now are an interior wall, more shelving, a little bit of floor and a door.

Equipment breaks down quite a bit and so has our truck. I'd say Murphy and his law book moved here with us, but that's not accurate either. Some big stuff has broken down and the weather hasn't always cooperated, but overall we make more progress every day and our bodies are holding up to the daily work and heat.

We have internet and enough power for the laptop. Jeffrey is about done with the outhouse, we have guests coming soon and that was a top priority. The build site is cleared and we were able to move things around to accommodate trees and a large raspberry patch.

Our sun danzer chest fridge showed up this week. We don't have the power to run it yet, but it's great as a big ice chest. Two bags of ice lasted almost two days in there and the temp was at around 0-5 Celsius.

I really like my last design for the house, but with as long as everything is taking, some of the complicated things are going to be scaled back. The root cellar and cistern are no longer right at the house so that the back North wall is now clean and simple. We have a good sized storage room in the house, so I won't have to get into the root cellar every day anyway. The root cellar would have to have been at a deeper excavation level than the house, it sticking out of the excavation site would have blocked the equipment getting in (so more trees would be taken out) and the drainage was going to be rather complicated to keep the house protected from the cistern and from water accumulating where the root cellar and house were going to meet. The animal house was going to be accessed from a door in our storage room so I could feed the animals easily during bad weather. Got rid of that too. That posed drainage and other grade complications so it's now also detached.

Seeing how long everything was taking, we explored the idea of having the walls poured instead of stacking blocks. We thought everything in Missouri has been so cheap so far, so why not check it out. When we got some of the over the phone preliminary quotes we were so excited. Then when we had contractors come out and give us a real quote, well that was quite different.

It would be close to $11,000 for poured walls. It would save us a huge amount of time, but eat into too much of our budget. We're back to dry stacked block with surface bonding. As a compromise, we contacted a few local people to help us stack. So we'll be moving along a lot quicker with help.

Originally we were going to use 12" block for the walls that would come in contact with berm. We're not digging into a hillside though so there is no back pressure to deal with. We are excavating to about 3-4 feet and then we'll back fill to the roof. Every 4th core will be concrete and rebar filled as well as 3 feet of every corner. We talked to Rob Roy and other contractors who have built basements (this is basically a basement house) about our specific project. With the size of the house and other considerations, 8" block will be fine. Thank goodness because that is a good bit lighter than 12" block!

We've been following the thread of an owner-builder and he's doing basically the same thing. His photos are great and he's not hidden his mistakes. So there's been a lot to learn. I have to get all the drawings for the house re-done as soon as possible because we are excavating Monday and there have been so many changes. I also made sure that the length and height of all the interior and exterior walls are the size of the block (actual dimensions) so that we don't have complications of having to create forms for the gaps. If it works out like I hope, each wall ends at a full block or half block. I had to move all the interior walls around in the design, but not by much more than a few inches.

Not all the work is hard and I am really enjoying the wonderful plants here. The swamp roses are in bloom now and I'm watching the hips on the Sweet Brier roses. I've enjoyed harvesting the petals and making all sorts of things. I've started writing about the many wonderful things you can do with roses and I'll post when the vinegar and other experiments are done. The raspberries are everywhere and we've been snacking on them every day. The self-heal grows like crazy and you'd think we were drunk mowing as we are cutting paths and swerve to avoid patches of flowers.

I got a touch of poison ivy on my forearms, but I've been hand clearing all the spots so that big equipment wouldn't come through and bull doze down everything, so it's to be expected. I still have jewelweed broth cubes in Judy's freezer from last year, but over did it with the cubes and was applying every time I felt an itch. That has dried my skin out a bit and last night when I itched, I wrapped my arms instead in burdock leaves that are stored in vinegar. Ahhhh. The redness on my skin that was around the poison ivy is gone and so was the itching. So I can now reduce the amount of Jewelweed that I use and hopefully my skin won't be so dry.

The burdock wraps also instantly took the sting out of a wasp sting that Jeffrey received and then one I got on the bottom of my foot a few days later. It's a great first aid treatment and we keep it on the counter. To make some, pick large burdock leaves, you probably have some around your yard or house, roll up and stick in a quart jar. Fill with organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and set out so you can quickly grab in case of a "knuckle buster" as Susun Weed calls it, or a sting or some poison ivy relief. It wraps around ankles and forearms so nicely!

I'll try to update when the excavation is done. For now, back to work on re-doing those drawings.

Here is the before photo of the excavation site.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Yellow and Purple

Right now the fallow field is a sea of yellow dandelion and purple violet flowers! Oh what you miss when you mow. I picked a basket of dandelion and violet leaves for diner tonight and will saute them in oil with some onion and garlic. They are both highly nutritious and the only cost was the little bit of time it took to pick them. About 3 1/2 ounces of the fresh violet leaf has 264 mg of ascorbic acid and 20,000 I.U. of Vitamin A! The little flowers provide a little bit of Vitamin C and are very pretty in a salad. I filled a small jar with the flowers and covered them with oil. They'll sit for about 6 weeks and after straining it, I'll use as ear oil for tinnitus. When I came in with the harvest, I took a little of each out of the basket and set it in front of Little Mama Lucille. She's down with a hurt foot. She snatched those violet blossoms out of my hand before they hit her pillow! So I gave her more and she acted like I was giving her a piece of raw meat. She also loved the violet leaves.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Eat your carrots

It's hard to make out in the photo, but this is the old logging road.

These last few days have been the first time we've been to Falcon since it's warmed up. I was glad to get down there, to be in the country air and think about my grandparents when they would go to their land every summer and we'd go to play. After working most of the day, I'd stand looking up at the trees and try to figure out the best place to put everything. I've been staring at the house drawings for so long now I can really see it in my head. This was the first time I've been able to see where everything can fit without taking out trees of size in most cases. The house site itself will loose just a few trees, but it's the spot with the least amount of trees, the medium sized ones are good and straight and can be used in building, and most of the growth is new. The land was logged some years ago and we're trying to use the spots that they hit the most. The places for the RV's, shed, herb garden, and main garden will loose no trees other than saplings. The driveway is an old logging road and as it continues past where we'll build the house, that will be the little yard for Rufus the pig. From Judy's bedroom window there will be a huge Sycamore and Juniper tree.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My sweet Grandfather, the Music Man

Maurice "Tim" Tyler
1921 - 2010

My grandfather died March 9, 2010. He was the strength and heart of our family. There is more to say about him than I could possibly put here and one day I will try. I still am not quite ready to get back on the computer too much. My mother had these lyrics printed and displayed at the service, they say it all. He taught us the love of music, how to dance and how important family is.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Portable Petroglyphs

My friend Steve is a wonderful artist/ teacher and is the type that reaches out, ready to help people as a mentor with his years of knowledge of natural things. That's why I wanted to share his fantastic artwork with you. Here is some information on his hand made pendants that I am proud to wear. Pendants range from $30.00 t0 $50.00 depending on what kind of stone it is and the complexity of the design. They are mailed in a flate rate envelope.

Steve Lee's Portable Petroglyphs.
All of my stone pendants are hand crafted without the use of power tools using either local river stones or various types of soft carvable stones such as catlinite, soapstone, wonderstone etc. I create the designs on the majority of my pieces using a combination of engraving and micro-pecking which provides a contrast of depth, tone and texture allowing the design to stand out. I'm always pleased when my pieces find a home with someone who will appreciate them, both for their beauty and the many hours of skill and labor which goes into the crafting. Thanks.
Shalama, Aloha

If you would like to inquire about one of his pendants, email him:

Link to "homeless" pendants:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jewelweed and Poison Ivy

(photo from http://www.loudounwildlife.org/HHJewelweed.htm)

Earlier this fall I found a huge patch of Jewelweed in full bloom wrapping along the base of 3 small hills. It lays right along the path of a wet weather creek. Being already fall, I didn't think there was really need for poison ivy relief and the stalks were already a little tough. When I cut them open there wasn't much juice. There were so many flowers though, I decided to go ahead and make a broth.

With snipers and a grateful heart, I harvested a basket full by cutting the stalk at an easy to carry length, leaving on the leaves and flowers. I randomly cut a stalk here and there, because I don't like to harvest too much of anything from one spot. When inside, I chopped the stalks coarsely and put in a pot of water. The Jewelweed was brought to a boil and simmered till the liquid was a dark orange (about 30 min) and then left to cool. Then the whole brew was strained (I used a large cotton cloth that I use to strain large batches).