As you make your garden plan for spring and you order seeds from catalogs take a moment to think about plants you can grow for their medicinal properties. There are plenty of safe and effective herbs you can grow and use in homemade remedies for everything from first aid uses to illness.
Learning about herbs and all their uses is actually quite fun. It is a perfect way to pass time during the dreary, cold winter months. Make a plan now to come to know the following herbs and plant a few. Then when spring and summer comes try your hand at making herbal remedies. You can create your very own homestead apothecary! Enjoy!
20 Safe Herbs to Grow and Use
Aloe – A succulent prized for its thick gel that is perfect for soothing burns and skin irritations.
Burdock – This tenacious weed is great for skin problems like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
Calendula – Beautiful flowers that promote cell repair and growth in rashes, sores, and burns.
Chamomile – Gentle but effective in treating colic, indigestion, infection, and more.
Chickweed – Soothes skin irritations and calms itchy eyes. Great eating too!
Dandelion – A great liver tonic and blood purifier. Good for digestion.
Echinacea – Stimulates the immune system and fights off cold and flu in the beginning stages.
Elder – Helpful with fevers, viral infections, and frequent bladder infections.
Goldenseal – Can be used to fight off illness and conjunctivitis. Makes a great mouthwash.
Hawthorn – Can help with cholesterol levels and blood flow.
Jewelweed – Excellent for dealing with poison ivy and poison oak.
Lemon Balm – Helps with depression, memory, focus, and digestive issues like colic.
Licorice – Soothes inflamed tissues such as sore throats and ulcers. Also good for adrenal fatigue.
Marsh Mallow – Lubricates dry coughs and moisturizes the lungs. Also soothes skin.
Nettle – Helps with joint pain, allergies, and hay fever.
Plantain – Often used for wounds, bites, stings, and blood poisoning.
Red Clover – One of the very best vitamin and mineral supplements you could ever take.
St. John’s Wart – Helps with stress, depression, nerve damage, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Valerian – Helps with insomnia and nervous system disorders.
Yarrow – Helps with swelling after injuries, soothes menstrual cramps, and reduces heavy bleeding.
Once you decide you want to raise some rabbits on your homestead (congrats!) you will ultimately need to decide if you want to raise them in cages or in a colony. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method, neither is right or wrong. You just need to figure out what is right for you. You need to consider how easy or hard it will be to clean up after them, breed them, round them up as needed, and what is best for them “healthwise”.
Raising homestead rabbits in cages is exactly what it sounds like. You have multiple cages for your rabbits, each pretty much getting their own cage. A colony is one large pen or caged in area where all your rabbits (or most) live together as a group.
Rabbit Colony Benefits and Advantages
- Can be easier to clean – Instead of cleaning out individual cages you have one open area, usually on the ground which you can rake, mulch, etc.
- Feeding and watering is easier – Just try to set out some food and watering areas in a couple different places within the colony to avoid fighting but depending on the size of your herd this can be easier than filling bowls and water bottles in multiple cages.
- A colony is a better opportunity for rabbits to socialize and play.
- The setup cost is usually cheaper because you don’t have to buy so many cages, feeding bowls, watering bottles, etc.
Rabbit Colony Disadvantages
- Rabbits in colonies are not handled as much by human caregivers so they tend to be more like wild rabbits. They are often skittish and more apt to scratch and claw you up when you touch them.
- Rabbit fights can happen and this may lead to injuries that you must then care for.
- The ease and cost of one pen for a colony is diminished when you need other pens or supplemental cages for rabbits that need to be separated due to fighting or for grow out purposes.
- Rabbits in colonies are more susceptible to parasites and diseases because they are on the ground. Having all the rabbits together makes spreading those illnesses much more common.
- A colony typically requires more room than cages so if you are limited on space this may be a problem.
- A pen will usually need to be moved to access new greens and not oversaturate the area with waste.
Rabbits in Cages – Benefits and Advantages
- Collecting manure for your garden can be much easier when using cages. You can place trays underneath the cages to catch the waste and then once a day or so just empty those trays into a bucket which can then make its way to your compost bin.
- Handling the rabbits is much easier because they cannot run away and this makes some daily/weekly one on one time easier to achieve. They get used to used to you and being handled in general. You avoid being clawed to death ala Monty Python.
- You have total control over breeding. No surprise litters! You have to feed and care for all those critters so having control over the size of your herd is a big benefit.
- Less space is required to raise rabbits in cages.
- Cages are often more secure from predators than a colony pen.
Rabbits in Cages – Disadvantages
- Can be harder to clean at times.
- Cages are usually less aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
- Cages provide less protection from the elements (snow, rain, wind) so you need to build covering over them if they are outdoors.
- Less playtime with other rabbits.
Figure out what will ultimately work best for you and take the leap!
More and more urban homesteaders are getting curious about raising rabbits. It is often times the ultimate goal to become more self sufficient and rabbits can help with that. In fact they may be one of the easiest and best ways to help you further your self sufficient homestead goals. How so? Why rabbits?
Well there are a few reasons why someone might choose to introduce rabbits to the homestead…besides the cute factor. I have a few rabbits myself… giant chinchilla rabbits and red new zealand rabbits. We love having them and the new zealand’s we have had since they were itty bitty so they are very much socialized and willing to cuddle up during some Netflix binge sessions. But I digress…why rabbits?
Rabbits produce some of the very best manure a gardener could ever ask for. It is GOLD I tell you and all gardeners need manure for their compost. Your family can have some adorable pets and they poop out the best garden fertilizer. It might sound crazy to raise animals for their poop but if you are a serious gardener and homesteader then you know the value of good manure. Compost or use it directly, it doesn’t even need to be aged. Fresh rabbit manure is higher in nitrogen than chicken, cow, horse, pig, sheep or goat manure. If you want compost tea you can make that easily by soaking the pellets in a couple gallons of water, its perfect for houseplants and for flowers, like roses.
It is also cost effective. You can buy a 50lb bag of food pellets at a tractor supply store for $7-8 and you can grow your own fodder as well. We grow grass from wheat seeds and we regrow scraps such as carrot tops and lettuce for the greens. They also like fruit scraps.
Many folks can’t have cows, pigs, or goats on their property. In urban areas it is not uncommon for these types of animals to be forbidden. That leaves some other options such as ducks, chickens, quail, or rabbits. The fastest meat production comes with rabbits and most will raise chickens for the eggs, not their meat. Rabbit is a tasty, nutritious, lean protein source. All parts can be used as well if you have dogs and like to feed them raw foods. If you have a couple does and a buck you can provide your homestead with a good supply of meat all year. Taking control of your meat production is a wonderful thing and cattle farming might not be an option. Look into rabbits if you want your own meat source.
If meat rabbits are not your thing maybe you want some lovely angora rabbits for their luscious wool. Spinners and crafty types would surely not pass up a home grown wool source! Angoras are gentle and seem to love all the attention they get from grooming and the harvesting process is completely painless. You also get all that poop for the garden!
Creative kids might also like to have them as pets and make some money off of them…ie the manure, wool, etc. There are so many reasons to embrace rabbits and bring bunnies to the homestead this year!
I have been interested in the raw food movement to some extent for years. I am not a raw foodie but I do realize the importance of having a healthy supply of raw foods in the diet for maximum nutrition. I align more with the paleo food movement and this too promotes maximum nutrient density (raw or no) and also eating what we as humans are meant to eat. Paleo in my opinion is like the the factory settings diet for the body…our optimal diet, the diet we are meant to eat.
It only goes to follow that I would also become interested in feeding my animals the food they were meant to eat as well. This omnivorous human is meant to eat fruit, nuts, seeds, veggies, greens, and meat/seafood for the live enzymes, vitamins, minerals and nutritive value. I am not meant to eat the products of huge agribusiness…wheat, corn, and soy everything basically. Dogs are also not meant to eat that kind of diet. Dogs crave raw meat, much like they once ate in wild. Conventional dog food is far removed from the diet they once ate.
Last year I ended up taking on a rescue dog who needed to be rehomed. Our plan was/is to start giving her the raw remains of our homestead animals but we have just started to dabble in that arena and have not had any to butcher yet. I am thrilled though to find an alternative that will slowly introduce raw foods into her diet and provide us with a supplemental feeding option for when we don’t have raw animal parts to feed her.
Enter Stella and Chewy’s. Their meal mixers product is meant to complement a dog’s existing diet.
So what are the benefits of adding raw foods into a dog’s diet? These are just some of them:
- Better Dental Health – commercial diets rot their teeth and cause gum disease.
- Better Digestion – Eating foods they are meant to eat means better digestion and better access to the nutrients in the food.
- Vitality – You know we get groggy and tired when we eats lots of carbs and sugar… yeah dogs get the same way. Raw food will increase their vitality and quality of life.
- Improved Skin and Coat – When you eat better, you look better. It is the same for dogs, and it really shows with a glossy fur coat and no more skin issues. No need for medicated shampoos!
- Stronger Immune System – When their body is running on optimal fuel they are far less likely to get become sick or diseased.
- A Lean Physique – Carbs make us fat and they can make dogs fat too.
Stella & Chewy’s offers freeze-dried options (including Meal Mixers) to get you started on raw dog foods. Their products helps owners give their pet’s nutrition that mirrors their ancestral diet. You take one scoop of the meal mixers and mix it with your dog’s current food. This allows them to slowly get used to a raw diet and not upset their GI tract with a sudden diet change.
Meal Mixers includes premium ingredients:
- Packed with 95% nutrient-rich meat, organs and bone
- Complemented by organic fruits and vegetables and added probiotics & antioxidants
- No grains, glutens, fillers, artificial preservatives or colorings, or added hormones or antibiotics
- Available in 4 protein options (Stella’s Super Beef, Chewy’s Chicken, Tantalizing Turkey, and Savory Salmon & Cod)
An independent taste test study conducted at leading university (University Wisconsin-Madison) showed that 9 out of 10 dogs prefer their kibble with MM. Third party independent lab analysis is conducted on each batch of food before it leaves their Wisconsin-based manufacturing facility. The results for every batch is posted on the S&C website for consumers to see. This is refreshing given how many recalls we have seen of pet food in years past!
The best part is that my Coco loves Stella and Chewy’s meal mixers!
This post has been sponsored by Stella & Chewy’s. All opinions are my own.
Yay!!! I am so excited to share with you all that I am a new homeowner. My husband and I closed on our homestead in June. We bought in a suburb of Columbus (20 minutes away from downtown). It has over half an acre, a nice patch of woods, and a creek running through it.
The urban/suburban part has always been important to me. I am not a fan of rural living (been there, done that) and I personally feel that the vehicle for change…for our environment, our food system, and for our society in general needs to happen in cities. We need to green the cities, not move out of them.
I would like to tell you how we planned and planned for this moment but we actually didn’t. It just kind of happened. My family had been renting a duplex and we deliberately picked a more run down neighborhood because we wanted to pay less for rent and have more money for play. I was able to garden in raised beds, collect rainwater, compost, and even grow food and fish with aquaponics.
The duplex was a cozy 1100 square feet that I actually loved. It required us all to be together…a lot. Our family/living area was also a home office for two, a gaming area, and a TV watching area. In general I loved the money we saved living there (rent, utilities) and I loved small house living.
On the drawbacks list was the lack of a fourth bedroom, since my two autistic boys have issues that make sharing a room a bad idea all around. The kitchen was dated and in need of a remodel, we couldn’t have pets or farm animals, the garage was tiny and could barely fit a car in it, and we were limited on what we could do inside and outside the home.
So what made us move?
Well, it is a long story and it involves the death of my mom recently. But the short of it is that I finally committed to staying in this area and laying down roots in a place of my very own. A lovely creek, called Blacklick, winds all through our city and I thought it would be out of our budget to own a home that backed up to the creek but I found a creekside home that had just been listed for under market value because it needed some serious updates. Well, that house had five offers in a matter of two days so our realtor directed us to another creekside property just down the street that was a bit pricier but included over a half acre. It was being offered via short sale and had been on the market for a year due to some sticky issues with flood insurance requirements.
Short story…we now own the house. We can raise rabbits, chickens, and ducks, and we can keep bees. I can have a huge garden, I have room for lots of fruit trees, and we have the most insanely beautiful creek (with plenty of fish) right in our back yard. We have already started our orchard with two apple trees and two pear trees with more to come.
A view of our backyard from the house…I think that playset will be upcycled into a chicken coop next year. You can see the beginning of our orchard front and center.
Go past that expanse of lawn (which will soon be garden) and you come to a lovely patch of woods. Here we have the compost bin, a firepit, and plenty of trees for firewood.
Go through the wooded area and you come to a real gem. The creek looks tame in the picture below…it hasn’t rained in a couple days. During heavy rains though that creek rages and raises about 6-8 feet. We often see kayakers go by.
Also love the existing garden at the house. It is all ornamental…lots of hosta and flowers but I often overlook the “pretty” plants in favor of edibles, so to have that part taken care of is awesome.
The drawback, at least for me, is that the house is huge. It is 2500 square feet. I don’t want or need all that space but did get our four bedrooms, a nice finished basement, and a two car garage. I have a suburban homestead that I pretty much adore and I am dropping hints to my Dad that he should move in with us and utilize some of this extra space. Though one extra bit space I love is my new home office with a large window that overlooks the yard. The wood burning fireplace and a bathroom just for the husband and myself are kind of nice too.
What excites me most is that this property will allow us more room to homestead. We plan to start slowly, not wanting to alarm any neighbors or bite off more than we can chew at this time. In the garage we are starting to construct raised beds, set up a 250 gallon aquaponics tank, and build rabbit hutches. We have many projects to keep us busy through winter.
This is what I call prime city living!