Summer Update from the Homestead

mama - CopyAlas – summer in the Colorado Rockies is such a quick, brilliant burst of color and foliage, and a whirlwind of harvesting, weeding, gardening, and taking in as much sunshine as you can. Last week my household got up at the customary hour of 6:30 in the morning and we could see our breath standing on the porch. You can smell the musty air, you can feel it crunch on your skin, you can see it in the raspberries that popped a full month early, and the red clover that wasn’t as abundant as last season…winter is right around the corner.

I am grateful for the turning of the seasons – right when I think I’m too tired to go out and harvest, mother nature’s cold snaps remind me to get it while I can. I smile to myself thinking of all the writing that I will get to catch up on, and the books that I need to finish, and long, lazy autumn days sipping Mountain Mama tea and watching the clouds change their floating viscosity.

The beautiful, ironic contrast of impending autumn means a quick hustle to get every last bit of the good harvest, garbling (processing raw herbs for long-term storage) at all strange hours of the day and night, and finishing all those ambitious summer projects. Here are a few of the things we’ve been up to at the Homestead:

Holistic noxious weed education and removal – talking to folks about the edible and medicinal properties of common weeds like dandelion, thistles, and mullein; harvesting these plants where they have overtaken hillsides, mountain tops and gardens; and turning our bountiful harvest into potent medicines like our Deep Breath tea (a delightful blend of mullein, mint and mugwort) and Dandelion Blossom Syrup (as delicious as it sounds)!

If only the dandelions would bloom all year long...

If only the dandelions would bloom all year long…

Used medical equipment drive – since May of this year, we have picked up 19 pairs of crutches, 17 walkers, 5 braces (knee, back, etc.), 3 wall-mount support bars, 3 walking boots, 3 shower chairs, 2 gait belts, 2 raised toilet seats, 2 humidifiers, 2 canes, 2 shoulder slings, 2 wheelchairs, 1 commode, 1 portable in-home electric lift, 1 portable in-home oxygen concentrator, and various other useful medical items such as physical therapy equipment, sterile bandages and wraps, chuck and pads, etc.

home medical equipment

The estimated retail value of these donated items exceeds $5,000 – which is really an amazing figure when considering most durable medical equipment is purchased brand new, very often out-of-pocket, and used for a very short time.

Thanks to grant funding from The Mountain Forum for Peace, we will be extending this program through the fall and expanding our ability to store and inventory equipment, and get it to the people who need it most.


If you are in Colorado, it’s worth coming “up the mountain” to see what The Holistic Homestead is manifesting this fall!


Wild Weed Walk for families and children ages 6 and up. This is a free event sponsored by the Nederland Community Library, our last chance to see what blooms wild and wonderful in our own back yards!

Roadside Herb Stand Labor Day weekend – come and taste, and smell, and try on the herbal creations we’ve been so busy concocting all summer (just in time for leaf season, too)!

Sacred Smudge Sticks, Herbal Lore and Ritual Crafting at Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center’s 16th annual Enchanted Forest. Come and make some magik with the Homestead September 24th!

The Holistic Homestead is a Colorado Nonprofit Organization dedicated to increasing health literacy, building healthy communities and advocating for the medically underserved. Did you enjoy this article? Are you subscribed to get a free e-mail every time we publish fresh, original content? Would you like to receive our hard-copy printed monthly Newsletter in your mailbox for just $1 / issue? Click here and make a donation of $12 today to start receiving your monthly newsletter, and to help us continue to pursue our goals! 

Carolyn Kennedy, LPN, gets the numbers AND tells you what they mean. The GOOD news is, many heart disease factors are based on lifestyle choices that you can change....NOW!

5 Ways to be Heart Healthy

When I stepped into the Gilpin County Public Health building for a Cardiac Risk Assessment, I had no idea what to expect. “I’m perfectly healthy…what am I doing here?” My doubts subsided as Holly, Gilpin County Public Health’s new administrative assistant, greeted me with a bright smile and directed me down the hall to the right. That’s where I met Carolyn Kennedy, Licensed Public Nurse and Community Health Worker from Clear Creek County.  Carolyn greeted me at the door with a confident handshake. And then I remembered why I made the appointment: Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Gilpin County. While I don’t have any symptoms of heart disease, it is crucial to understand lifestyle choices that might be hurting my long-term heart health. The good news: many of the factors that lead to heart disease are preventable like controlling your weight and quitting smoking.


Meet Holly Lannen Lanthier, a welcoming smile at Gilpin County Public Heath

Meet Holly Lannen Lanthier, a welcoming smile at Gilpin County Public Heath

Knowledge is Health

           “Education is the most important factor in chronic disease prevention,” she told me as I filled out a form allowing Carolyn to take a tiny drop of blood from my finger. She pressed the drop onto a tiny piece of glass and slid it into a machine to analyze the sample. As we waited for the readout Carolyn asked me to stand on a body composition scale – the most sophisticated scale I’ve ever seen. It measures your height, weight, Body Mass Index and fat percentage. Within seconds the scale beeped and printed out a receipt with all the facts. The tiny machine analyzing one drop of my blood also printed out a receipt describing my blood glucose, and total cholesterol, breaking it down into LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol. As she checked my blood pressure and pulse we talked about what all the numbers mean, and how I can make better lifestyle choices to improve my heart health, “so the golden years can be golden rather than weighed down by heart disease.”

Carolyn has been commuting to Gilpin County since 2009 to offer Cardiac Risk assessments to Gilpin residents. As a Licensed Practical Nurse she has the expertise to talk with you about what the test results mean. She comes to the Gilpin County Public Health building on the second Wednesday and fourth Tuesday of every month, and spends approximately 30 minutes with each person who comes in for a Cardiac Risk Assessment.

Carolyn Kennedy, LPN, gets the numbers AND tells you what they mean. The GOOD news is, many heart disease factors are based on lifestyle choices that you can change....NOW!

Carolyn Kennedy, LPN, gets the numbers AND tells you what they mean. The GOOD news is, many heart disease factors are based on lifestyle choices that you can change….NOW!

An A1C test is also offered as a part of the Cardiac Risk assessment for $10. This test measures your blood glucose levels over the past three months – an important piece of information if you might be pre-diabetic, or have a strong family history of diabetes.

How can YOU take better care of your heart NOW?

  1. Eat healthy and get active!
  2. Watch your weight
  3. Quit smoking (quitting NOW reduces your risk for developing heart disease by 50%)
  4. Manage stress
  5. Be informed! Getting a Cardiac Risk Assessment gives you the facts about your present heart health and lifestyle factors that put your heart at risk, and gives you the tools to make positive, lasting change for your heart health.

           Gilpin County Public Health offers free cardiac risk assessments twice a month.  These assessments check total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, blood glucose, blood pressure and oxygen levels to determine the risk of heart disease. Call 303-582-5803 for an appointment today.

gilpin county public health

…and, if you don’t happen to live along the scenic Peak to Peak highway along the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, why not call your local Public Health Department? Get to know the resources they offer to help keep your community healthy and happy!

Summer Solstice Wildcrafting Party!

Dear Friends,

It’s time for our third annual summer solstice wildcrafting party! This event happens right at the peak of arnica season at our Homestead in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado – the entire hillside behind our cabin will be golden yellow with bright arnica blossoms, and just about everything else will be at the height of freshness (except the raspberries, of course). I offer this once a year as an opportunity for folks to tour our apothecary, and to see where the Homestead harvests and stores our herbs, and to show you how incredibly simple and easy it is to build your own herbal apothecary with very little space! (Our mountain cabin is very tiny!)


Arnica grows in large patches on well-drained high-altitude mountain slopes and open fields

It also gives folks a chance to see how I work…which I’m learning is a bit different from what you’d expect. Every time I go out to harvest, I start by sitting on mother earth, preferably under a large tree (like the giant blue spruce “Grandmother” tree in the center of our property). With my mother’s drum, I sing songs of devotion to the earth, of love and caring for all creation, of gratitude for my place in nature’s delicate web. Then I go for a long walk.

Before harvesting anything, I get as close to the earth and the plant as possible and listen. What do you hear? The plants will talk to you, they will tell you if they are good medicine, they will tell you which part to use. They will tell you if they have any special friends that should be in the mix, or if they are potent enough on their own. They will tell you what they need, and will offer what you need…if only you will listen.


yes, I’m standing in a field of nettle!

Even with a semi-commercial operation, I still never harvest more than 10% of any given plant in one area. I want these plants to thrive, to propagate, and to provide shade and nourishment to the other creatures with whom I share these precious forests. Mother nature always provides enough.

Click this link to buy your ticket for our once yearly celebration! Solstice blessings, Arwen

home medical equipment

The Hidden Life of Used Medical Equipment

Dr. Camarata modeling some of the used medical equipment he loans for free

Dr. Camarata modeling some of the used medical equipment he loans for free

Last time I was in a doctor’s office, I needed a sling for my shoulder. He stepped out of the office, and moments later walked back in with a brand-new sling, still in the package. “Just bring that back when you’re done with it, okay?” Was my insurance paying for this nice, new, perfect-fit sling? No. Dr. Camarata, the PCP for our small mountain town, buys them out of pocket. Does he get even a percentage back? No. He just likes to keep them on hand because, well, he’s a doctor, and his patients need things like slings, and walking boots, and back braces, and wheelchairs…

What surprised me the most was that he was able – or allowed, to give used medical equipment to his patients. Anyone who has visited a clinic in Boulder, for example, will note that everything comes fresh out of plastic, and they will not under any condition accept used medical equipment under the pretense of a small, but real, liability.

Life in the mountains, however, is far more practical. “A guy breaks his leg at Eldora.” Camarata tells me, “Wife comes in crying, ‘do you have any crutches?’ Sure. bring ‘em back when you’re done with them – I know they won’t come back.” Dr. Camarata says with his characteristic chuckle. “I might give a prescription to get crutches. But they gotta go down the hill. I have no way of knowing whether insurance pays for it or not. I may write a prescription for crutches knowing the patient may not get it for a couple days, but they need it now.” So, his solution is to keep enough on hand so that when someone comes in who needs medical equipment – his office is ready and willing to fill that need. Dr. Camarata is not going to wait for insurance to approve medically necessary equipment that you really needed yesterday – nobody walks (or wheels) out of his office empty handed.

Dr. Camarata makes sure all the equipment that is donated (or returned) is safe and clean. Ace bandages can be washed and reused, as long as they are not put on open wounds. He even has a few pairs of USB foot-warming slippers. “We have plenty of four-wheel walkers right now, but we could really use another wheelchair, and we always need crutches.”

Gilpin County’s hidden treasure

Where do folks go for used medical equipment in Gilpin County? The answer, to my surprise, was the Gilpin County Senior Services Coordinator/Angel-in-disguise Mary Ellen Makosky. Keeping inventory of used medical equipment is not strictly within her job description, but it’s an ongoing need for the people she serves. “People just come in and say, can I borrow a wheelchair so I can go to the game? or take my mom to a political rally? of course.” Occasionally she will find a pair of crutches or a walker for Gilpin residents who recently had surgery or were in an accident. No prescription required here. “We try to keep track of that stuff,” Mary Ellen shared with me, “who takes it and what date. Sometimes things happen when people pass away and nobody knows who that stuff belongs to. I try to get a Gilpin county sticker on them, but still they don’t always come back.”

Mary Ellen Makosky is the trusted keeper of this precious resource for rural mountain communities

Mary Ellen Makosky is the trusted keeper of this precious resource for rural mountain communities

Because tracking used medical equipment is not a full-time service, storage space is a challenge. While Dr. Camarata’s storage is akin to a small walk-in closet, the provisional storage at Gilpin County Human Services is about the size of a broom closet. “When one of our senior’s husband passed away she called me and said do you want the potty chairs and walkers and all of the things he was in need of during the time he was ill. I said I would love to have them but I don’t have the space. She said ‘I do’. So she has a room in her house where she keeps all the things that get donated – wheelchairs, toilet seats, walkers, tub seats, shower seats.”

Sometimes Mary Ellen’s office is brimming with wheelchairs, other times she simply doesn’t have enough of the right equipment to meet demand. “Somebody needed a shower chair and it hadn’t been returned and we didn’t write down the name and never found out who it was.”

Mary Ellen tries to keep track of the equipment as it comes and goes, but keeping inventory and tracking people down is incredibly time consuming. “What I really want you to highlight is this big piece about donating equipment that is no longer needed, or bringing it back if you’ve borrowed it. We can’t keep it going if we don’t continue to get our stuff back in good working-order, and clean.” For Mary Ellen, items such as toilet risers and shower chairs are in demand especially for someone who recently had hip surgery or a knee replacement. “When people donate these things, that’s wonderful and then we can continue to share them…it takes a village!”

What’s in YOUR closet?

home medical equipment           Do you live in the Peak to Peak region (between Idaho Springs and Estes Park) and have used medical equipment – clean and in good, working order – that you are no longer using? The Holistic Homestead will pick up your used medical equipment and take it to a local distribution point so that your wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, shower chairs, raised toilet seats, portable commodes, walking boots, cervical collars, slings, ace bandages, knee and back braces and even USB foot warming slippers can find a new life helping others in our community to live better! Contact Arwen directly at (720) 459 – 0442 or to arrange a pick-up.

Last chance to register for Spring Cleanse 2016: Body, Speech & Mind

Our cleanse begins tomorrow! Hooray! Are you dancing for joy with me? No…?

“Cleansing is such a drag.” – Not with the Homestead! Here at the Homestead, you will not go hungry, you will not be starving yourself, you will not be choking down some terribly bitter brown sludge slurry that looks the same going out….well, you get the picture. I like to keep cleansing light, joyous and inspiring so that we look forward to dedicating one week every spring to self-renewal.

a glassful of delicious kefir to help your body achieve balance before, during and after a cleanse

a glassful of delicious kefir to help your body achieve balance before, during and after a cleanse

“Cleansing is expensive!” – Not true! In fact, the best cleanse would be to drink more water, which is free. Even better would be to give up smoking and drinking for a week, which actually saves you money. What’s different about this year is we are asking for a small donation when you join our cleanse – because The Holistic Homestead is a nonprofit corporation – we’re using our regular programming as opportunities to raise money to become a fully-fledged and self-supporting 501(c)(3). While your donation is not tax deductible, yet, for as little as $1 you can contribute to a good cause AND get all the goodies you need for an awesome cleanse including:

  • personalized cleansing plan
  • day by day inspiration
  • awesome, delicious & incredibly nutritious cleansing recipes
  • support from fellow cleansers
  • free PDF of our April newsletter

All of the content you receive from the Homestead is free – and, I actually do all of this for no pay in my spare time. That being said, the extra care and love that I put into the program for our Spring Cleanse is also on a volunteer basis. Why? Because giving and receiving is a universal law. I really do, from the bottom of my heart, want all of my readers to know more, to be more empowered about their health, and more self-sufficient when it comes to health care. That’s why it’s good for my karma to start a nonprofit, and why it’s good for your karma to contribute.:-)

Bob's Red Mill high fiber with flax hot cereal in almond milk with local honey and organic THAT'S my kinda cleanse

Bob’s Red Mill high fiber with flax hot cereal in almond milk with local honey and organic apples…now THAT’S my kinda cleanse

“I have a medical condition that prevents me from undertaking a cleanse.” YES – I won’t argue with that. If you are diabetic, have hypo- or hyper-glycemia, are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, if you are breastfeeding, or have a heart condition (sensitive to slight changes in electrolyte balance), or any other serious medical condition for which your doctor has explicitly forbade you from altering your diet…then, definitely, don’t do the “BODY” part of this cleanse.

(And, this would be a good place for me to recommend that everybody considering undertaking our spring cleanse this year gets the okie-dokie from your doc BEFORE starting any new “diet or exercise programs…”)

Otherwise, the speech and mind portions of our cleanse are totally safe ways to clean out the “psychological” clutter that hangs out in your brain (ie, negative thought patterns, addictive behaviors, etc.) and in our subtle bodies (the air or wind element, purified with breathing techniques, mantra and periods of silence). Adding these facets to our definition of “cleansing” makes it a truly holistic experience.

a delicious, simple, warming bowl of butternut squash soup with Nettle-Me seasoning

a delicious, simple, warming bowl of butternut squash soup with Nettle-Me seasoning

Spring Cleanse 2016: Body, Speech & Mind is being hosted on, begins Friday, April 22 at 12 noon and goes for eight full days until Friday, April 29th at noon. Please like, comment, share, and register today!

Deepak Chopra wants to know, “What are you hungry for?”

whatareyouhungryforI wish I had 100 copies of this book. After giving a copy to each of my family members, friends and clients, and then donating a copy to my local library, I would save the last three copies for myself: one copy would sit in the fridge, another in front of the bathroom mirror and the last one I’d keep in my purse – just in case.

I wish I had written this book myself, but I’m not a world-renowned doctor, philosopher, motivational speaker or author of 22 bestselling books like Deepak Chopra. But I will steal a page (or two) from his approach to healing everything:

“It’s incomplete medicine when the mind-body connection is being ignored. In anyone’s story, the main themes aren’t incidental or irrelevant. When you feed negative input into the brain, it changes, shaping itself to conform to the messages it receives. The brain has no mind of its own. It cannot choose which instructions to obey and which to ignore. You are the one who possesses a mind, and you are the author writing your story…you can feed negative messages to your brain or positive messages – the choice is yours.” (p 38-39)

This is Dr. Chopra’s overture to the best anti-dieting book ever. Why “anti-dieting”? Because diets don’t work. And why don’t they work? Because any approach that addresses only the superficial issue, i.e. “overeating”, or a regimen that requires unsatisfying and narrowly limited food choices never touches the source of our cravings – hence the question: “What is it that you are really hungry for?”

Dr. Chopra’s answer is simple enough: fulfillment. When we reach for a candy bar on the run or go back for seconds when we’re already full, we are trying to fill another void in our lives – a need for love, self-esteem, a sense of purpose. We know a salad would be better than a plate of french fries, we know that taking a walk would be better than watching a movie…and yet we rarely make the better choice. We’ve heard all the good advice about how to get healthier, lose weight and enjoy life…and yet we find it impossible to change. “What’s missing,” Chopra argues, “is how to change.” Continue reading

Spring Cleanse starts TOMORROW! Here are some tools to get ready

Spring Cleanse 2016: Body, Speech & Mind is shaping up to be the most holistic cleanse we’ve had here at the Homestead ever. Ironic, I know. But the emphasis is usually on cleansing just the body – eschewing certain foods, increasing fluids and fiber, and getting plenty of rest. From your feedback, I’ve learned cleansing is about so much more than just changing your diet.

This year, I want to challenge you to take on this cleanse with the intent to clean out, dust off, brighten up and clarify your minds/thoughts, your speech/breath, as well as your bodies. In fact, if you could only focus on one aspect of cleansing, I dare say start with the mind. Why? Because as Deepak Chopra teaches, the mind is the source of your motivation to take care of yourself or not, it is the intelligence that organizes the thoughts that dictate what you say and do, it is the innate sense of self that either feels complete or lacking.

My Clean Livin' herbal blend includes nettles, blessed thistle and dandelion root, simple herbs that can support your cleansing

My Clean Livin’ herbal blend includes nettles, blessed thistle and dandelion root, simple herbs that can support your cleansing

While most of us live somewhere in-between those dichotomies, it is not hard to see the mind as the foundation of health. Everything else builds on our mental and emotional well being – how solid is your foundation? How do you measure mental health?

How do you do a “mind” cleanse? 

  • for the first two days of our cleanse together, eschew technology as much as possible. No TV, no internet (not even this blog!), no phone calls.
  • avoid tabloids, newspapers, advertisements, and dramatized violence of any kind for a couple days or the entire 8 days of our cleansing time together.
  • include “healthy mind” practices like meditation. This can be achieved as simply as finding five minutes to sit quietly by yourself in the morning, or taking a slow, peaceful stroll in the park every afternoon.
You don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy cleanse-in-a-box, most of what you need is already in the pantry

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy cleanse-in-a-box, most of what you need is already in the pantry

Planning a cleanse can be a very individual thing, or it can involve sharing with your family and coworkers that you are taking a prescribed amount of time for self-care, that you do this every spring, and that cleansing is essential to optimizing your productivity at work, your loving presence at home, and even your overall sense of satisfaction in life. (Feel free to borrow any language in here that might be a helpful script, at first it was awkward for me to explain to my family why I’m not eating for a few days, but now they expect me to be cleansing every spring – great motivation!)

What comes to mind when we think about cleansing the speech? Okay, some of you may already be thinking, “What?! I don’t need to cleanse my speech, my speech is just fine as it is, thank you. In fact…” but that is just the point. A “speech cleanse” should involve some commitment to silence, and not just talking less, but also writing less, and responding to e-mails and Facebook less (or not at all).

In the space that is created between words, there is a vast opening to new insights, to deeper peace, to a quieter and more serene way of being. There is less desire, and more stability. There is less confusion, and more clarity. There is literally less noise, and more listening – have you taken the time to discover these qualities?

This practice has profound fruits, and I invite you to try a “speech cleanse” as a bit of an experiment: do you experience these things that I’ve described? Do you make other discoveries? Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Share with your friends, family and coworkers your intention to do a cleanse, and what that entails
  • Commit to some periods of silence, and be specific with creating boundaries to normal modes of communication during your cleanse, especially on the phone or social media.
  • Incorporate vocal prayers into your speech cleanse. If you are spiritual, this may include reciting “Hail Mary” or repeating a mantra like the “Vajrasattva” mantra, which is specifically for purification: OM VAJRA SATTVA HUNG.
  • During our cleanse together, we will be practicing cleansing breaths and mantra from the yogic tradition, as tools to cleanse our speech.

There will be more content about cleansing the body – including delicious recipes to help make your cleanse joyful and liberating! If you can’t wait to get started, here’s some food for thought:

Spring Cleansing from the Inside Out

My 9 tried-and-true tips for a successful spring cleanse

Don’t give up! 13 ways to keep your cleanse joyful

And, if you are ready to take on a cleanse this year, go ahead and register now. You will receive daily updates, cleansing schedules, a personalized cleansing plan, feedback from a supportive community of fellow cleansers, and wonderful cleansing recipes!

a glassful of delicious kefir to help your body achieve balance before, during and after a cleanse

Ready, set, CLEANSE!

a delicious, simple, warming bowl of butternut squash soup with Nettle-Me seasoning

a delicious, simple, warming bowl of butternut squash soup with Nettle-Me seasoning

It’s springtime again at the Homestead, which at this elevation means a mix of snow, ice and mud with the occasional hail storm. But already we can see tiny green sprouts poking up through the thinning frost and birdsongs echoing among the lodgepoles that surround our cabin.

Reflecting on the past winter, I must confess that I really let it all go. My diet was not the greatest, and stress eating, and drinking more than usual has left me more sluggish and not as clear thinking as usual. On the plus side, I did exercise a lot more – I’m up to running 3 miles in one go! – and I quit smoking last October, successfully, and I’m breathing a lot better for it.

No doubt: it’s time for a cleanse. 

cleansing is not only good for you, it can be fun, too!

cleansing is not only good for you, it can be fun, too!

Every spring here at the Homestead, we jump-start our bodies with a short and gentle cleanse, which generally entails eating less, drinking and exercising more, and really tuning in to what our bodies need. This year, we’re expanding the idea of “cleansing” to also include our breath/speech, and our minds. Think about all the junk we feed our brains every day – from adverts to frustrating traffic to reinforcing negative self-images, and you might begin to comprehend how we are truly doing ourselves a disservice.

Deepak Chopra has championed the idea that our thoughts really do affect our physiology for decades – any of his books are recommended companions for a spring cleanse.

Bob's Red Mill high fiber with flax hot cereal in almond milk with local honey and organic THAT'S my kinda cleanse

Bob’s Red Mill high fiber with flax hot cereal in almond milk with local honey and organic apples…now THAT’S my kinda cleanse

What do I mean by cleansing the breath and speech? This idea is based on two exercises from the Yogic tradition: one is the cleansing breath which cleanses the “subtle” body; the other is the use of mantra to “purify” our speech. I will be using a mixture of mantra, cleansing breaths, and periods of silence to get the most out of a “breath/speech” cleanse.

More details to come shortly on what each of these mean, why cleanse in the first place, safe and effective cleansing, plus some inspiring cleansing recipes to get you going!

a glassful of delicious kefir to help your body achieve balance before, during and after a cleanse

a glassful of delicious kefir to help your body achieve balance before, during and after a cleanse

Wanna join the fun? Register here for our Spring Cleanse 2016: Body, Speech, & Mind and get in on a cleansing support group, daily cleansing recipes, schedules, yoga moves, mantras, customized cleansing plans, and more. 

Update after becoming a Youth Mental Health First Aid instructor!

Hi Friends,

I just spent the last five days in an intensive training to become a Youth Mental Health First Aid instructor! The training was incredible – I learned so much more than I have gleaned from many books, I was able to ask some burning questions about mental health in general, and now I feel confident that I can be a positive influence in my community to break down the stigma around mental health and make a difference in people’s lives.

There will be more to come later on this topic, but for now I’ll leave you with a quick video that will explain more about Mental Health First Aid. Thanks for following the Homestead, Arwen


THIS is NOT food!!!

I am one out of every five Americans who cannot afford to feed my family out of pocket. Consequently, we find great relief and solace from our neighborhood food bank, which supplements our pantry with staples and sometimes meats and bread we can’t ordinarily afford.

Typically, our food bank offers truly nutritious, simple staples like rice, beans, eggs. Occasionally, we come home with interesting “filler” items – brightly packaged, neatly summarized “nutrition” facts, and maybe even tasty.

Like this huge bag of popcorn made by Cape Cod Chips! Oooohhh, apple cinnamon and caramel popcorn? I have a serious weakness for popcorn. It is the ULTIMATE low calorie snack! It’s like practically air, but then you have this hint of salt, and a scosh of sweetness (did I spell that right?)…okay, I’ll stop.

What is that scosh of sweetness that I detect? To the ingredients I go, thinking, how hard can it be – really – to mess with something as simple as popcorn?

“Ingredients: Popcorn, Sugar, Soybean Oil, Corn Syrup, Seasoning (Sugar, Whey, Spice, Salt, Maltodextrin, Brown Sugar, Natural Flavor, Canola Oil, Rebaudioside A…”

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERALet’s read that last one out loud, and very slowly: “REB – AUDIO – SIDE – A”. Is this a tiny microchip recording device…? Or recycled A-sides from outdated warehouse vinyl…? Of course it turns out to be something far more insidious. According to the official Wikipedia article on Rebaudioside A:

“Rebaudioside A (sometimes shortened to “Reb A”) is a steviol glycoside that is 200 times sweeter than sugar.[2] The glycoside contains only glucose (to the exclusion of other commonly found monosaccharides) as its monosaccharide moieties. It contains four glucose molecules in total with the central glucose of the triplet connected to the main steviol structure at its hydroxyl group, and the remaining glucose at its carboxyl groupforming an ester bond.

Rebiana is the trade name for high-purity rebaudioside A.”

Okay, so it’s related to Stevia, a natural, herbal sweetener used for centuries in Asia and South America. But the rabbit hole really begins when you ask the question, “HOW is it related?” We find our answer in the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s 2008 request for the FDA to reconsider the safety of introducing Rebaudioside A into the food chain after initial reports of potential liver damage and DNA mutations.

The Department of Health Studies at UCLA published this study in 2008 regarding the “Toxicology of Rebaudioside A“, which found no conclusive evidence of Rebaudioside A being harmful. While I’m no scientist, per say, I did read the study, and found that while Stevia is certainly not harmful, the chemical derivative Rebaudioside A may have elevated alanine transminase levels (something you find with liver damage) and had some mutogenic effects on the human test-subject’s DNA compared to the control group.

This was back in 2008. Rebaudioside A is still in legal limbo, however, as the FDA has failed to prove this super-sweetener as GRAS (generally regarded as safe).

Now onto more interesting and enticing things attempting to pass as safe for human consumption like “Hot chili pepper and lime (artificially flavored) Churritos”:

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA“Ingredients: Corn masa flour (processed with lime), soybean and/or palm and/or canola oil, iodized salt, sugar, natural and artificial flavor, citric acid, soy protein, yeast, monosodium glutamate, maltodextrin, sodium diacetate, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, artificial colors (red no. 40 lake, yellow no. 6 lake) onion powder, hot chili pepper (chile), sodium bicarbonate, sodium guanylate, sodium inosinate and silicone dioxide (anticaking), antioxidant (bht, tbhq, propylene glycol, bha).”

We already know that MSG (monosodium glutamate) is evil, the FDA has actually banned “partially hydrogenated” everything, Red no. 40 is conclusively linked to hyperactivity and behavioral disorders in children, and here’s what Health Line writer Anna Schaefer discovered about TBHQ in her article “The Potenntial TBHQ Dangers“:

“According to the Centers for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a well-designed government study found that this additive increased the incidence of tumors in rats. And according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), cases of vision disturbances have been reported when humans consume TBHQ. They also cite studies that have found TBHQ to cause liver enlargement, neurotoxic effects, convulsions, and paralysis in laboratory animals.

Some believe BHA and TBHQ also affect human behavior. It’s this belief that has landed the ingredients on the black list of the Feingold diet, a dietary approach to managing attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Advocates of this diet say that those who struggle with their behavior should avoid TBHQ.”

In light of this disgustingly blatant ploy to pull the wool over the consumer’s eyes again and again…I decided to sacrifice my bag of Churritos, all 170 calories of it, to the fire gods for the greater good of humanity.


SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAFood politics aside…I’d rather go hungry.