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.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Are you tired or just exhausted?

Jeff Hughes - Exhausted
Addressing exhaustion is the first step to recovery in many diseases. There is a difference between tired and exhausted. Tired is when the body has had a long day, the mind and muscles have been well used and need a state of shut down for repair. Tired is a natural state and a useful one. 

Exhausted is when you are completely used up, completely drained of all energy and empty. I think far too many people operate in the red zone of exhaustion and have to use crutches to get through the day. Crutches that later keep them from restful sleep and tissue repair and the vicious cycle of disease can set in. 

Exhausted from www..joeygates.deviantart.com

You cannot take on big life changing challenges when exhausted. You can’t just start eating well and exercising when you are exhausted even though those things are crucial to getting well. Changing life-long poor diet habits and learning new ways to eat and cook aren’t possible if you can’t even get up to go to work or are barely able to heat up a frozen diner for the kids. When you walk hunched over from just the weight of your head, changing your diet can seem as challenging as climbing Mount Everest. 

Addressing exhaustion is the first step and the best way is to increase the chance of sleep. I’ve had periods of my life that I was exhausted in every cell of my body; physically and mentally. I remember not being able to bend over to wrap up the vacuum cleaner cord. I had to pay the neighbor kids to come clean the litter boxes because I could do almost nothing where I had to bend down. Getting back up was too difficult. I breathed shallowly, nothing was interesting and everything was a bother. 
VELASQUEZ Divine Drudgery
 Days when I could go to work were a complete chore and then coming home to the never ending tasks of daily life was just too much. Personal space for self- improvement was a laughable concept. The job, housework, bills, caring for my sick husband, the yard, the animals, cooking and cleaning were all a daily series of drudgery that I tackled with the enthusiasm of walking the plank; if I tackled them at all. 
Drudgery by Edward Chambre Hardman
 If you think people look at you as if you are lazy or if you think that yourself, you might just be exhausted. If all you want to do is sleep, yes you may be depressed, but you may be depressed because you are exhausted in the literal definition of the word – to be empty. Empty of what the body needs to get through the day, what the mind needs to be able to prioritize tasks. If you are missing a craving for life and the need to create, if you look around your house and your life and all you feel is overwhelmed, if the bed is calling you like a high powered magnet at all times of the day, then you might be exhausted.

Fuseli The Nightmare, 1781.  The man on her chest is one way some people see a common character called Bakhtak (there are many names) and he is sometimes seen with the old hag.
During many periods of my life I’ve felt this way, but 13 years ago an illness so horrible finally touched me to the core and uncovered all my failings, all my weaknesses and opened me wide open to clearly see what I had become. I believe they were all related to being “empty” of what I needed to be a human being. Though they look like separate diseases, I think they were all just symptoms of one. 

Heinrich Fuseli - Nightmare. 

I suffered from chronic sleep paralysis (or the old hag syndrome), RLS (restless leg syndrome), jaw clenching so bad that all my molars need repair & only ¾ are so far done, A-typical cataplexy which made it hard to walk at times, A-typical narcolepsy which required hospitalization, legs so heavy they were hard to move, joint pain, lowered immune system, horrible allergies, skin problems, liver problems, gall-bladder attacks, lingering female problems for 11 years that surgery couldn’t correct, migraines, depression, chronic back pain so bad I felt if someone would break my shoulder blade there would be relief, cysts migrating from under the skin near lymph glands that were wrapped in scar tissue began protruding from my neck and had attached to my spine, constant colds, and the list could go on and on. 

The Old Hag, commonly seen in sleep paralysis. She is sometimes with a helper.
One name for the Old Hag helper is Bakhtak, sometimes seen and sometimes not.

But mostly what I remember is being exhausted all the time and incapable of living a normal daily life. Much of the time when I could get up was spent in the Dr’s office or at work which drained what few sparks I could find for the day. 

soda bubbles by Pink Sherbet Photography
 If you take the lid off of a bottle of soda, eventually all the little fizzy bubbles will disappear and all you have left is lifeless colored sugar water. I felt like that flat soda, dense and dark, without appeal, thick and unable to move without any sparkles. Then one day I realized I wasn’t the soda, I was the fizz, the energy that had escaped. I had to find one fizzy bubble at a time to re-build myself into something I wanted to be. As I’ve told this part of the story many times, hands reached out to help me and I started to get well. One day I’ll tell the stories in whole as I’ve never done, but that day isn’t today. 
I’m not going to outline what sleep paralysis is or any of the other problems I had. That would take a book.  If you have the problem, you know what it is and if you don’t – then it doesn’t really matter. Though I hope anyone with exhaustion will receive some help from these tips. 

 There were specific steps I took that helped me fill back up and some steps recommended by experts in the sleep field that did nothing but harm. I’ve tried several times over the years to reach out to people with severe sleep disorders and the subsequent illnesses that come with it, but I’ve almost always shared too much. I further overwhelmed them by telling them everything I did. I got well, however it was one little baby step at a time, one course correction at a time. A 6 page outline step by step of what to do is just one more overwhelming task. 

I’m going to do a series of posts outlining the steps that worked for me to get well. I’ve been told by an interviewer from the BBC that tracked me down, that I’m the only person he could find that was cured from narcolepsy and sleep paralysis naturally. I don’t know if that is true or not, but if it is, I certainly have an obligation to try to help others. I tried helping by joining sleep forums, but they were so unhealthy for me I had to leave. Too much focus on the problem, too many reminders of the nightmares, not enough conversation about healing. The biggest thing to realize is that it takes time. 

Some of the steps seem unnecessary and maybe even silly. If I’m listing them here though, they were important to me. This may not work for everyone and I’m certainly not a Dr. So I’m not making any health claims or prescribing a course of action. 

Image - National Institutes of Health
 Imagine changing your whole body one cell at a time, one decision at a time; it’s not going to happen overnight, but hopefully for you it will happen. In my next post I’ll go over steps I took to begin getting healthy, but first a few beginning tips for those with sleep paralysis that can be done when starting out from a point of exhaustion. 

Some of these tips will help anyone with sleep problems. You don’t always know when you have a sleep problem however, but you do always know when you are exhausted. After one test I took at the hospital, I remember the next day how good I felt. I had slept that night and apologized to the tech when he came in that I was sorry they weren’t able to track my sleep problem that night. I assured him normally I don’t sleep. He told me I woke up 60 times during the night and never hit the target REM stage sleep. So just because you think you are sleeping, it doesn’t mean you are getting enough deep restful sleep. 
These are NOT necessarily things I do now, but they were critical when I was trying to stop the illness. Now that I’m healthy and sleep restfully, I don’t need to do much of this. So these aren’t all long term things. 

  •  Until I felt confident that the sleep paralysis was gone for good, I only slept on my left side with bent knees. This trick took a long time to discover and I wish I had known about it right away. Sleeping on your back greatly increases the chance that you will have a paralysis. Sleeping on your right side increases indigestion which can lead to nightmares. Putting a pillow behind your shoulder blade can help decrease the chance that you’ll roll on to your back in the night.   

  • If you have a cooperative partner, explain to them different signs that might indicate you are in distress. All they need to do is touch you to break the spell of a paralysis. 
    • One of the signs is a quiet breathy H sound. It’s from trying to scream help, but in a paralysis you can’t speak. Sometimes you can’t even get the H sound out.  
    • If they see you in bed with your eyes open and you don’t respond to them, they need to touch you to pull you out of it. 
    • If you sleep in a queen or king sized bed with a partner, it helps to replace the top sheets and comforter with smaller individual ones. We removed the king sized top sheet and comforter and replaced it with two twin sized sheets and comforters for each of us. When you actually do fall asleep, you want to minimize the risk that they will wake you by pulling the sheet across your body. 

  •  Sometimes you can train yourself to move your index finger of your writing hand. When I discovered this, I started sleeping with a stuffed animal. Practice every night when you get into position looking at your finger and moving it to touch the animal. I’d keep it in my right hand until I fell asleep so it would be close. When a paralysis would start, sometimes I could focus on my index finger and get it to move enough so that I could touch the stuffed animal and come out of it. I also looked like a loon carrying it to work, but sometimes I had to sleep under my desk or in a co-workers van during the day when I couldn’t go on and was too tired to drive. I certainly didn’t want to have a paralysis at work.  
  • Start developing a good environment for sleep. No lights in the room what so ever. No little red LED lights on a VCR, no night light, no light coming in through the window. Put cardboard in your window if you have no other way of blocking every ray of artificial light. If you must have an alarm clock in the bedroom, I don’t recommend it, cover it thickly by folding a towel several times over. Then face it away from you. Do NOT look at the time if you wake in the middle of the night. Much of training yourself to sleep properly again requires reducing as much stress as possible. Seeing that it’s 3 am, for me, was too stressful because I knew the odds of falling back asleep were slim.  The stress of knowing that could actually keep me from falling back to sleep. No music, minimize all noise. Make sure the path to the bathroom is the same as the bedroom, no lights, no sound. Blind people are able to use the bathroom without light, so that’s just something you need to learn to do. 

  • Pick a certain time every night that would be optimal for bed and stick to it. Starting the habit of a strict nightly routine will help train your body that it’s time to sleep. 

  • An hour before bedtime is when you start the process of rocking yourself to sleep and gently carrying yourself to bed. I’ll go over the steps of how to do that in my next post, but preliminarily know that you need to start winding down an hour before bed. NO exercise, no TV, no music, no bright lights. If you can, dim the lights or turn them all off and let just the moonlight fill the room. Sometimes a warm (not hot bath) an hour before helps and get dressed for bed an hour before as well. When it’s time to go to bed you want no activity except slowly and gently walking to the bed and getting in. I would ask my husband to go to bed first and get all his wiggles out before I came in. It's good to even speak in hushed tones and if you have children explain to them that temporarily you need the house very quiet an hour before bed.  Having your wind down time in a chair in the bedroom is a good idea too to reduce walking time. But do NOT wind down in the bed. You need to train the mind that when you are in bed you will be sleeping. If it’s possible to have your room a bit cooler that sometimes helps. 

  • My sleep problems were so severe that I talked to my boss at work and got them to agree to be flexible on my arrival time. I know this won’t work for everyone. They agreed that if I got in by at least 10am that would be OK. Since I was still working an insane number of hours the weeks and months I was able to, they had no problem with it. I removed my alarm clock all together and gave my husband strict instructions not to wake me until 9am because sometimes I wouldn’t fall asleep till around 5-6am and just those few hours would make a huge difference. Nights I slept, I would naturally get up around 6am and get to work on time. 
  • Sit in the sunshine for at least 15 minutes a day. Let the sun touch your eye lids and long bones of your arms and legs. Breathe out long through your nose and then breathe in deeply, holding a few seconds before exhaling again. 

  • Any reduction in stimulants like caffeine during the day will help at night. 
I’ll talk about methods of rocking yourself to sleep, meditation, visualization and diet and lifestyle changes in later posts. For now, let’s just keep it to the baby steps. 

Here is to your restful sleep. 

From NicePetsBlog.com

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fall leaves

You would think fall and winter would be a slow time for a gardener.  If you are trying to garden imitating nature though, she is very busy in the fall.  Seeds are being broadcast, frosts are knocking over dead plants for mulch, fallen leaves are forming a dense mat of composting material, hungry birds are scratching for missed seed, extra rain is compacting mulch and seed down to touch ground and humans and animals alike extend their walking border to look for roots and missed nuts -  further pushing seed to ground.  All this happens before hard frosts come and breaks open the soil through heave, wraps seeds in frozen moisture and takes a long inhale before spring.  It is amazing what frost heave will do to the soil when dying grass loosens its grip.  The soil is so light and crumbly in the spring.  Trying to recreate nature and create insectaries that require no care during the summer, happens in the fall.  To recreate all of this that nature does without strain requires extra work initially.  Permaculture and no-till gardening doesn’t mean no work, there is much mulching to be done and in the beginning creating beds is a primary job.  Creating insectaries is vitally important not only to the garden, but to the health of the environment around you.  So many people create death zones by mowing acres and acres of grass.
Kittens after a hard day helping in the garden

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Farm Match

I found out about a cool new website matching farmers to consumers.  I'd love to write a personal heartfelt blog post about it and the importance of buying local farm fresh foods, but I just don't have time right now.  I still want to tell everyone about how awesome it is, so I just stole the press release.  Please forgive this lazy post!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How I became a home herbalist for (almost) free

Me around ’95 smoking cigars and chugging beer.  Motorcycle driving, crazy-woman phase to come a little later.
In 2000 I decided to change my life because of an extended illness that I thought was going to kill me, inside I felt dead already.   Before I knew anything about anything, I had enough of my life and decided to get out of debt, move to the country, be healthy, and grow vegetables.  I had no idea how to do that. 

I started simple; reading homesteading books an old guy in the neighborhood gave me and magazines like Countryside and Mother Earth News .  Other books came as gifts just at the right time, drizzled to me slowly in perfect sequence and with perfect timing.  One of the most crucial books was “Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hahn from my dear friend Lola, though she and my friend Mary Anne loaned and gave me so many more over the years.  These books and magazines fired me up about the mind/ body connection and using diet for health.    An herbalist wrote in to Countryside, and I thought “THAT’s what I want to be, an herbalist!”  I also thought about a massage therapist, acupuncturist or anything in the healing arts.   But again, I had no idea how I could possibly do that.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

I am so sorry

I just found out that the email address I have published to contact me on this site has not been forwarding to my primary email account.  Gmail at some point removed the forwarding rule.  I am so sorry for those I have ignored, but it wasn't intentional.  I'll be spending a lot of time replying to each personal and thoughtful email. I am so sorry!!! I learned I need to check each email account periodically! 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Disturbing the Edge

Intentional wild space along edge of path in new orchard

For a time I lived on the edge and walked the line between hell and disease, an out of balance waking nightmare that ended in collapse. But the darkness in that edge proved fruitful, though I wouldn't know it for  years.  The old way of being and thinking were broken down, the seeds planted by books, friends and through meditation; and that wouldn't have happened without a total physical collapse and change of the old paradigm.  A new edge had to be created.  Now 13 years later I am closer to finding balance and am certainly more fruitful.  The edge can be a most productive place.

A wild space nature created along edge of burnt place

The creation of edge means the death or absence of one thing and life for another.  The edge for all life changes and is the transition point.  As the shrubs and then the trees eventually move into a field, the edge changes, new shadows are cast, soil changes and it means the death of some plants for the life of others. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A little Ginseng bed in the woods

I built a little Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) bed the other day on the slope of a hill.  I found a dead tree that has long since been partially sunk into the ground and would make a good basis for a terraced bed.  The bed had to be small because I had to carry the dirt in buckets up the hill and I only had a few seeds.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Virginia to the Left and Harold to the right.  Two of my favorite Junipers that create the herb circle where we live.  Photo by Jamie

 Like many people I love the smell of crushed Juniper needles.  The variety we have here is Juniperus virginiana.  They are a tall, dense, fine looking pyramid shaped tree and I discovered recently that the oldest tree of this kind was from our state of Missouri at 795 years old!  Not only do they make great wind breaks, but we use them in a variety of ways.

When the needles are crushed, it releases one of my favorite smells. I make a breast massage oil from the fragrant needles by chopping and filling a quart mason jar with them, then covering with olive oil, letting it sit for 6 weeks, and then straining.  Make sure to place the jar on a rag because it can weep out.   Just rubbing the oil on your hands, cupping near your nose and smelling deeply can transport your mind to the dark, green woods. To me, it smells like liquid Christmas.  But more importantly, the infused oil is “superb for regular breast self-massage, especially for those troubled with painful or lumpy breasts.  Evergreens contain compounds clinically proven to kill cancer cells.  The most powerful in this respect are arbor vitae (Thuja occidentalis) and cedar (Juniperous virginiana).  But all evergreens contain antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral and anti-tumor oils.  Using infused herbal oils is an easy way to keep your breasts healthy, prevent and reverse cysts, dissolve troublesome lumps and repair abnormal cells.  Breast skin is thin and absorbent, and breast tissue contains a great deal of fat, which readily absorbs infused herbal oils.” – Susun Weed 

Monday, October 1, 2012


Outside today I thought of this video.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Medicine of the People conference 2012

From the http://www.traditionsinwesternherbalism.org/ site

I'm back from my intense experience at the Medicine of the People conference (formerly the Traditions in Western Herbalism).  It will probably take me weeks, if not months, to go through all the notes and process them.  The amount of information available at this conference is staggering.  Thankfully the class notes are available for download for a while and I don't have to rely on my chicken scratch!

Some of the buildings at the lodge

The classes weren't just about using herbs or plants.  They were about life.  Classes as diverse as "Coping with death and caring for a dying loved one", "How to sit with a patient", "Making a financial living as an herbalist", "Ecology and activism in women's health", "Creating a dynamic practice", "Starting a community supported herbal clinic", "Clinical skills", "Endocrine systems", "Teaching the teacher", "Disaster preparedness",  "Chronic pain" and "Creating social and political change for herbalists".

The information the presenters shared was sometimes so personal and came from such a deep place, that their words had to wait in the throat behind the lump that only comes when sharing the deepest, most personal experience of pain.  But most of the time was filled with laughter and smiles shared between friends and strangers who all shared the common love of nature and the health of her residents.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Vandana Shiva on Bill Moyers

Just a post to ask everyone to watch this interview by Bill Moyers with Vandana Shiva and read the transcript.  She has said so succinctly what would take me days to say.

In response to the question "But what can I do?"

VANDANA SHIVA: I think first thing is each of us has to daily ask a question, "Where am I complicit in a war against the Earth? Where are my daily actions part of a devastation of the planet and with it, a devastation of the lives of people."


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Wild Rose Traps

I have been warned so many times about not having Multiflora roses here, that I need to pull them all up.  But I decided to leave most, specifically the big healthy ones.  Not only do they produce an abundance of flowers and hips for me and the insects, but they are a wonderful trap plant.

These plants can take a beating every year from Japanese beetles and who knows what else.  Some look gorgeous, but some poor rose bushes I wonder how they make it.  But they do.  They can grow 2 - 6 feet per year vigorously.  They take the damage that would otherwise be done to other plants and they take it on powerfully.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Thoughts on Gaura Biennis

Photo by Jamie
I've talked on this blog several times about Gaura Biennis and Japanese Beetles.  I've given more thought to where this wonderful trap plant grew and thought I'd pass along my observations.

I first noticed it around the edge of our flower garden that was created with a sheet of black plastic.  Black Plastic was put down till the grass died and then I ran timbers around the rectangle shape of the space created.  I didn't run the timbers right to the edge and left a bit of bare ground just outside the timbers.  Inside the area framed by timbers, I scratched the ground and broadcast some perennial flowers and those came up along with other wildflowers.  No where on the interior of this garden space did Gaura Biennis grow.  It only grew, and quite thickly, right along the outside edge of the timbers where the grass had been killed but the earth not scratched.  In this area it was dense, healthy and grew about 6 feet tall in the full sun.  I've read it likes shade, but it did great in the full sun.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Our experience with Permaculture

      Here is my presentation from the Sustainability Festival on the 20th ..... Something I forgot to say and would like to add. When you first start out not mowing and you aren't used to it, it's going to look a bit like the beginning phase of a beard.  Rough and scraggly,  just hold on.  It's going to be a colorful ride.   (P.S.  I have no idea why blogger is making the font big in some places and small in others?)

From: http://www.permacultureglobal.com/posts/394

Picture in your mind the Garden of Eden - a paradise.  I imagine an ancient place dripping with fruit and nuts, food at my finger tips and I don’t imagine a place where people are slaving away.  It’s what we dream of, but gardening the common way is so labor intensive and expensive.   Much of the time and effort is spent adjusting for our poor Earth stewardship.  When I think of paradise, I never think about acres and acres of mowed monochromatic grass.  Imagine a garden that each generation in a family can build on for the next and the quality of life and land value for each generation is improved.  

      When I started gardening, I did it the way we were all taught.  I tilled, planted annuals in a row using crop rotation, hoed, watered a lot, fertilized, sprayed for bugs, weeded and started over the next year.  When we started out as organic gardeners none of that changed.   Then I started learning about permaculture and was hooked.   Permaculture isn’t a new way of gardening, it’s the oldest way. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

We've built a house

Judy has officially moved in to the home we've all been building for her for the last year and 9 months.  We tried to do it as naturally as possible, but there were areas of compromise.  Even with one of the walls being completely uninsulated the house doesn't get cold, underground homes are awesome!  It took a lot longer than we thought and there is a lot of finishing work to be done including the earthen roof.   For the floor we'll do an earthen floor workshop hopefully some time this year when our house has 4 walls, a roof and doors so that Judy will have somewhere to stay while we're doing it and the floor dries.  We should start on our house soon.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Judy moves in!

Judy is spending the first night in her new home!  Not quite done, but done enough to move in.  Pictures soon!!!

Meanwhile, here is a funny video of my cat Falon playing with some seed packets: