Argument in My Head and A Mistaken Identity

Mountain Sunset



It’s dark. And early. The clock says 5:14. AM. I’m laying here, arguing with myself. “Close your eyes and sleep for another hour,” one voice says. “You need the sleep,” it says so convincingly.

But the other voice, the annoyingly optimistic one says, “Get up! It’s a beautiful morning! Put those running shoes on and watch the sun rise!” I groan, wanting to roll over and sleep some more, but also knowing I will feel so much better if I just get up.

Before I second guess myself, I flip back the covers and plant my feet on the floor. I stumble forward in the dark, and the more distance I put between myself and the bed, the less pull it seems to have on me.

Ten minutes later I am dressed and walking down the dark driveway, the gravel crunching beneath my feet. It’s quiet, even the birds are sleeping, and the neighbors are still tucked cozily inside their homes. The slow chirrup of the crickets hums around me. As I approach the end of the drive, I glimpse a movement low to my left.

Well hello there Oreo,” I say to our neighbor’s black and white cat. I pause to watch him, squatting down to see if he will come close for a gentle pet.

But even in the semi-darkness, I notice he doesn’t move like a cat. Instead of a cat’s graceful movements, he sort of waddles. And actually, he is too wide for a cat, and oh yes, there is a pointy face observing me as he moves about the grass, apparently unconcerned at my close proximity.

Oh. It suddenly becomes clear I am squatting three feet from a skunk.

Quietly I say, “hey there fella, nice to make your acquaintance.” I wait, watching him amble slowly away, intent on whatever it is he is doing. I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. I stand and continue on my way.

As my walk turns to a slow jog, then a slow run, and I struggle through that first hard mile, I am thinking of that skunk and what could have happened. Twenty minutes later when I reach the turn-around point at the top of the hill beside the creek, I wonder if I would get in trouble for calling out sick for getting sprayed by a skunk. Because our facility provides care for institutionalized intellectually disabled adults and requires 24-hour staffing, there are strict policies about calling out.

I imagine myself showing up at the office of Human Resources to argue my case…smelling like skunk.

~ Michelle

Posted in Joyful Moments, Simple Living | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Easy Fermented Garlic and 5 Recipes

I love using food as medicine, and garlic offers simple, yet powerful benefits. Making fermented garlic is really simple and here are five easy and delicious recipes for using your homemade probiotic-rich garlic.

Garlic – Delicious Medicine


Simple Foods for Cold and Flu

Health benefits of garlic: 

  • Stimulates the immune system
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Thins mucous
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Strong Antibacterial and Antiviral properties
  • Garlic has powerful anticancer properties


Fermented Foods – Health Benefits Go Beyond the Gut

What is fermentation? Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process where natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid (lactofermentation). This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, as well as adding probiotics.

Historically, diets worldwide were rich in fermented foods – a process that occurred naturally and was used as a method of preservation. Today, our foods are produced and shipped long distances, and sterilization methods are used to keep foods safe. Unfortunately, we now consume sterile foods and we are suffering the consequences of eliminating natural sources of probiotics from our diets.

Health Benefits of Fermented Foods:

  • improved digestion and nutrient absorption
  • nutrient synthesis (like vitamin K)
  • improving symptoms of depression
  • reducing inflammation
  • influences on our immune system
  • preventing pathogens from colonizing the digestive tract
  • a role in metabolic diseases, including diabetes and obesity


I love using food as medicine, and garlic offers simple, yet powerful benefits. Making fermented garlic is really simple and here are five easy and delicious recipes for using your homemade probiotic-rich garlic.

Directions – Easy to Make Fermented Garlic

Sea salt
Water (filtered)
Glass jar
Plastic Bag


Peel your garlic cloves and place in a glass jar
Mix 1 Tablespoon sea salt to 1 cup of water. This forms the brine.
Make enough brine to cover the garlic. Use the plastic bag filled with the sea salt brine to weigh down the garlic so it remains beneath the brine.
Ferment 1-4 weeks then cap and refrigerate. It will continue to ferment in the refrigerator, but slowly. Can be used as food and medicine.

What are some ways to use this wonderful fermented garlic?

Using fermented garlic in recipes that don’t require heat which destroys the probiotics is the best way to take advantage of your fermented garlic.

Here are my favorites fermented garlic recipes:

Garlic Butter

  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 2 – 3 cloves of fermented garlic, pressed
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste

Combine ingredients and enjoy!

Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella Salad with Fermented Garlic

Combine quartered tomatoes, basil leaves, chunks of mozzarella, olive oil, and garlic cloves. Great served on bread or whole grain crackers.

Garlic Salad Dressing

  • 2 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice, or a good quality vinegar
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 t. sea salt
  • 1/2 t. oregano
  • 1/2 t. basil
  • 2 cloves fermented garlic, pressed

Combine and enjoy!

Hummus Recipe

Homemade hummus is so easy and so versatile. Here is a basic recipe, but you can get endlessly creative.

  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed and roughly chopped
  • 2 15-oz cans of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 2/3 cup of tahini
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Combine in a food processor and enjoy!

Easy Pumpkin Seed Cilantro Pesto


1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2 cups cilantro leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 clove minced fermented garlic


Infuse the cumin and coriander in the olive oil on low/medium heat for about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and allow to cool, then add your minced garlic.
Add pumpkin seeds and cilantro leaves to blender or food processor and pulse a few times.
While blending the cilantro and pumpkin seeds, slowly add your olive oil, pausing to scrape down the sides.

Serve on bread, pita chips, as a dip for vegetables, on grilled fish, on pasta, and mixed with cooked vegetables.

Fermented Garlic As Medicine

I sometimes take a clove of fermented garlic when I feel the first symptoms of a cold coming on. Combined with raw honey, fermented garlic is excellent at stopping or shortening the common cold. You can read more about the health benefits of garlic in Simple Foods for Cold and Flu.

Simple Foods For Cold and Flu – Sage, Ginger, Garlic and Honey



In Health, 
~ Michelle

Posted in Health and Wellness, Simple Food | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Starting a No-Till Garden

Starting a garden, or creating new garden space, especially on lawn, can be a challenge. The decision to till, or use a no-till garden method depends on personal circumstances. For my first garden on our new homestead, I experimented with a no-till garden using a layer of cardboard covered with straw. In this article, I address some of the advantages and disadvantages to both tilling and no-tilling methods of starting your garden.

Garden Inspiration

It’s a hot summer day, sometime in the early 1970s, and I am on my hands and knees in the dirt, crawling through the oasis that is my mother’s organic garden. In one hand I am holding a cucumber, the top chewed off, with the other hand I am snagging beans off a curly green vine. I am fascinated at how the tendrils of vine curl around the pole and string, reaching and pulling themselves skyward toward the sun.

It’s comfortable in the shade, and the earth beneath my dirty knees is cool and damp. I sit, Indian style, munching my stolen snack. I imagine I am living in the wild, and this is my shelter.

I have carried this memory through the years. Sometimes I wonder if the garden was as magnificent as my childhood memories have made it. But I have photos of my mother standing in front of her 1/4 acre garden, the sunflowers towering over her head, the marigolds bright at her feet. I wish she were still with me, to guide me as I plan my garden oasis.

This is what I hope for and imagine when I think of my future gardens.

Starting From Lawn

Already it seems like years since we left our townhouse in the suburbs, my little illegal compost pile tucked away in the corner of our tiny backyard, hoping none of the neighbors would snitch on me to the Homeowners Association.

But that was only last spring. Now, less than a year later and I have 2 and 1/2 acres to play with. The big question is, where to begin?

Everywhere there is overgrown lawn. Well, not lawn really, as the previous owners hadn’t lived here for some time, and the grass was cut intermittently, allowing the wild weeds and plants to establish themselves.

For this season, I decided to begin with the no tilling approach.


Starting a garden, especially from lawn, can be a challenge. Using the no-till method you can easily create a productive garden with rich, nourishing soil.


Starting the garden with the no-till method creates beautiful garden soil with less physical effort than digging or tilling. However, it does require time and patience for the mulching materials to break down. Let’s compare tilling verus no-till methods:

Advantages of Tilling

  • Breaks up compacted soil and clay
  • Good for killing surface weeds
  • Mixes amendments and compost into the soil for faster planting

Disadvantages of Tilling

  • Exposes greater surface area of soil to sun and wind, causing it to dry and harden
  • Increases erosion through sun and wind
  • Alters soil structure
  • Soil more compacted from process of tilling and digging
  • Moves dormant weeds to the surface where they have a greater chance of germinating

Advantages of the No Till Method

  • Preserves the soil organisms that perform the work of breaking down raw materials into nutrients for the plants.
  • Preserves the natural soil structure – allowing soil to retain more moisture naturally
  • Prevents soil erosion
  • Reduces soil compression

Disadvantages of the No Till Method

  • Takes much longer to build soil suitable for planting
  • More strategies needed to control weeds

In addition to tilling and lasagna layers, there are other methods for starting your garden, and you can read more about Transforming Lawn into Garden Here.


I decided to start the first garden beds just outside our front door. In permaculture planning, this is zone 1. It is the area where I will spend most of my gardening and harvesting time. South facing, far enough from the house and trees to avoid shade, easy access to water, and level.

Using the empty boxes from our move, I broke them down and removed all the plastic tape. Once flattened, I spread them out over the planned garden areas. So far I have two areas – the first (or south bed, as I now call it) is about 230 square feet. The second bed (north bed) is about 250 square feet. I still have more unpacking to do, which means more empty boxes. I hope to add a third space of about 200 square feet between the south and north beds. (The large tree in the photo is on the north side).

Starting a no-till or no-dig garden.

I kept the boxes in place weighted down by large stones. The next step will be to apply a layer of straw mulch directly over the boxes, followed by composted manure, topsoil, and more straw mulching to hold moisture.

Ideally, this process would have started much earlier for a rich supply of ready soil for spring planting. This year we will invest in outside resources – bringing in the manure, soil, and mulch, but our plan is to eventually have a self-sustaining system using a combination of composted animal bedding and cover crops. So much to learn!

The Results

Using the no-till method created rich, loose soil that was ready to plant. Our final garden was created using a combination of tilling, hand-digging, and no-till layers. The soil in the no-till layers is loose, rich, and filled with earthworms. The annual vegetables produced in abundance and the area needed very little weeding.

Starting the garden with the no-till method creates beautiful garden soil with less physical effort than digging or tilling.



As we continue expanding our gardens, we are using the no-till method to create the best soils. If you are starting your garden, or want to add more garden space, the no-till method is a great strategy for building healthy, weed-free soil.

Favorite Resources

Currently, my two favorite resources  –

Cindy Conner’s  Grow a Sustainable Diet

Anna Hess has excellent resources on building healthy soils in her Ultimate Guide to Soil series.



Have you tried the no-till approach, and what were your results?



*This post contains affiliate links

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Learning Herbal Medicine

Using Herbal Medicine, I found permanent relief from Depression, Anxiety, Insomnia, and Chronic Pain.

For years I suffered from mild to moderate depression. Sometimes it got so bad I could barely drag myself from bed. Antidepressants offered relief, but I hated the side-effects, and even more, I hated being dependent on such powerful medications. After years of chronic stress, I felt my resilience declining and began suffering from chronic fatigue, anxiety, and pain. On top of the pain, fatigue, and anxiety, I started suffering from horrible, chronic insomnia. I became a walking zombie.

Over the years I tried counseling, meditation, chiropractic care, and acupuncture. All of these methods provided minor relief at best, but I still felt my health declining. For years I had been interested in herbal medicine and tried a few different remedies, but never with any confidence. It wasn’t until I started formal studies in herbal medicine and entering into a deeper relationship with the herbs that I discovered what worked for me.



Using simple herbs, I finally found significant relief. I slowly weaned myself from my anti-depressant, and have been free of depression for three years now. The chronic pain I suffered for over a decade is gone, and I sleep well. Now that I am sleeping and free of pain and depression, I feel more centered, calm, and focused than I have in a very long time. The relief with the herbs was immediate, and continues to improve over time.

Herbal medicine is a people’s medicine. It doesn’t belong to the pharmaceuticals, health food industry, profit-seeking corporations, or the bureaucrats. Herbal medicine is a gift that belongs to all of us.

That is why I want to share a wonderful resource to guide you on your journey with the healing power of the plants.

I am fortunate to live in a location with many community herbalists and affordable hands-on learning programs within driving distance of my home. I realize not everyone has the same local resources available, and must look online for their education. I spent the first two years trying to learn herbal medicine from books, and looking at online programs. In the past five years there has been an explosion of online programs for studying herbal medicine. Although I enjoy the hands-on classes with my community herbalists, I also enjoy a structured self-paced approach as well. Which is why last year I enrolled in the Herbal Academy’s online Intermediate Herbal Course. The course materials are outstanding. Their ebooks are well-organized with stunning photos. Each module includes recipes and hands-on activities to get you working with the herbs and medicine-making. The online forums allow you to participate in discussions with other students and the instructors.

Right now, the Herbal Academy is having their back to school sale offering all their courses at 15% off.

This is a wonderful way for you to deepen your knowledge and learn herbal medicine from outstanding instructors. Not only will you increase your understanding of the herbs, you will gain new insights into your health and well-being, and discover the best herbs for you.

Here is a Preview Lesson from the Introductory Herbal Course



Back to School Sale – 15% off Herbalism Classes Online!


*If you purchase through these links, I might receive a small commission at no cost to you. I only include affiliates that I personally use and trust, and I definitely believe in the value of the Herbal Academy, and the value of learning and using herbal medicine.

~ In good health,


Posted in Complemetary Health, Healing Herbs, Simple Living | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Two Lives – Homesteading Part-Time


Homesteading is a lifestyle that values hard work, creative work, and living simply. At its heart, homesteading focuses on the basics of food, shelter, family, and community. The work is deeply satisfying but never ending. How do we find balance when we must combine our homestead life with responsibilities that takes us away from the home? Homesteading part-time is possible.

Homesteading Part Time.  How do find balance when we must combine our homestead life with responsibilities that takes us away from the home?

A breeze brushes the hair across my face, tickling my nose. Impatiently I brush it aside. But I am grateful for the rising wind since it has chased away the swarm of tiny  insects that have been tormenting me these past few minutes.

All day I was looking forward to spending a few minutes of peace and quiet in the hammock, and finally here I am tucked away at the north corner of our small property. The creek trickles behind me, and as I look to the west of me, I see the sun is starting its decent.

 How do find balance when we must combine our homestead life with responsibilities that takes us away from the home?


Do you ever feel so busy that you hardly have time to think? Introvert that I am, I crave alone time for deep contemplation. I dream of the chance to sit in quiet and allow my scattered thoughts to settle. All day today as I gardened, washed clothes, made phone calls, cleaned, and prepared meals for my family, I kept looking across the field to the hammock, tempting me from out there in the trees. I suspected I would keep going from one necessary activity to the next, and never find a free moment. But finally I decided it was time to stop.

With my journal tucked under my arm, I slipped quietly away, and now here I sit. As my chaotic thoughts begin to slow, I search for mindfulness and meaning.

Two Lives – Homesteading Part-Time

Lately I feel as though I am living two distinct lives.

In one life I am setting priorities at my job, managing my time carefully, occasionally navigating hostile employee relationships, learning new things, sharing skills with my peers, and working with a team deeply committed to improving the lives of the disabled individuals we serve.

In my other life I am devoting my time and energy to building a homestead.

What exactly is a homestead, I wonder as I write these words? To me, a homestead is a place of safety and sanctuary. A place where we produce some if not most of our daily foods. Homesteading is a life that values hard work, creative work, and provides a deep sense of satisfaction. Homesteading connects us to the land and the life it supports, the seasons, and our local community. A homestead life values time with family and enjoying simple pleasures instead of pursuing entertainments that take us away from family and community.

When I am at home, whether I am cleaning, cooking, sewing, making medicine, spending time with family, or working outside, I feel a deep sense of contentment. Truly there is no other place I would rather be. I feel connected to this humble space, and nurtured by it, and I desire to nurture the land in return.

As author Jenna Woginrich so eloquently expresses:

We can sit on the porch and talk all day about philosophy and religion and what people want. But the conversation about what the human animal needs is pretty short — food, shelter, water, protection. … I find true peace and purpose in taking control of what I need.

Raising and growing your own food is more than a lifestyle — it is life. Contrary to popular belief there is nothing altruistic about it. Homesteading is the most self-involved way to live.

Taking control of what I need. Being the one to decide what I value instead of the government, corporations, marketing, and public relations people instructing me in what I need to be healthy and happy.

Yes, I can go to work and earn money to buy the things I need. But after 30 years of earning an income, I haven’t felt the same simple satisfaction that comes from making myself what I need. And this homestead life of mine, well, it is an experiment of sorts. How much of what I need can I comfortably make for myself? And by “comfortably” I don’t mean easy. There has been nothing easy about putting in the large garden we built from a blank space of lawn. Bleeding blisters, sweat stains, and sore muscles have been the price my husband and I have paid for this first garden. Not to mention the continuing hours of working the soil, building the beds, planting, weed pulling, watering, and mulching. But the work has been joyous, and deeply satisfying. The work has been shared by the man I love, and is a positive influence for my children as they observe me pursuing something I am passionate about.

My other life, filled with work that too often feels disconnected from anything meaningful, while often satisfying in small ways, doesn’t nourish my body and soul the way the work of homesteading does. I sometimes feel my other life takes too much of my time and energy, and between work hours and commuting, I am forced to compress my homesteading into a tiny corner of my life. I remind myself that life is often about compromises, and someday I hope to find a more suitable balance. But for now I will focus on the gratitude I feel for all that I do have.

As Rhonda Hetzel of Down to Earth says so well:

Instead of thinking you can’t have the life you want, just start doing things that will sustain you. Stop mindless shopping, create a budget, work in your home, develop a generous and kind attitude, let this new life create itself around you and then rely on it.

“Let this new life create itself around you, and then rely on it.”

If you “homestead”, or you want to begin, what are your reasons?
Or perhaps you have your own dream to fulfill, and I wonder, what’s holding you back?

In peace,

Posted in Finding Our Passion, Growing Gratitude, Homesteading, Simple Living | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments