Monday, December 26, 2011

White Oak

The white oak tree is another one of the great medicinal trees. The size and shape of the tree can vary from area to area. The white oak  also grows acorns that have many uses. The most used part of the white oak tree is the inner bark.
It also provides numerous minerals and nutrients including vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and zinc, helping to replace needed compounds in the body while it helps your health conditions to improve.

The inner bark can be used for many things from an anti-diarrhea tea to a mouth wash to help with bleeding gums. You can also boil the inner bark and use it was a compress to sooth bug bites, poison ivy and poison oak. It will also promote the healing of minor cuts and scrapes. Drinking white oak bark tea and using the bark itself externally can help to combat varicose veins. It has been shown to help remove gallstones and kidney stones as well as helping internal bleeding of the stomach, rectum, and lungs. Gout and other inflammation related problems may benefit from the use of the tea as well.

It should be noted, that if you are allergic to aspirin you should not take white oak tea. It is recommended that you take oak bark 4 hours before or 4 hours after any prescription medication. To avoid negative side effects.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Black Walnut

Today is the start of my medicinal plant series. As a disclaimer: as with any plant, you should know for sure what it is before using it for any type of medicinal purpose, also as with anything allergic reactions could occur. Black walnut trees are found virtually across all the the United States. Almost all the parts of  the Walnut tree can be used as a medicinal purpose, and has been for many many years by the Native Americans.

Identification: The sight of the nuts on the tree is a dead giveaway obviously. There are other ways to identify the tree, breaking a piece of bark off will also give off that distinctive walnut smell.

Medicinal Properties: The leaves can be crushed to help relieve itches from bites and rashes. The leaves can also be soaked and wrapped around the affected area.

The green hulls can be used for many things.  When the hulls are green, they are NOT edible, but a great source of iodine for external use. Uses for cuts, scrapes and other external body injuries. They can also be boiled to make a tea for intestinal problems. It can also help cure athlete's foot. 

The black or over ripe hulls have more uses, they can be crushed into a fine powder and diluted and used for parasitic worms. It can also be used for mouth sores. Probably the coolest thing that the black hulls can be used for in dried powder form is taking care of cavities in your teeth. You can either brush your teeth with the powder or just simply swish it around in your mouth to help rebuild tooth enamel. Incidentally the black hulls can also be boiled to be used for wood stain or cloth dye.

The bark  can be pulverized and used to stun fish in a dammed up stream. The bark can also be used in hide tanning. The wood can be made into tools that you can use such as throwing sticks and handles for hatchets and hammers.

I hope that you will find this series informative and useful. Please leave comments below if there is something you would like to discuss.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Off the Beaten Path

Christmas is just around the corner, so let me wish you all A very Merry Christmas! I know that it has been a few days since I last posted, things get a bit busy for me now and then. Before I get started, just a couple things, I have in the works (beginning stages) a survival/prepping school that will be here in Iowa. I have been teaching people on an individual basis, but I am seriously looking into doing groups. Ok, enough about me, on with the show.

Today we are going to focus on truly being prepared. You have to ask yourself some serious questions when it comes to being prepared. Sure, you can go with out your cell phone, blackberry and other things for a couple days here and there. but are you really prepared to going without them long term? Computers are another staple in today's society that are such a big part of our lives, I mean I am obviously not writing this on a stone tablet or carving it in a chunk of wood. Being prepared is just that, not only to have everything ready but to ALSO have the knowledge to use the things around you. One thing that I have done is to make a 3 ring binder with information in it on the things that i might not be as familiar with. Things such as medicinal plant uses with pictures of the plant and or leaves. Maybe the directions to a simple recipe that your able to make in a survival situation using the things in your bug out bag or 72 hour kit. There is all sorts of good information out there, and while we are all able it might just be a good idea to take the time and put together your own preparedness binder. Sure you could always buy one, but the chances of it having the information in it for your area of the country could very well not be in it. Over the next few posts, i will be a series of posts on medicinal plants and trees in case you do not have the time to do the research your self. I hope that you will all find it helpful and informative.

Until next time!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Seeds and saving them

A bit off the normal posts today for something else that my family does. As it looks to me more and more people are returning to gardening, with that people are learning that you can save your own seeds. This is something that my family has done for nearly 10 years. It is one of the easiest things you can do but it does take some time and dedication. It might be easier for some just to go out and buy the seeds, but for my family, it is our way of knowing our seeds and what we can expect. One important note, hybrid seeds should not be saved, as they will not turn out like their first year parents.

Best seeds to save:
The things that are the best to save seeds back from are tomatoes, peas, beans and pretty much all peppers. Each of which have a bit of a different way that is best to preserve and save the seeds. Since these are all self pollinating they make about the best plants to save seeds from. Heirloom seeds are just that, passed down from generation to generation. These would make the best ones to save! If you have a certain plant that does exceptionally well, this might be one to think about using for your save.

Saving tomato seeds does require a bit of time and a trick to knowing how to do it correctly. The first step is to allow the fruit to ripen completely. Cut the tomato into either sections or slices and scoop out the seeds along with the protective gel that covers them. Put them into a glass jar and cover the seeds and "goo" till the jar is about 1/3 to 1/2 full depending on how many seeds you are saving. Put the lid on it and let it sit on your counter out of the way. Each day take the lid off and give the seeds a gentle stir. On or about day 6 the protective gel will have degraded and the seeds will have fallen to the bottom of the jar. There could be a bit of scum on the top during this process, don't worry that is natural. Once the seeds have all been de-goo'd place them into a small holed wire strainer or something similar and rinse them well. After they have been rinsed, spread the seeds out onto a plain white paper towel and let them dry for 2-3 days. Once the seeds are dry, simply put them in an air tight container, label as to what they are and the date you put them in and store them till your ready to use them.

Peppers seeds are one of the easiest to obtain and save. The best way is to allow them to fully ripen on the plant until they just start to wrinkle. Pick the peppers and cut the seed pods out. Gently pull the seeds off the pod and spread them out on a white paper towel to dry for 2-3 days. Once dried, just like above place them in a labeled air tight container and store. Pretty simple huh.

Peas and Beans:
These do take a bit longer to harvest. Wait for about a month after you would normally harvest both of these. You will need to wait until the pods turn brown and are very dry. You should be able to hear them rattle around a bit. once you can hear them rattle, bring them in for final drying. Usually a week or so. You can either remove them from the husks or store them in the pods until you are ready to plant them.

Storing your seeds in a cool dry place is the best way to do it. you may also think about placing a silicone gel pack in the container to help ward off moisture.

As with all my posts, feel free to ask questions or leave me a comment. I do my best to answer them all.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Canning your own food is a lost art.

The way the world is today and the state of the economy are you really preparing or are you just going through the motions? Think about it, if something were to happen at this very second, could you make it? Could you keep your family warm and safe? Unless you live in the tropics or some place where it is warm this time of year winter is about to rear it's ugly head and hard. Picture this, January, the dead of winter, an infrastructure failure. This means, no lights, no heat and no water among other things. What are your going to do now? There will probably be little to no communication so if shelters are set up you will not know about them. How will you feed your family? Sure you might have your 72 hour kit ready to go, but what happens if it goes into days or weeks or heaven forbid longer than that. How will you provide food for your family?

Canning your own food has been around for a long time and in my opinion it is becoming a lost art. Personally our family cans as much as we can during the summer from tomatoes to corn (freeze) and most other vegetables. Home canned foods will last up to a couple of years. Home canned food provides  safe nutrition, there are no additives or preservatives in any of it. Best of all it is not hard to do at all. I know that when people think of canning, they think they have to have all of the fancy pressure cookers and all the gadgets but you don't HAVE to have them.

Jars, rings and seals:
If you are just starting out usually a case of quart jars will run anywhere from 7-10.00 for a dozen. Your first set generally comes with the seals and rings. While they come made and look clean, to be sure, you should wash all of the things in HOT soapy water (as hot as you can stand), rinse them very well. Set them upside down up on a clean dry towel. They do not have to dry. In a very large pot fill with water and bring it to a boil. Once it is boiling, place a couple jars, seals and rings in the water for about a minute to sanitize them. You can use a long set of tongs, or a jar lifter to get them out of the water and set them back on the towel.

Preparing your veggies, is pretty common sense and easy, simply wash, cut to desired size and fill the jar to within an inch of the top: In a separate pot, bring to a boil 1/2 teaspoon of salt to each 1 qt of water. Using a funnel, fill the the jar with the water/salt until it covers the veggies or within a 1/2 inch of the top. Dip a clean cloth into the water that you used to sterilize the jars and wipe off the rim of the jar to make sure it is clean for a good proper seal.

Sealing your Jars: Place a seal on the jar and screw on the ring pretty tight. Use a towel to hold the jar in place as it will be very hot. Repeat this till all of your jars are full that you have veggies for. Once that is done, place 2-3 jars right side up into the sterilizing pot making sure that the water level is about 3/4 up the side of the jar. Bring the water to a boil and let it boil for 15 minutes. When the time is up, carefully remove the jars and set them in an area where you will not have to move them for 24 hours. Depending on the temperature of your home, it could take as long as 5-6 hours for them to seal. You may also hear them "pop" when sealing themselves. Once they are completely cooled and sealed, store them in a cool dark place like a basement or the bottom of a closet. If by chance, you have a couple that do not seal, put them in the fridge and use them up in a week or so.

Not only does canning food provide an emergency food source, it will also save you money in the long run as the rings and jars can be reused year after year. The only thing that you can not reuse is the seals.

I hope that my blog is giving people the insights to help themselves, not only in prepping but also other little tricks. As always, feel free to comment on anything that you might have a question on.