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Sacrifice builds character

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Today is Ash Wednesday, which means that a huge portion of the world is going to give something up today from now until Easter, which falls at the end of March this year.  Now I am not catholic, but I do think there is a certain value in giving up something in order to strengthen yourself.  After all, all addicts say they could give it up and they just don’t want to.  So maybe its a good time to give something up, just to make sure you really can do without it.  Much like New Years, this can be used as an artificial construct to get you to do something you wouldn’t otherwise do.  In a good way.

The key to succeeding with a diet is to go cold turkey, and stick to it 100% for 30 days.  If you can do something for 30 days, you have moved beyond a thought pattern, and actually changed your habits.  Once that happens, you will have a much higher chance of maintaining your progress for the rest of your life.  This is true of all life changes, and lent is conveniently longer than 30 days.

So what are some things you can give up?

Eating Desert – Desert is the part of dinner that has no redeeming value.  I used to eat desert every night (including nights I didn’t necessarily eat dinner).  Also, I used to be fat.  Maybe there is a connection?  Give up desert till Easter and see if the pants get a bit looser.  Along with that, stop trying to replace desert with healthy options.  It’s still food you don’t need to be eating, and often the alternatives have more chemicals that the food.  Also, desert’s cost money, so it will stretch your food budget further to upgrade your dinner options a bit.

Using a credit card – Nothing good comes with debt.  Period.  Even if you pay off your balance in full at the end of each month, it still cost you money.  Your brain feels pain when it parts with cash.  You don’t feel that pain when you charge something, which leads you to spending more.  Your little 1% back is not changing your life.  Debt is the most heavily marketed product in the universe, they are not losing money to you.  Stop using one till Easter and see how much you spend.  Best way would be to pay cash for everything, but even a debit card will be an improvement.

Drinking/Smoking – You would assume these two things would go without saying.  I enjoy the occasional drink, and have never smoked, so I don’t relate on that level with the addiction, but no one that smokes can look me in the eye and say its healthy.  So knock off your vice until Easter and see how much better you feel.  If that doesn’t work, see how much money you save by not smoking.

Watching TV –  TV is another one of those things that everyone knows is bad for you, but we all do it, including me.  It makes you dumber, and fatter.  So why do we do it?  For me, it’s because life is stressful, and sometimes I want to turn my brain off.  Yet how much smarter would I be, and how much more would I accomplish if I stopped?

So I am not making a recommendation on what to give up here, you should figure that out for yourselves.  I would recommend giving something up, for its in absence that we grow stronger.  Give it some thought.  I am always in favour of changing lives in a positive way.  Let me know in the comments section what you are giving up.

Sleeping like a baby

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I woke up this morning and realized that I have actually been sleeping really well for the last couple weeks.  This may not seem like an achievement for many of you, but I have struggled with insomnia ever since I hit puberty way back when.  Add to that the bubbling mass of stress (good stress, but still) associated with leaving a job and moving 1500 miles, and its a wonder I can sleep at all.  Yet lately, I have been.

It has been at least a year now since I have had a major issue with insomnia.  There will always be nights where you can’t sleep for one reason or another, but I have learned the steps necessary to keep my sleep patterns as solid as possible.  Since many of my friends complain regularly about being tired or unable to sleep, I will share some of the tips I have learned that can help.

No TV-

Why anyone would have a TV in the bedroom is simply beyond me.  TV is a waste of time in general, and certainly isn’t what I would introduce into the bedroom specifically.  If you have one in there thought, don’t watch it right before bed.  Even more, don’t try to sleep with it on.  Watching TV may turn us into shuffling zombies in body, but it keeps parts of your mind moving that are counter to sleep.  It will keep you from letting your mind relax in the proper way, and cause crappy sleep patterns.

No Lights –

You would think this would be obvious, as we almost all turn off the lights to go to bed.  Yet most of us don’t take it far enough.  Our skin is an organ, and capable of sensing light.  So not only do we need to turn off lamps and overhead lights, but consider dimming your alarm clock, and the LEDs on your cell phone.  In a dark room, they could put out enough light to keep telling your body its time to get up.  I can speak to this one first hand.  For a year or so we had a dusk till dawn light up front of our house, and it would shine into our bedroom at night.  I don’t think my wife got a good night sleep the entire time we had that thing on.

No Caffeine after 4pm –

Of all my rules, this probably has the most flexibility to it.  I have had coffee in the evening, and it doesn’t keep me awake.  Now that may be because I drink organic coffee, and it doesn’t give me the jitters, but that’s my experience.  This is the one I know my friends break the most.  I get to listen to them whine about not sleeping, and you know they have been sucking down on pop the entire night, if not a red bull or something equally dumb.  This will keep you awake if you push it with processed caffeine.  Not only will it keep you awake, but it will be the worst night of your life.  Nothing is worse than laying in the dark staring at the ceiling with your heart racing. I have been there.

Don’t just lay down and try to sleep –

When you were a kid, did you parents just grab you from where you were playing and toss you into bed and say “Good night”?  No.  They gave you a bath, put on your pyjamas, read you a story, tucked you in, and turned off the lights.  Now why did they do that?  Obviously they enjoyed spending time with you, but just as important, that routine tells your brain its time to sleep.  You didn’t think that changed as an adult did you?  Build up a routine each night of about a half hour or so, it will tell your brain its time to sleep.  Jenn and I lay in bed and read together.  Its great quality time with your spouse, and helps both of us sleep better.

Take supplements, not chemicals-

If you can’t sleep, doctors will hook you up with some poisons to help knock you out, but they are nasty and dangerous.  Try some natural supplements.sleep2

This is the brand that I take myself.  I take two a night, and they help immensely.  I respond best to herbal mixes that feature hopps as the primary ingredient.  I learned this by experimentation, you will probably have to do that too.  I used to take just straight melatonin, and it helped a little, but not as much.  Find out what works for you.  There are no side effects to an herbal solution, and they are generally cheap, so try till you get it right.

You can’t put a value on a good night sleep, especially if you haven’t had one in awhile.  So make some changes today that allow you to get one.  Nothing de-stresses your life, like a good 8 hours at night.  You will feel human again.

 

Passing on our bad eating to our kids

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I feel a deep sense of irony in my subject matter today, since this entire posting was brought on by watching a commercial that annoyed me last night.  Now that’s ironic given my post yesterday about how we should all watch less TV.  I stand by that, but as I said, I still watch TV, just less than the average.

So I was watching “Kitchen Nightmares”, which is definitely a trash TV guilty pleasure of mine, and Chef Ramsey just got done berating a restaurant owner who was serving nothing but frozen food.  Chef smashed the stuff on the table, and yelled at him “The first rule of cooking, fresh is better”.  As someone who loves to cook, and eat, I couldn’t agree more.

Immediately after that line, the show cuts to commercial.  Which is the V8 fusion Rip Van Winkle commercial, it’s only about fifteen seconds long if you haven’t seen it.  At first I watched it and I just rolled my eyes, then my blood started to boil.  V8 is basically saying, oh yeah, just drink our juice, its the same as eating vegetables.  Go run the veggies they use through a juicer and taste it, tell me it tastes the same as their product.

There is another one that I haven’t seen for awhile, which is for Pediasure sidekicks.  Basically the girl is playing soccer, and the other kids turn into the foods they are eating.  She drinks a bottle of Pediasure and whoops their butts.  Somehow not turning into a giant Pediasure bottle seems like an unfair advantage against the french fry kid.

So how do those tie in to chef Ramsey?  He was a convenient vehicle for describing my point.  Fresh food is the best.  We all know this to be true, yet somehow we get that point clouded up.  We have skyrocketing obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  All of these are going off the charts in the last two generations.  Do we think that might have something to do with the processed crap we eat now?

It’s bad enough when we as adults lie to ourselves and eat horrible food, but now we are passing that on to our children.  Rather than building the basics for lifetime good nutrition, we are teaching them to reach for a magic bottle just as we do ourselves.  You don’t have to actually eat well, just down a bottle of this stuff with your hotdog and you Mac and Cheese and it will be fine.  What life skills is that teaching the next generation?

Real solutions don’t come from a quick fix bottle, especially when it comes to our health.  In the bible it refers to your body as a temple, and should be kept holy.  We are  a complex machine, that needs to be kept healthy, but the solution is to eat good whole foods, not to look for the elixir bottle.

I do realize simply by the nature of the fact you are reading this on a homesteading blog, and you probably found me through the homesteading community, that you already know this.  None of this is surprising to you, yet there is still value in studying the opposition.  This is the world we live in now, and in order to spread our message, we need to remember where the others are coming from, so we can talk to them where they are.  Otherwise, we will never change anyone’s mind.  Having good results is important, but being able to spread the message successfully is the key.

Fixing your stomach ills

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Does your stomach hurt?  Maybe not right now, but more than your feel it should?  For some reason it seems like if you live in America, your stomach probably pains you regularly.  Most of the people I know and work with realize that my wife and I are into natural cures for anything we can.  The most common questions we get revolve around stomach ailments of one shape or another.  It seems like so many people have these issues.

Fortunately for everyone involved, my wife and I have struggled off and on with digestive issues pretty much our entire lives, so we do have some good advice that we can pass along.  Its amazing looking back how simple the cures turn out to be when you have lived with it for so long.  You will start to wonder, why didn’t I do this sooner?  So here are five things that we have found to be effective for us, and all of them are inexpensive things you can try.  If you try some of them, let us know if they worked for you.  I would love to be able to use you as another success story.

Gluten Free – I am putting this one first, because the others will merely treat the symptoms this one creates.  If you have read my blog archives, you know I have gone paleo, which cuts out gluten.  The change in my stomach has been phenomenal.  Even as a high stress individual, I still feel so much better without gluten in my diet.  My wife, who is actually allergic to gluten, has seen her life change dramatically without it.

I am not going to go long with this one.  If you want to full details on why gluten is bad check out The Paleo Solution by Rob Wolf.  He is very detail and scientific in his approach.  If you want something more basic, go read my older posts on my conversion.  The short version is that the gluten in wheat, and many other grains, is an irritant and a toxin to your body.  It offers nothing to you, and takes away a lot.  So if you have long running digestive issues, I urge you, cut out wheat for 30 days.  If you don’t feel better, come back and call me a fool.  But I know that if you actually remove gluten, and stick to it, for that long, you won’t regret it.

Fenugreek –

Fenugreek

This is one I mentioned in passing yesterday, and I have had a lot of success with recently.  Its an herb cultivated pretty much through out Asia, and its known primarily for increasing hormone levels in both men and women.  I didn’t actually notice that affect, however, its secondary use is calming the stomach, and it did a great job with that.  My pain went away within just a few days of using it, and it never came back while I was taking it.

Activated Charcoal –

CHarcoal

This one was actually introduced to me by our first neighbours in Tucson when I was sick with food poisoning for literally 5 days.  Not going to go into details, but it was bad.  They hooked me up with a bottle of it, and it helped almost immediately.  It has had a permanent home in our medicine cabinet ever since.  Activated charcoal basically absorbs the negative things around it.  So if you have food poisoning or heartburn, just toss a few of these babies in there.  They will absorb the bad stuff.

Shatavari –

shatavari

Shatavari is another Indian herb, actually from the same family as asparagus.  Its primary use is also hormonal balance and reproductive health in women and men.  However, its also good for just about any condition in which the body and the mind are depleted and out of balance, such as heartburn, indigestion, etc.  I haven’t taken this without the Fenugreek, so its hard to say which is the most effective, but taking them together was certainly effective.

Probiotics –

This is probably the most well known on the list, because its been picked up by mainstream medicine a little.  Mainly, your guts are filled with bacteria, and they should be.  The issue is that the foods we eat are processed and dead, so the bacteria don’t replenish.  We also take antibiotics for everything, which carpet bombs bacteria in the body, both good and bad.  So pick up some of these and they will start to rebuild your guts.  If you want the free approach, start lacto fermenting your own food.  That process creates probiotics, which was exactly why I started learning how to do it.

4 Essential Oils to make sure you have

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I have found that my best homesteading lessons come from the things I was sure wouldn’t work.  So my best posts tend to be about things that I was sure wouldn’t work, and then my discovery that they do indeed work for you.  My first real knowledge exposure to essential oils came from listening to a podcast on them.  Of course my wife had already learned a good deal about them, and we decided to add a few to our house herbal stock.  At first, I don’t mind saying, I was sceptical that they would do anything.  I am also not going to sit here and say that they will cure any and everything that ails you, but they are yet another powerful tool to have available to you.

Where to get your oils:

As with quite a bit of natural medicine, there are a lot of snake oil people mixed in with the real herbalists.  You can get your oils in lots of places, but I personally would recommend either Western Botanicals or Julie Behling’ Essential Survival for you oil needs.  These are not affiliate links of any sort, I don’t get any money if you click them.  They are simply good companies that I would have no problem recommending that you work with.  They will give you knowledge and good service.

What to look for:

There is one big red flag to look for when determining if you should purchase an essential oil. Look at the bottle, and see if it says “For external use only”.  If it does, its lower quality.  Real essential oil was meant to be able to be ingested into your body.  That’s how you receive the benefit from almost anything.  So if the bottle says external only, its the stuff designed for massage purposes.  That doesn’t make it entirely useless, but you can do better for sure.

Which oil does what –

The first thing I noticed when trying to learn about essential oils, is that they all appear to do everything.  We are so used to medicines that treat only one thing, usually while causing many others.  Oils aren’t like that, and nature isn’t like that.  Nature approaches each situation as a whole.  So while there are tons of great resources online for you to learn what oils to use, I would suggest trying the out.  You may react differently than everyone else, and that’s OK.

The 4 Essential – Essential oils:

Eucalyptus – I can’t say enough good things about having eucalyptus oil in the house.  I have used it quite a bit lately, and it is very effective.  Eucalyptus is the stuff that lets Hall’s cough-drops clear out your sinuses.  So a great way to keep your breathing open during allergy season is to dab a little of it inside your nose.  It keeps my breathing clear for quite awhile.  It also is good on infections, so when my ear starts to bother be, I dab a little around the outside, and it helps to keep my ear canal open.

Cedar Oil –  I am a huge fan of cedar oil.  It has about a dozen uses that it can be good for, including anti septic properties, but I have never used it on a wound.  For me, I love cedar oil because it is a sedative.  I am by nature a high stress person, and I occasionally go off the deep end with things.  Dabbing a little cedar oil around my face and neck provide quite a bit of relaxation.  I don’t even mean in the aromatherapy sense.  I mean I can actually feel my muscles unclench.  Will always have this one.

Orange Oil – Due to the high stress nature, I tend to have some digestive issues as well.  Orange essential oil is a great cure for many of those symptoms.  Mainly it is a way to reduce and prevent gas pain from forming in your stomach and intestines.  Also, its not an oil, but if your stomach pains you, taking Fenugreek is a great addition to your herbal regimen. It works wonders.

Tea Tree Oil – As I have mentioned in previous posts, my skin is absolutely horrible.  Always cracking, or getting rashes etc.  Tea Tree Oil is amazing when applied to any skin ailments.  It will help clear them up, and heal them over in relatively short order.  It also smells amazing, and has a great cooling feeling.

So these are the first four essential oils I recommend adding to your medicine cabinet, as they have worked for me.  More importantly than taking my recommendation though, is get out and try it on your own.  Test them, use them, and heal yourself.  What have you go to lose?

Surviving the Hacking, Horking, and Coughing that is winter

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Well, it’s flu season.  If you don’t believe me, go watch the news for five minutes and listen to them lose their minds about it.  My FM transmitter in my car broke, forcing me to listen to the radio.  That has brought with it a whole separate  set of headaches, but at least I am very up to date on the EPIDEMIC sweeping across our nation.  I figured EPIDEMIC should be in caps since every time I hear it, it sounds like the news man is about to leap through the radio at me and sneeze on me.

I almost never get sick.  Since I work in retail sales, its not a question of hiding until the germs go away, I am on the front lines every year.  When I went to Safeway yesterday, it seems like the entire store was hacking and coughing near all of my food stuffs, which was kind of gross.  Yet other than being a little grossed out, I am confident that I won’t get sick, because of our lifestyle (and I wash all of our food).  So here are some tips on staying healthy in the winter time, and more importantly, these are the ones that I think actually help me stay healthy, not just random internet blathering.

1. Don’t be afraid of germs, you kinda need them

purell

Purell is not your friend.  Stop hosing yourself and everyone else down with this crap.  There are 7 of us at work.  Two of us regularly use purell for no stupid reason.  Guess which two in the store are always sick?  True, this is highly anecdotal, but I bet you know that person too.

We do have purell in our Bug Out Bags, and my wife always has some in her purse.  The only time we use it is when we go to the farm, pet all of the animals, and then head home.  We don’t want to bring any germs back to our own animals from outside sources.

Your immune system works by fighting against germs and viruses that work their way into your body.  So removing all the germs from your hands at all times means they have nothing to fight against.  Giving them small little exposures all the time lets you build up a natural response, rather than getting whooped all at once in January and your body has no hope.

2. Garlic is your friend

garlic
I don’t know any way to test this one, but Jenn and I eat a truly heroic amount of garlic in our every day cooking.  According to top Google results, garlic contains the anti-viral and anti-bacterial compound Allicin.  I don’t know about any of that, but we eat way more of it than anyone else I know, and we never get sick.

3. 2 cups of coffee everyday

coffee

This is one I greatly enjoy pulling out to astonish people.  Coffee is not bad for you, in fact, in some ways its better for you than tea.  It contains more anti-oxidants than tea, more caffeine than tea, (which isn’t bad for you by the way), and can help keep your mind healthy.  Also, the very act of drinking a hot cup of coffee in the morning means you breath in steam.  Steam helps open your sinus passages and keep stuff from growing in there.

4. Get some sleep

sleep

The last one is probably the easiest.  Get some sleep.  Last night my wife and I went to bed at 10.  Super exciting and classy for the night life right?  Who cares?  Your body needs its rest.  Sleep is when the well oiled machine re-greases itself.  Why do you think you are so tired when you are sick?  Your body is trying to go into that repair mode.  I never try to get less than 7 hours of sleep in a night, and 8 is better.  Your body will thank you, trust me, Leno ain’t worth it.

5. Only your body can cure you

I am not even touching the whole flu shot thing, but regardless of which medicine you are considering, it doesn’t actually make you better.  Only your body can heal you.  All medicine does is try to weaken the illness so your body can fight it off.  That’s why natural stuff works, its boosting your body to make it strong enough to fight.  So think about the actions you are taking right now.  Is that Taco Bell really the fuel your body needs right now?  Do those beers help or hurt your ability to heal?  Is this really the time of year to burn the midnight oil?  Support your body, and it will support you.  Let it down, and it will drop you like a sack of hammers.

A good solution for chapped skin

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Its officially a new year right now for everyone that could be reading this.  At least for most of us, those chilly January days mean havoc on your skin.  When I lived back home, I actually never had this sort of trouble.  No matter how cold it got, my skin never really bothered me.  Now that I live in Arizona, something about the combination of the ultra dry air, the cold, and the impressive wind keeps my hands pretty dry out here.

Well, I finally found something that works to fix it, and its natural.

BeeceuticalsSalve1

Beeceuticals Honey Lemon Hand Salve

No, thats not an affiliate link.  I don’t get any money for you buying.  I do want to make your life easier by pointing the way to products that work.

Pros:  This stuff is all certified organic.  To me actually, certified doesn’t mean anything, but its good to know there is no RoundUp being rubbed into your skin.  It smells great, and stays on your skin without feeling greasy. The bees wax forms a barrier on your skin, protecting it long term.  This works really great on the sections of my skin that are chapped and dry.

Cons: There is no anti-itch property in this salve.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be organic.  Still, be warned.  If you put this on a particularly itchy patch.  You still have to remain vigilant that you don’t scratch it off.  When typing.  On your blog last night.  Right on the itchy patch on your thumb.  Be warned.

Overall, I think this stuff is a huge plus to have around in the winter, my hands do feel much better.  Just be aware of what it is designed to do, and don’t expect what it can’t provide.

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