Op-Ed to a community struggling to find compassion

Recently, the tiny mountain town of Nederland, Colorado was shaken by the discovery of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) left on the doorstep of our local police station. It took the Boulder County Bomb Squad, Hazmat Team, and Law Enforcement Agencies nearly 24 hours to remove the IED from the police department, and take it into the middle of the shopping center parking lot to be detonated.

The contained detonation was powerful enough to shake the walls in houses a mile away, and loud enough to wake people up at 1:45 am. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.

The local reaction to this incident is not unlike the flares of rage and condemnation that burned through this small town last July during the Cold Springs Fire. Certainly, these emotions are justified and must be honored. The Cold Springs Fire was caused by carelessly leaving a smoldering fire pit unattended at an illegal campsite; the bomb scare last Tuesday was a deliberate attempt to injure or even kill a large number of people…not to mention the Police Station happens to sit in-between a nature school, a laundromat and a carousel in a busy shopping center.

I have to remember to breathe into this, myself, because that’s where I work, and play, and do my laundry, and take my 3 year old to ride the carousel Continue reading

The Holistic Homestead's smudge sticks made with wildcrafted Mugwort and Rocky Mountain wildflowers. $20/ea. E-mail to order.

The sacred art of healing with smudge sticks

The Holistic Homestead's smudge sticks made with wildcrafted Mugwort and Rocky Mountain wildflowers. $20/ea. E-mail to order.

The Holistic Homestead’s smudge sticks made with wildcrafted Mugwort and Rocky Mountain wildflowers. $20/ea. E-mail to order.

Smudging is the ancient practice of bathing in the smoke of sacred herbs such as cedar, sage, pine pitch, frankincense, myrrh, juniper, mugwort, and sweetgrass. These herbs are ritually harvested and prepared with a sacred healing intent – often during a full moon or on an important spiritual holy-day. For an in-depth article on harvesting healing herbs in the wild, please read Wildcrafting the Wise Woman Way).

Most of the herbs used for smudging are high in volatile essential oils, making them fragrant, and flammable. When these oils are heated they release into the air bringing their anti-microbial properties into the atmosphere. While heating to the point of combustion destroys the chemically beneficial properties of these oils, the visible smoke becomes a spiritual salve of sorts connecting our visible existence with the invisible spirit world or higher planes of consciousness.

Smoke is used in many guises to lift our spirits, to make offerings, and to cleanse: sweetgrass is used to cleanse the sweat-lodge; frankincense and myrrh are burnt at Mass; the peace pipe is shared in the elder’s tent; a lit stick of incense is an object of focus for deep meditation; bundled and dried herbs are burnt to cleanse a sick room.

A Tibetan Buddhist Nun, Ani Pema (Arwen Ek) using incense as an offering in a Tibetan Buddhist ritual.

A Tibetan Buddhist Nun, Ani Pema (Arwen Ek) using incense as an offering in a Tibetan Buddhist ritual.

My mother taught me the art of making smudge sticks from my youngest age, and her tradition of twisting multi-colored twine, gathering and drying the herbs and wrapping is one that I proudly continue and pass on today.

Wrapped with five colored string

Please visit this site for more detail about the medicine wheel:

Please visit this site for more detail about the medicine wheel:

My mother always used these five colors of twine: white, yellow, red, black, and green (or blue) to wrap a smudge stick. These five colors tied together bring balance and harmony. The twine is measured out three arm lengths and then twisted together. This is done by tying one end to a doorknob or bedpost, or having another person hold the static end, and then walking out the length of the string until it is taut. The five strings are twisted clockwise a certain number of times, folded in half (don’t let go!), twisted clockwise again, folded in half (this is why it’s good to have two people to do this), at which point you let go of the twisting end of the string. It will unravel counter-clockwise into a beautiful and strong rope about two and one-half feet long, just enough length to wrap a 9″ smudge stick.

As you are twisting, it is very beneficial to imbue the braided strings with your most positive, sincere, compassionate, healing intentions. I like to sing this song as I’m twisting:

The finished twine is then wrapped around a 9″ bundle of dried herbs (approximately one and one-half inches in diameter) five wraps up, and criss-crossed five times down. Ascending and descending energy, balance of creative and destructive forces, or whatever unity of opposites you relate to.

The Smudging Ritual

Once the smudge stick is constructed, you may like to let it “mellow” on your altar for a moon-cycle – gathering healing energy, integrating all it’s parts, receiving your healing intentions over a period of time. When it is needed, the smudge stick will be a welcome ally in clearing bad energy, or asking for help with deep healing, especially in chronic or long-term illness.

Light the smudge stick and blow out the flame. It should burn like a big stick of incense with plenty of smoke. Make sure you have a safe place to extinguish the stick when the ritual is complete. One smudge stick will last through many rituals over the course of many years. Gather feathers, if you can, to help spread the smoke and direct it into a space or over a person as you are working. Feathers represent the air element, and with the smoke from your burning smudge stick will help direct your intentions. If no feathers are available, use your hands.

Speak to the spirit energies, or sing a song, or ring a bell, or play a drum. Vibrate the space with your love and intention as the smoke carries your positive thoughts to the heavens.

The Holistic Homestead is not partial to any particular religious or spiritual tradition, we do however acknowledge and encourage honoring the vital role that spirituality plays in our overall health and wellbeing. 

Arwen Ek will be at Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center‘s 16th annual Enchanted Forest this Saturday, September 24th, with a DIY smudge stick making workshop for all ages – buy your tickets here

Mental Health First Aid brings hope, change to inmates

mental-health-first-aid-coloradoA few months ago I received a grant to become a certified Youth Mental Health First Aid instructor. The week-long training was intense, heart-breaking and eye-opening. It was heart-breaking to consider the fact that 1 in 5 young people between the ages of 13 and 18 have, or will develop a serious mental health condition ( These conditions are real, and deserve our respect and understanding – especially for young people as they are finding their identities and developing a sense of self-worth in those vulnerable years.

Not understanding or honoring the mental health challenges faced by so many young people often leads to the development of more serious mental health issues in adulthood. Here are some eye opening statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

  • Nearly a quarter of both State prisoners and jail inmates who had a mental health problem, compared to a fifth of those without, had served 3 or more prior incarcerations.
  • Female inmates had higher rates of mental health problems than male inmates (State prisons: 73% of females and 55% of males; Federal prisons: 61% of females and 44% of males; local jails: 75% of females and 63% of males).
  • Over 1 in 3 State prisoners, 1 in 4 Federal prisoners, and 1 in 6 jail inmates who had a mental health problem had received treatment since admission.

Meet ALGEE, the official MHFA mascot! (also a convenient way to remember the MHFA acronym: Assess for risk of harm; Listen compassionately; Give reassurance; Engage with the individual to seek professional help; Encourage positive coping strategies)

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a program designed to teach everybody the basics of what mental health conditions might look like, and concrete ways that anyone who sees someone in a mental health crisis can help. I recently came across this CNN report about how MHFA is changing prison culture by reducing stigma, and helping inmates who suffer from mental health issues to understand the spectrum of mental health disorders, and to fearlessly, compassionately engage with their fellow inmates who are struggling with bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression. Click on the link below, watch the 2 minute video, and tell us what you think!

Learn more about Mental Health First Aid, find a course in your area, or become an instructor by visiting the Mental Health First Aid website!

The Holistic Homestead will be presenting Youth Mental Health First Aid courses in the Colorado Rockies soon...stay tuned!

The Holistic Homestead will be presenting Youth Mental Health First Aid courses in the Colorado Rockies soon…stay tuned!

Pineapple Weed for kids and kids-at-heart

This jar of ethically, beautifully and lovingly wildcrafted Pineapple Weed is going to my friends at Very Nice Brewing Co. They thought it would make an interesting ale...

This jar of ethically, beautifully and lovingly wildcrafted Pineapple Weed is going to my friends at Very Nice Brewing Co. in Nederland, Colorado. They thought it would make an interesting ale…

Matricaria discoidea, commonly known as Pineapple Weed, is an astoundingly fragrant herb. It grows everywhere, preferring driveways and sidewalk cracks, almost as if it preferred to be stepped on. This humble little herb is usually ignored, and not well understood or utilized, even among herbalists. However, as the name “matricaria” denotes, Pineapple Weed is actually related to German Chamomile and shares many of its medicinal properties: it eases tension and stress, and can be made into a tea for indigestion.

The entry for Pineapple Weed in one of my favorite field guides, Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Stephen Foster and Christopher Hobbs, is short and sweet, just like the plant:

“Numerous American Indian groups used tea of the pleasant-tasting, fragrant leaves and flowers to treat upset stomach, stomach pain, gas, colic, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, convulsions in babies, colds, fevers, heart ailments, and menstrual cramps and to strengthen the blood and facilitate delivery of the placenta during childbirth. Once considered a cure-all and tonic; used in the Sun Dance ceremony and in sweat lodges for its fragrance; added to many medicines to make them taste good. Used externally for infected sores.” 

Pineapple weed looks like a common, “noxious” weed that we have here in the Colorado Rockies called “Scentless Chamomile”. Interestingly, this scentless plant is not related to chamomile, and does not share any of its healing properties. The most obvious difference is the flower head never develops petals, and you could even say it looks like a baby pineapple (this may take a bit of imagination…).

Pineapple Weed grows in small bunches very low to the ground. Pinch off a petal-less flower head and smell it - a strong, sweet vanilla scent should permeate the air, you know you've got Pineapple Weed!

Pineapple Weed grows in small bunches very low to the ground. Pinch off a petal-less flower head and smell it – a strong, sweet vanilla scent should permeate the air, you know you’ve got Pineapple Weed!

Pineapple weed may be harvested by hand, or using a small pair of garden clippers. I usually clip off the top two inches and then lay them out to dry in a cool, dark place protected from sunlight and from bugs. When your harvest is fully dried, carefully crush the tops and leaves into a clean jar and add it to your growing herbal apothecary! My three-year-old loves this tea right before bed, and I love it with a splash of brandy as my nightcap. (The resulting tonic tastes like vanilla flavored brandy!)

When properly identified and harvested, Pineapple Weed can be safely substituted for Chamomile as a tea to ease colicky babies, a relaxing drink before bedtime, and a simple, naturally sweet addition to tinctures and salves.

Health Poll: What would YOU do?

In the rural, “frontier” communities scattered deep in the recesses of the Colorado Rockies, we treasure our independence, our proximity with nature at her most raw and devastating and transcendent, and we especially love keeping our neighbors at least a mile away (“as long as I can’t see in his windows”).

There’s another thing that mountain folk are particularly adept at, and I reckon most of my readers can relate: taking care of each other. During the September floods of 2013, folks of all ages and occupations met their neighbors, some for the first time, to help clean out a flooded home, to cook a hot meal for a displaced family. More recently, with the Cold Springs Fire which burned 600 acres and destroyed 8 homes (just a 10 minute drive from the Homestead), volunteers and supplies manifested out of nowhere with such a quickness that evacuation shelters were actually turning away donations.

(Okay, I’ll quit it with my Colorado drawl.)

There are some obvious challenges, and clear drawbacks to living far from “civilization” – such as lack of access to health care, and the closest grocery store being at least 20 miles away. While some will say, “We like it that way. That’s why we’re up here (‘cuz we’re not all ‘up here’)” those same folks are grumbling when they have to hitch an ambulance during a blizzard because they have a medical emergency and their pick-up is buried in the snow.

Luckily most of the people I interact with on a daily basis in Nederland and around Gilpin County agree that we do have quite a bit of work to do to improve the health, safety and wellness of our community. For example, Gilpin County has 18 casinos, 5 liquor stors, 3 convenience stores, 2 gas stations, 1 public school, no public transit, no clinics, and no grocery store. Gilpin County does, however, boast one of the most beautiful, modern community recreation centers with two pools, an indoor track, a dance studio, free-weights, exercise machines and spacious showers with hot water and plenty of pressure.

Nederland, on the other hand, happens to fall within Boulder County lines and enjoys some of the benefits of being in a wealthy and populous county: a family clinic, a community center (minus pool and indoor track), limited public transit, 2 gas stations, 1 school and 1 grocery store.

Boulder county is in olive, in the North-Central region. Gilpin County is in brown, directly South of Boulder County.

Boulder county is in olive, in the North-Central region. Gilpin County is in brown, directly South of Boulder County.

I recently asked residents of both areas what they would do to improve the health and wellness of their communities. The Nederland-based poll was conducted entirely on Facebook where anyone had the option to add their own options and to follow a long conversation thread on the topic. Here’s what they came up with:

  • More clinics, more low-cost or free options for basic health care…..8 votes
  • Affordable holistic options – acupuncture, massage therapy, homeopathy, etc…..11 votes
  • More access to fresh, wholesome, organic produce….12 votes
  • Recreation center for indoor strollers, runners, lap pool, place for kids….35 votes

The conversation thread focused on what kinds of amenities would be ideal, whether to upgrade the existing community center (which currently needs serious repairs, let alone upgrades), and where the funding would come from.

“Our family would probably be there every day if the Ned community center had an indoor pool! The Gilpin rec center is wonderful but it’s just too far, especially with a little one. In addition I wish the Ned community center had more programs for young kids like tumble/gymnastics.” – Hannah Johnson

“Honestly, research has shown that we don’t have a big enough population to support a community swimming pool unless some kind of cooperative arrangement is made with a larger entity, such as the county, the school district, or we authorize gambling and build one with gambling impact funds like Gilpin County did.” – Janette Keene Taylor

“I have no idea where the funds would come from, but if there’s a will, there is ALWAYS a way.” – Lisa Lopez

Gilpin County: the other side of the line

Mommy and "Dr." Jimmy with hands-on health literacy activities for kids and our fundraiser/poll at the Gilpin County Fair

Mommy and “Dr.” Jimmy with hands-on health literacy activities for kids and our fundraiser/poll at the Gilpin County Fair

The lay of our land: Gilpin County has the fastest aging population in the state of Colorado: meaning there are plenty of old timers and not a whole lot of newcomers. Gilpin County is the smallest county in Colorado with a year-round population of 6,000. Most of Gilpin County is around 9,000 feet above sea level.

Last weekend, I had an opportunity to meet my neighbors who live several miles down the long dirt road that I call home. Even if we can’t see in each others windows, we’re still neighbors. The poll options in this format were far more limited – I only had room for four jars, really. So I narrowed down some of the health concerns that I’ve heard from Gilpin residents in the five years that I’ve lived in Gilpin County and came up with*:

  • Cleaner environment (emissions testing, no mag chloride for dust control, etc.)
  • More holistic and alternative health care options
  • Grocery store (access to fresh, wholesome, organic produce)
  • Free walk-in clinic

*While I probably spoke with a hundred people over the course of the weekend, the average donation to vote was $1, and in total we raised $25.91 in change (estimating 25 votes total): .25 cents for a cleaner environment, $1.25 for more holistic options, $10.11 for a free walk-in clinic and $14.30 for a grocery store.*

My little table generated a lot of conversation – folks visiting from Denver who owned land or a summer cabin in Gilpin County favored the idea of a grocery store. Full time residents, especially parents with small children, would desperately love to have a clinic nearby. Many people, when approached with the question, “what would YOU do to improve health in Gilpin County?” would chuckle between their teeth and say, “There’s so much work to be done…I don’t even know where to start.”

The “clinic jar” and the “grocery store” jar were filling with change at about the same rate throughout the weekend, and by the end of Sunday “grocery store” beat out “free clinic” by almost $4.

Now, I know this is all very unscientific. Don’t worry, The Holistic Homestead will conduct a more comprehensive and formal Public Health Needs Assessment next year in partnership with Gilpin County Public Health. In the meantime, these polls have given us a good deal of information about how to effectively engage with the population we serve, and the vast differences in priorities just over the county line.

The Holistic Homestead is committed to building healthy communities through public input and strategic partnerships to identify real needs and implement lasting – sustainable – improvements. What kinds of health challenges do you face in your community? What would YOUR priorities be? Take our poll below and share your ideas! 

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!