Volunteering with Us đŸ˜Š

Over the last twenty years we have enjoyed volunteers from all over the world. Many of them have become family of heart, returning often.We are trying to share the concept that everyone can work toward being more sustainable, a few steps at a time.

As the years have gone by we’ve learned a lot about what works for us and what doesn’t! I thought I’d share a little about what a volunteer can expect here and what we are looking in return.

While we do ask our volunteers to help out, it is mainly about sharing our love for our local culture and the beauty of our area. If we can create a love for it, hopefully it will help preserve it for future generations!

Our life is fairly primitive, but we love it!

Most of the year, volunteers stay in tents down on the campsite.Our campsite is also our native plant garden..with paths winding around colonies of wonderful plants, some of them rare or endangered.While you are here you’ll learn about them.

The bath house has a cold water shower and compost potty…the shower is gravity flow, and has a wood burning hot water tank. The walls have art ….paintings by different volunteers..my favorite was by Charlene, She was from Quebec…all of 99 pounds soaking wet! She came in mid Febuary and it SNOWED!

When she came up to the house the next morning, we asked if she’d been warm enough! Her painting was better with snow coming down…😂

We teach as we go, sharing not only how we do something, but why. Often there be another way of doing it…even a better way..so we try to share those as well.

Another goal is helping volunteers learn how to do things, teaching old time skills…between us we know many of the old ways of doing things..I grew up with herbs both traditional, and the wild ones, so that’s a big focus of what I share.

We set down to three family style meals, sharing Our day and making plans for the next one.

We also take off hiking to the scenic areas nearby…floating the Buffalo during season, and encourage our guests to visit places like Horseshoe Canyon Ranch to climb.

We ask folks to each help with a house chore and an outside chore and then help a few hours each morning with whatever project is in the works. Many hosts ask for more hours, but we have been happy with this arrangement.

Most of our projects are aimed at making a minimum impact on our land…our home was designed using passive solar concepts, and utilizing wind patterns and passive design to help cool it. Our gardens are developed using a meld of French Intensive gardening and horticulture concepts. We forage wild plants in season, hunt and fish..using several different methods of preserving our harvests. Much of our home medical care is herbal based.

We try to share the ideas behind all this and love hearing ideas from our volunteers as well.We have learned so much from them !

Herbhome’s Mission

Mission? That works 🙂

Several of our volunteers have asked that we post our view of what we are about – so here goes…

I thought it would be tough to write about just what we believe and why we do what we do. Surprisingly it is fairly easy.

We want to pass on the love we have for our hills and hollows and be sure that the homestead skills don’t get lost. we hope to show that sustainability doesn’t have to happen in an instant- but can be achieved one baby step at a time.

We can create a better world by taking the dreams in our head and using our hands and skills to bring it to life.

I think that we interact with the “real world” daily, like it or not. Maybe we can make a difference by the small things we change on a daily basis. I used to be one of the loud , aggressive, up front people for the causes I thought were important. Now I think my role has changed. It is more about teaching, making small changes- “baby steps” each one making the word a little better. My best image is of the pebble dropping into the still pool . each ripple going out , touches and changes the next one.


We love the hills and hollows here and treasure the waters – the Buffalo – our Creeks and Springs are all  rich and beautiful. The culture here is deeply ingrained in our community and we are gifted with a good array of skills that are important to pass done so they won’t be lost.

Our volunteers from the  different work exchange programs we are involved in hopefully walk away with a love for our area- the culture and people as well as a respect for the ecology that is so rich.

I think sustainability starts one person at a time.. if we can pass that on, then we have achieved a big goal!

Medicinal Garden Planning

Some years back , we had a large(16 acre) herb garden ,with many Natives and Medicinals. Here on the new place , our focus has been more on edibles – veggies and culinary herbs..

This year, we intend to begin to renew our love of the medicinal herbs . I have been gradually collecting starts and seeds and working on preparing beds for them . The early part of September the signs are right , so we will start prepping seeds  and our rooted cuttings to go out- Happy Dance!

Please do check back on this post as I will be adding to it as the seeds germinate and all!

Please remember that these are medicinal and almost all can be very dangerous or even deadly if used improperly! This site is intended for information and pleasure only- please research thoroughly, consult reliable sources and use caution.

I have a completely separate area where I process any medicinal herbs. This is just common sense safety!

Here is a list of some the starts we have- and basic tips on growing them 🙂

Let’s start with ones for full sun or partial shade:

BelladonnaAtropa belladonna

Likes partial shade best- and rich moist soil.

I usually soak the seeds in cool water , replacing daily for several weeks- frig if you have one- but be sure to keep isolated – highly poisonous!

Belladonna grows well from seed or root cuttings. Mulch it well and it will pop back up in the Spring. Seeds take 4-6 weeks to germinate

Belladonna’s medicinal properties are best after the third year. Be sure to us gloves when handling it for harvest-

Wiccan belief uses it in astral projection and healing, while the old yarb women use it for eye irritation. Women in Medieval times used the drops as a beauty aid to brighten their eyes. Planetary association is with Saturn

Wild BergamotMonarda fistuloa

We use this as a tea- love the orangey mint tang it gives when added to other blends.

Black Mandrakemandragora autumnalis(White mandrake is var. vernalis)

A plant of Saturn , these are tender perennials here in our area- I usually plant them in a protected corner. It propagates best by root division. I loe their flowers – purple-ey with whitish stripes.

Borage – Borago officinalis

One of my favorite companion plants- it is a wonderful companion for strawberries., tomatoes  and squash. They are usually tall, with striking blue blooms that are edible in salads and such.

Cardinal FlowerLobelia cardinalis

Grows wild along creek banks here- it was endangered at one point , but has made a nice recovery- perhaps due to it’s popularity in native gardens lately. It likes rich soil and sun and enjoys closeness to water.

ElfwortInula helenium

Elfwort is one I haven’t grown before , so it and I are on a new adventure. It is supposed to smell like violets and camphor.  and the flowers are supposedly a beautiful golden color. We’ll see 🙂

Purple FoxgloveDigitalis purpera

Deadly  poison! it has been used in the past to treat cardiac arrhythmias, but is extremely poisonous. The flowers are beautiful- tall spikes of small glove like flowers ranged wn the stalk – definitely NOT a plant to have around toddlers.

HyssopHyssopus officinalis

Often  used in potpourri or in the old days as a strewing herb to fresh the floor reeds, hyssop has a sweet camphor like min smell. The flowers are edible.

MonkshoodAconitum napellus

It’s blue flowers draw bumble bees. the plant is deadly poison- remember that all these plants are medicinals – grow and use them with an clear awareness of their dangers.

Stinging NettleVrtica dioica

Ah, Mother Nettle!- source of iron and vitamins, one of the first greens of Spring, source of wonderful soup and healing. I love the green dye she makes.

PennyroyalMentha pulegium 

It can produce sweating, aid against seasickness, and is an insect repellant. It also causes liver damage in too high of a dosage , so use with caution.

SweetgrassHierochole odorata

Very poor germinator for me… but grows well here once started. A native American standby- used for purification, woven baskets and rope making.

Woodland TobaccoNicotiana sylvestris

I use this is my moon gardens – the lovely white flowers have sweet scent -not a smoking tobacco in my book.

Wolfsbane Aconitum vulparia

Needs rich, moist soil. Humble bumbles ove it , but again , it is poisonous.







July Thoughts 7/10

Another hot and humid day in the making – July weather in Arkansas, what can I say? The skies are truly glorious though!

Roosters and Mr. Cardinal had a singing competition this AM – verrry early, Bless their Hearts J  I got up    , drank my tea  out on the front deck – watched all the crazy squirrel teenagers start in playing in the trees across the driveway- they have a route they travel that actually ends up  going all the way around the house LOL- reminds me of the Tarzan movies-good old Jonny Weismuler  and Ron Eley… Ahahahhh ah!!!

Watered the baby ducks and turkeys – letting them out for their first run, now they are all feathered out and we plan on being home all day- they know to come to the food call so shouldn’t get tooo lost in the garden. We have electric around it , so no varmints should attack -crossed fingers- one of the risks of living backed up to National forest- it is a stunningly beautiful back yard, but has it’s inherent risks for livestock and Poultry.

I am really excited today! Yesterday my fall herb seeds came in . Harold at Alchemy Works has been so reliable- over the years- I primarily use them and Horizon Herbs – now “Strictly Medicinal”– sorry.. have been my most successful seeds . I ordered the medicinals for fall- been moving slowly , rebuilding from what we had at the Erbie Place. Lamaya helped check the order- she is very interested in botany. So we kinda did a teaching session.

Thursday and Friday are good planting days , so I am getting ready to soak seeds today and refrigerate them til then. It’s not a true stratification , but will  help. I am sorting them out by soil and shade requirements- and plan on spending the next few days prepping the beds for them . It is also a really practical idea to create signage that will  last the winter, so you don’t forget what is planted where, when things start to come up in the Spring .. now , ask me how I know this … HAHA.

Neill is currently in the middle of his wood working project for the bees- he is building cedar boxes- nuc boxes and Warre top bar hives.. he also built two Langstroth style hives They keep getting more and more professional looking…We currently have five active, healthy hives- I can’t wait til fall for honey – the local honey is great for allergies , plus the taste is outstanding. We had goldenrod honey this spring – wow ! what a treat. I hope to Fall sow the old field down by grey rock to herbs that are bee friendly. Maybe try to add some clover , too, though I am not sure there will be enough sun- and we really don’t want to clear it , just utilize the sunny spots.

Our long term volunteer, Ben, heads to Missouri tomorrow- and we will really miss his smiling help. Ben is a reader and a  thinker.  He wants to travel the word – Africa, Europe the Middle East. How exciting!

Don’t forget if you are interested in learning Earth Plaster, come on out Friday and Saturday – we will be elbow deep in mud!


Herbal Remedies-old timey stuff

Hi- Back again 🙂

One of our recent volunteers inspired me to get more active in herbal preparations again- it is kinda of a scarey thing  on one level – I have forgotten so much since having the stroke – but it teaching her, it started to reconnect and needs to be shared LOL.

Please remember , this is strictly folk lore- do not use without consulting a certified herbologist or medical doctor . Be absolutely certain of id on your plants- I usually recommend consulting three reliable books AND a local herbalist .

These are things we use routinely- and feel are very effective, but please consult someone with a solid knowledge base.

Now , with all the warnings out of the way …

Herbs have been a long term part of my life- both grandmothers were “yarb women” granny ladies- who folks went to for information and healing- Mother and Dad were avid gardeners with an intense love for the wild plants and our native lore. I was also blessed to know sand follow several local folks who knew the native plants and  their lore.

I built on this – taking classes and apprenticing to various folks-  growing over 16 acres of herbs during one period of my life. I also am a retired Critical Care RN with a solid base in Anatomy , Physiology and Chemistry as well as the Endochrine  system and Medications. All this underlined that love of the plants.

When we were led to this place , the day we stepped across the creek , I ID’ed more than 80 varieties of wild plants and fell in love with our home 🙂 This is a place rooted in healing and love.

Many practitioner’s are holistic or use a blend of multiple herbs to achieve their end results. My approach is that of the “Simples” Take one plant and learn it’s uses – follow it through the seasons, learning when it is best to harvest for a particular use or what part is best to use. I also love the old lore- the stories and legends the oldtimers told.

This will wander a little- I seem to remember better when I write in  a stream of consciousness style…

So here goes  🙂

Mother Nature provides many basics to well being right in your back yard- un knowingly most of us can walk outside and find a healing herb that will work for what is ailing us.

Have you got a bad case  of the trots?(diarrhea)

Well, let’s see , what have you got on hand- a little ginger that you had for some stir-fry? how about the fennel seed in your spice rack ? Garlic?  Or if your have a garden – look for blackberries- the berries or a tea of the leaves- caution the leaves can increase blood flow and contractions- – so use with caution if you are preganant!

Calendula flowers  for a tea-add a little catnip- or how about that pesky chickweed- it is a great blend with plantain!

Nettle is one of my standby internal upset.  Slippery Elm is an amazing aid, but vDery potent. I have tried to reduce my use of it- it has been almost harvested to death in the last few years. Do try to forage responsibly. Many of our precious herbs are being “loved” to death – over harvested due to popularity of “herbs”! Now on the other hand our black bear mama highly recommends Black Cohosh root for upset GI problems.

Please find and use well researched recipes for these things- these are just to let you know how easy it is to find some of the ingredients!

What is a simple ?

A basic explanation is that it is the use a single plant used to strength and enhance how your body functions .

One plant can have many uses, based  on which part is used when it is harvested, what reaction you are hoping to achieve. Plants often have a strong signature effect, yet in turn they share smaller, more subtle properties as well.

The physical side of simples is very basic, but the part that is more elusive is the  connection to the spiritual side of the plant- learning its ins and outs- listening to your spirit, respecting you instincts that help you absorb the knowledge about the plant and its uses. Expose your self to the plant year round- take notes about what ALL your senses tell you of the plant… make it part of your life. Remember it is simple – live with it – find the Mother plant – go see her daily- watch how the baby plant grows around her. Who lives near to her?- many plants have symbiotic needs-soil ph, sun , water- sometime they give off enzymes that promote the health of the sister plant- so if you are looking for jewel weed , look for poison ivy- they frequently grow side by side.

Pay attention – It is really about mindfulness. Simples are not so much about “fixing” you , but about helping you become whole and healthy. Helping your body do what it already knows how to do. when I took a class for midwives at the Farm , Raven taught us to use simples to help with birthing and healing after birth. instead of mixing a number of them together, she used them separately. Her spin on it was that they were even more effective used individually.

One example is Chickweed- it is a yummy salad green – we use it in scrambled eggs in the morning- it is a good helper to allow nourishment to be absorbed.It helps the glands and lymph systems to work better and is high in Vitamin C . I use chickweed due my massive food allergies – it seems to sooth the internal membranes- the scientific explanation is that it makes cell walls and interstitial fluids more permeable.

I often will chop chickweed  into our hummus.  Another use it salve   for sore muscles and bruises. This is one where I will blend several herbs such as comfrey peppermint, chickweed and calendula – macerating them  and letting them infused in my oils for about 6 weeks before making the salve.


Strawbale , Earth Plaster and Cob


All the Above!


I used to separate them in my mind as distinctly different areas- well guess what , gang? They are so intertwined in our world that I can no longer separate them…imagine that 🙂

Each is indeed a distinct skill, but they support and help each other to work better. It drives home how everything we do is part of the greater Circle.

I remember loving the old haciendas  in southern California when I was a girl- we had friends that were members of the old hidalgo families and a few of the older places still  existed. I loved the old missions- especially San Fernando- much of it is gone now-it is only a small space now. They were made out of adobe blocks , plastered in mud and lasted generations. Some of the old churches were severely damaged when they were coated in cement stucco- luckily the damage was discovered and the stucco was stripped and replaced with the old method of earthplaster.

Another building method that caught y attention was our cabin up in
Lone Pine- it had huge river rock walls up to the window sills with lodgepole pine above-.

When we moved here to Arkansas , I was lucky to live around some of the older cabins- a number of which were what folks called “Double Pen – Two cabins and a dogtrot porch- all under one roof…I later came across a study done by Purdue showing that a dogtrot will cool a cabin by 15% – taking the temperature from 100 degrees to 85..Here’s a picture of one


I was out in Arizona one spring when I was invited to help plaster one of the pueblos. some  of the older women told us stories- this was a tradition each year – a renewal of life-not a chore. I learned their technique- how the way the plaster is laid on affects how weather proof it is. I got to see a few awesome strawbale homes then too.

Those images stuck with me over the years. Later when I remarried , we were inspired by a local lady _Mary Olsen- who got involved in building with straw- it was so creative for her!

I wanted to build a strawbale home- but the time wasn’t right. Later we were blessed to find this place and have a chance to build our own place. I ended up volunteering a lot- learning what I liked and what I didn’t – did a lot of research into what would work in humid areas , with wet winters. Between an architect I met in Canada and several folks where I volunteered we felt like we could build a home that would handle our weather here in the Ozarks.

During the building process, we ended up incorporating  all three methods-strawbale, cob and earthplaster. Each had it’s own place in construction.

We built using the technique called in-fill. Putting up the frame and then setting the bales in, rather than load bearing , in which the bales re compressed so they are strong enough to hold up a roof. We filled any structural gaps with cob and some free form structure as well. We are now in the earth plaster stage-slow moving -life happens , but it is slowly getting done.

Integrating  all three techniques has worked for us- here are some pictures of our building adventures.