Apprentice Blog: First Herb Harvests

In my apprenticeship at Bluebird Hill this summer, one of the things I have been most looking forward to learning about is the harvesting and processing of herbs. There is something so magical about making our own medicine. With the new garden beds being built there is a lot of room here to grow these herbs. Some have already begun to bloom and I have been able to help harvest and dry them. Every day there is something else ready for us and it has been really beautiful to see them gathered up to dry. We will usually wait until early afternoon to harvest, once the sun has had time to dry the morning dew away.

Here are some of my favorites so far…

A beautiful yellow bowl of Arnica, Arnica montana, generally used topically to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds. We harvest the blooms almost daily, and every day there are as many as there were the day before!

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, we have growing all over the garden pathways and elsewhere on the property. The most common use of Yarrow is to apply topically to wounds to reduce bleeding, but also has traditionally been used internally to reduce inflammation, especially in digestion, and for soothing anxiety.

Calendula, Calendula officinalis, one of the brightest, most beautiful flowers at the homestead. We have calendula growing in several different garden beds and it is just starting to really get going! Calendula is generally used topically as a healing salve, for minor burns, cuts, bruises and infections.

Here is just the beginning of our medicine set up! On the back of the table are tinctures and liniments. On the screen drying we have arnica, chamomile, and plantain leaf. Hanging from the rafters we have mullein leaf and lemon balm. Much more to come!



At the Homestead: Seventeen Chickens

On April 10th our apprentice Hallie picked up our seventeen day old chicks from the local farm store and got them situated with the water, food, and warming cave!

Since we live off-grid with just a modest solar panel system, we aren’t able to use a typical heat lamp for brooding.  Instead, we figured out that we can use 2 heating pads to create a little cave.  We wrap both of them in a towel, place one on the floor of the brooder, and then use a bit of hardware cloth to make a little bridge arch and put the second heating pad on top.  It has been working great!


They settled in quite nicely, but wow! They grow up so fast!

Today, just about 6 weeks later, the chicks are just past the “awkward teenager stage” so we decided to move them out to the coop.

The girls stayed out there for awhile, making sure the rooster and other hens don’t get too mean. (Pecking order can be brutal, but is a necessary way they keep the flock safe.)

So far they are doing great integrating into the coop with the rest of the flock!

Welcome Back Earth Warriors Nature Club!

Our Earth Warriors Nature Club started up again today with a lovely group of kids.

Tending gardens and planting seeds for the first day…I had almost forgotten how much I love this life.


Our meander up the switchbacks was a hunt for stones to paint for our garden entrance. These kids made some sweet discoveries nestled in the hill. Quartz and agates, likely right where the glacier dropped them off.



“The best place to paint is nature because there are so many beautiful things.” ~ Asha, age 8



Amazing Progress on the Medicinal Terraced Garden

We had the pleasure of hosting two wonderfully synergistic permaculture apprentice groups this month and they helped us make HUGE progress on our medicinal garden beds!!

The process of building these raised beds begins with gathering brush from the land to form the base. More brush is woven in until the bed has three “walls” making it level with the hillside. Then we layer more brush, leaves, and straw to fill the beds. Topped off with beautiful composted horse manure (from my dad’s horses over the hill) and we are ready to plant!

Early Spring in the Kitchen Garden

The girls and I spiffed up the garden paths today with some fresh straw.

(The cardboard is to smother the brambles that have started to poke through.)

This is our “kitchen garden” that we actually started before we were even camping here on the land.  In the first couple years we expanded it and then trenched in the crucial fence for rabbit control.  It had produced a ridiculous amount of food in such a small space, and I do love this little garden.

Off-Grid Living: The Gift of Solar!

You guys, I am still in shock over what has transpired in the past few weeks…

We’ve been getting by with a little 180 watt solar panel system for the last couple years (it was an upgrade from nothing!) and recently it stopped charging my batteries properly.

So, I reached out to an old friend who has a solar panel installation business to see if he’d be willing to stop out and trouble shoot it for me. Turns out, my charge controller got zapped in a lightening storm likely this fall and was kaput.

Well, he offered to reach out to some of his vendors to see if they had anything they’d be willing to help me out with.

Holy cow, people! I can’t even believe it!

The girls and I were just gifted a $5500 brand new system!

We now have 1140 watts of panels (they are scratch and dent so couldn’t be sold but are in perfect working condition) and 2 top of the line 24 volt batteries (brand new but had been sitting on the shelf too long to sell)!

I only needed to pay for some of the new technical pieces to put it all together, and a dear friend offered to pay for it for me!

So we suddenly have more power than we know what to do with! I ran the vacuum yesterday!! And we can have lights now!

I seriously don’t even know what to do with myself.

This opens up so many possibilities for us, including me being able to do my computer work (WordPress website design) from home so I can stay here to stoke the fire!

A huge thank you to:
Craig Tarr of Energy Concepts
David Fries of Werner Electric (panels)
Steve Belisle of Bae Batteries
Chris Jarosch of Carr Creek Electric for the installation labor
And my dear (anonymous) friend for paying for the necessary pieces

We are so thankful!

Off-Grid Living: Home for the Winter?

Here on the home front, a small miracle is unfolding.

Through the help of many hearts and hands, the walls of our house are almost completely insulated!

The silver spaceship look on the front is thanks to Craigslist and some reclaimed insulation from an old elementary school.

And the pink on the back wall…well, a friend gave me a Home Depot gift card and through the magic of math, it turned out to be the exact amount needed to cover the rest…down to the last sheet!

We still have a lot to do (put up Tyvek, insulate the floor, acquire firewood), but it is looking like it’s maybe, just maybe, possible for the girls and I to stay in the house this winter!



At the Homestead: Fire and Friends Warming the Hearth

We had lots of amazing help today from our friends with the homeschool co-op! We gathered several loads of firewood from those big oaks we felled a few months ago. Our hearth is warm this evening! Many thanks!


And we hosted our first dinner with friends since moving out of the bus!  Our sand floor makes for dusty fun, but wow, it’s amazing to have a table large enough again to share a meal.

Fire and friends and food…a soul nourishing evening in the midst of this busy season!