Tag Archives: organic

Shift Happens…

Divine Journeys is now…

La Loba Earth Medicine

Shift happens! The only sure thing is change…

Ten years ago I decided that it was time to offer my work to the world. I needed, among other things, a name. I needed a name that described what I had to offer my community. I had sacrificed nights and weekends to attend a year long school of medicinal herbalism. I had wandered the woods, getting to know these plants in a personal way. I had spent many years immersing myself in the practice of shamanism. I had attended hundreds of hours of workshops from the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. I had studied at the feet of several amazing shamans. I had read dozens of books. I had gained a deep relationship with my own Guides and was in touch with the wisdom they had to offer. It was time!

“Coincidences” are messages from the Universe, I believe. There are no accidents. I was pondering a name for my beautiful, sunny healing room/classroom on my small farm. In the mail a notice arrived, notifying me that my mailing address was going to be changed. The new name of the road I lived on???

Divine Drive.

A friend said “How can you ignore that?” How indeed? Divine Journeys. Divine: of Spirit, and the name of my road. Journeys: a primary tool of the shaman. Perfect. And it was, for close to ten years. But I have evolved, my practice has expanded, and I have moved away from Divine Drive.

I have ventured deeply into the realm of Plant medicine, not simply herbs as commodities for human health, but as co-habitants of our Earth. I have surrendered my will to Teacher Plants, and have had doors open that I did not know where even there. I have spent countless hours acting as a channel for healing, with individuals and in Ceremony with community. I have taught others and been taught.

I have lived deeply and intimately with the Land and many plants, insects and animals. I learned first hand about the circle of life, planting, birthing, gathering, foraging, harvesting. I have understood the immense honor and horror of knowing the face of my food. I have uncovered the comforting lies of the mono-cultured supermarket.

My Guides show me magical images that the artist in me hungers to bring into this dimension.They show me these images in night dreams and day dreams. I have painted drums, wired together beautiful bones into jewelry, cradled skulls in my hand to honor them with painted symbols.

Shifting sand under my feet- both uncomfortable and exciting. Once again I needed a name. I needed a name that described what I now wish to contribute to my community. One day, I was gently cupping a Coyote skull in my hands, in order to draw a shaman’s hand upon it. I was recently returned from another Journey with a Plant Teacher, and needed quiet space to integrate. Playing in the background was a CD by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of “Women Who Run with the Wolves”. She was telling the story of La Loba, the Wolf Woman.

La Loba is an old Crone woman, who lives alone in the wild. Every day she scours the Land for the bones of animals. La Loba especially seeks the bones of Wolves. These bones she brings back to her home. When La Loba has a complete skeleton, she lays it out under the moon and sings a song. As she sings, the Earth shakes and the dismembered bones begin to regain flesh and fur. Finally, the animal draws breath and runs aways, fully alive. If the re-membered skeleton is a complete Wolf, she runs under the moonlight and Wolf becomes a laughing Wolf Woman. This woman goes into the world to teach others about their own wild nature.

Sitting there, recovering from a deep session with a Plant teacher, painting the hand of the shaman onto the skull of the Coyote, I began to cry. This is the whole of the process. We must find our bones- gather the hard, unchangeable pieces of ourselves that remain even after the flesh has been ripped off by living. When we find all of our pieces, and we are ready, we can sing our soul-song. We can pour out all that is within us, under the light of the moon. And sometimes, if we get it right, we re-member ourselves. We remember our wild nature. We might run, laughing, into the night, reborn.

“I can feel it in my bones” we say. The place that knows about the trees, the river, the language of the birds. The energy of the Thunderbeings, the soft whisper of the Corn mothers. Yes indeed. The Land is waiting for us to find all the pieces of ourselves again. Waiting for us to remember and be re-membered. A name had found me, again. La Loba Earth Medicine.

Divine Journeys will begin to migrate over to the new site LaLobaEarthMedicine in the coming weeks. I am grateful for everyone who has supported me and the ways of herbs and Spirit over the years. AHO!

Let Food Be Thy Medicine… Healthy Homeostasis for the Holidays

…And Medicine Be Thy Food. How interesting that this quote is by Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician who is considered by some to be the Father of Western Medicine! It seems we are finally paying attention these days to his words of wisdom. More and more of us are realizing the powerful link between food and health.

This clearly is not a new idea. Many cultures do not have the distinct boundary between food and medicine that we have here in the West. In China, nutrition therapy is a part of the traditional health care- TCM-  Traditional Chinese Medicine. TCM uses herbs, energy medicine and food as a combined approach to wellness and longevity that dates back as early as 2000 BC! In 1500 BC, Ayurveda was being used in India as a form of medicine. Ayurveda also uses herbs, spices and foods to maintain a healthy balance in the body.

Many of us are turning to alternative, wholistic practices to stay healthy and vibrant. This time of year can be particulary challenging to our good health. Cold & flu season is upon us, and we are out and about shopping and attending holiday parties, increasing our chances of exposure to viral and bacterial infection. We may overindulge in unhealthy food and drinks, as everywhere we go we are offered holiday treats. And, if our daily lives are not busy enough already, we are decorating, cooking, planning, running…

Stress disrupts homeostasis– the healthy, balanced stability within our bodies. Stress taxes our immune, adrenal and nervous systems and can lead to hightened vulnerability to microbes. Please note that stress does not always come packaged in negativity! Preparing a meal for an extended family gathering, for example, can be fun and satisfying. But the extra time, money and energy needed to prepare for the gathering, and the disruption of our daily routine can cause stress.

We can draw upon the wisdom of ancient traditional medicinal practices to maintain homeostasis and stay healthy during the holidays. This year the flu has come early- and so many of us are already sick! I would like to offer you some simple, inexpensive ways to protect yourself and your family from viral infection- and keep your holidays healthy.

Food first. Did you know that garlic, ginger and honey are some of our most powerful natural antibiotics? And that mushrooms, especially shiitake and maitake types, stimulate the immune system? And that many of the herbs and spices found in your cabinet have been shown effective against pharmaceutical resistant bacterium? Here is a list of the very best foods, culinary herbs & spices that you can eat to stay healthy this season:


  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Honey
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Onions
  • Thyme
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Cloves
  • Rosemary
  • Cayenne
  • Lemongrass
  • Lemon
  • Mushrooms (esp shiitake & maitake but all mushrooms are heathy!)

Spice it up! Eat extra ginger with your sushi. Choose dishes that have lots of garlic & onions. Use honey & cinnamon in your tea and coffee instead of sugar. Better yet, drink hot chai tea made from REAL spices and use raw honey for sweetening it. Add fresh or dried herbs to every dish you cook. Here is one of my personal favorite recipes for staying healthy- and it tastes GREAT~

Mushroom Immunity Saute

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 dried hot peppers, crumbled OR 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like spicy)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 lb mixed mushrooms, sliced (I use shiitake, maitake & baby bellas. Use your favorites)
  • Fresh or dried herbs of choice from the list above. I love Thyme in this recipe, but Sage, Oregano and Rosemary are delicious as well.
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, coconut oil or ghee
  • Lemon, butter, cheese (optional)
  • Cooked brown rice or whole grain pasta

Warm your pan on medium-high heat and add oil or ghee. Add mushrooms and onions and saute until they begin to brown and carmelize, stirring frequently to avoid burning. You may need to add a tad more oil or ghee if too dry. Add garlic and ginger and cook 2 more minutes, stirring. Add hot pepper and herbs, cook and stir a few more minutes until fragrant. Serve hot over rice or pasta. Top with a squeeze of lemon and fresh organic butter and grated cheese if you eat dairy.

Now the medicinal herbs. I have over 200 herbs in my apothecary, but when it comes to colds & flu, I love these trusted friends:

  • Echinacea Purpurea herb & root (our local species)
  • Sage leaf (salvia)
  • Goldenseal ROOT (hydrastis canadensis)
  • Elder berry & flower (sambucus)

Echinacea is without equal for treating strep throat and the early onset of colds and flu. For sore throat or strep, use echinacea tincture. Drop or spray the tincture in the back of the throat, letting it mix with your saliva. Do this about once an hour until throat is no longer inflamed and painful, then several times a day until completely resolved. Please use a high quality brand- or contact me for Echinacea Throat Spray from my apothecary.

Goldenseal is a powerful antimicrobial herb- and works so well it is endangered. You must use the root of this plant- beware of inexpensive capsules that contain only leaves. Goldenseal keeps the mucous membranes in the body healthy. Use it for full blown colds & flu, urinary tract issues, and anytime there is inflammation of the sinus area.  Take capsules (1-2 00 size caps up to 4x daily) of the powdered root or a dropperful of tincture 3-4 times daily. Also unequaled for cuts & wounds topically.

The Elder plant is a gift from Nature. The berries can be used to prevent viral infection and to reduce the duration of viral infection. The flowers are used to to relieve inflammation, congestion & infection of the sinuses. Every year I sell GALLONS of Elderberry & Echinacea Antiviral Elixir that I make from organic berries & herbs. Taken as a preventative or at the first sign of infection, Elder is extremely effective. The berries and flowers taste good- use berries as a syrup, tea or tincture once daily during cold and flu season as a preventative; 4-8 times daily at onset. Flowers should be steeped as a tea and sweetened with honey for use as a sinus decongestant.

Sage is an old & wise plant that has been use for millenia in cultures where it grows. Use Sage for cooking, in tea, for burning as an air purifier. Particularly effective for upper respiratory infection accompanied by sore throat and mucous. I make a large bottle of Sage vinegar every year and keep it on hand for my clients. Sage vinegar, mixed with some hot water and sprayed or gargled in the throat relieves sore, inflammed throats. A dropperful of the tincture 6 to 8 times a day will dry up a drippy, wet cold. And Sage tea is the best cold medicine I know. Here is my recipe:

  • 2 teaspoons dried Sage (make sure it is recently dried and still potent)
  • Juice of 1/2 Lemon
  • Pinch of Cayenne powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons raw honey

Place Sage in a tea bag or diffuser into a mug. Squeeze lemon into mug and add a pinch or Cayenne. Cover with boiling water, steep. Add honey and sip the tea as hot as you can tolerate it. Dink several times daily for wet, mucous cold & flu.

Happy Homeostasis to You and Yours this Holiday Season! Please email me with questions or if you need any of the herbs or preparations mentioned here.

A Time to Reap: Harvesting Herbs for the Kitchen

The air is getting crisp and cool, the days are getting shorter. Too soon the mornings will be frosty and our plant allies will go dormant for the long winter. There is still time to harvest and preserve herbs from your garden for winter cooking! Later in this blog I will offer you many ways to preserve your herb harvest. What? You didn’t plant an herb garden this year?


No worries. Did you know that many local “weeds” that grow in abundance in our area are considered both medicinal and culinary in other cultures? There are probably many edible wild herbs that are growing around your home and neighborhood. Plants, and wild plants in particular, are loaded with phytonutrients, and all have antimicrobial properties. This means they kill viruses and bacteria- including the ones that make you sick. Plus, they improve the flavor of your food. Let’s explore some of the wild herbs that can be used as culinaries… then we will get into some easy preservation methods.


Many of these wild herbs you might already know- some you may have heard of but cannot identify. Always be certain you know what plant you are harvesting- when in doubt, do not eat it. Get yourseld a good field guide (Peterson’s Field Guide to Edible Plants is a good place to start) and go harvesting with someone who is familiar with local flora. I hold wild edible plant workshops in the spring and late summer- watch for those if this piques your interest. Never harvest plants for consumption if they have been sprayed with chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Don’t harvest plants that grow along busy roadways- the road dust and pollution will have coated the plants.

OK then! Here is a short list of readily available, hard to kill plants (AKA… weeds) that you can harvest for culinary purposes.There are many more- but this is a good start:

  • Bee Balm (monarda didyma): Warmly citrus flavored. Use the fresh, tender leaves and flowers. Good as tea, and used fresh in salads, salsas and on white meats & fish. The wild variety- monarda fistulosa- tastes strongly of Oregano.
  • Lemon Balm (melissa officinalis): Gently lemony with green undertones. Grows profusely and abundantly in our area. Looks like a mint, but has a distinct lemon scent when crushed. Great as tea, and as a dried herb on fish or poultry along with lemon.
  • Mints (mentha spp): Used all over the world in all kinds of ways. Use fresh in tea, on veggies, in sauces; use dried on meats. Holds up well in red meats, and is delicious in ground beef meat balls.
  • Lavender (lavendula spp): Not just for soaps! Use the pretty flowers & buds sparingly in cold teas and lemonades; in desserts and baked goods, with fruit and fruit sauces. Chop leaves and flowers and use with other herbs for lamb, beef & poultry.
  • Marigold/Calendula (calendula officinalis & tagetes): Gives beautiful color and sweet/pungent flavor to foods. Use fresh and dried flower petals in salads, cookies, desserts, butters, infused oils. May be cooked with rice to add a lovely saffron color. Add to all spice blends, where its mild flavor and pretty color mesh well. Very versatile!
  • Mugwort (artemesia vulgaris): A strongly flavored herb with bitterness that blends well with heavy or fatty foods. Use with garlic, onions, peppers in stocks, stews, and on red meats and game. The slight bitterness of the dried leaves deepens the flavor of these foods and aids digestion. Once used in place of hops to make beer.


Of course, there are our familiar culinary friends: Thyme, Sage, Basil, Rosemary, Parsley, Chives and the like. If you grew them, harvest and prepare them also for winter meals. These cultivated herbs also have plenty of phytonutrients and medicinal uses. Eating these plants help to keep us healthy, and do it deliciously.


Harvest them using the guidelines above. Wait until the morning dew has dried off the plant. Snip off the parts you will use with scissors or your fingers. Say thanks as you harvest- plants have consciousness, too. If you are going to dry the herbs, hang them or spread them in a single layer on cardboard or paper shopping bags. Place your herbs in a well ventilated room out of direct sunlight. I like to put them in a room with a ceiling fan that is running on low speed. You can hang any branched herbs on wire hangers. This makes it easy to find a space to hang the hanger and dry them. When your herbs are ready, they will easily crumble when you rub them between your fingers. Remove the stems and crumble the herbs into airtight jars. Experiment with your own dried herb rubs & seasoning blends- they make great holiday gifts!


What about the fresh herbs? The softer herbs- basil, lemon balm, bee balm, parsley lose much of their flavor when dried. They can be kept in storage bags in the refrigerator for up to several weeks. There are so many other ways to preserve these fresh friends! You can make herbed butters, herb infused oils and vinegars, and frozen herb water or oil cubes. Lets explore these options!


Herbed butters: The butter should be softened to room temperature. Mix the butter in a bowl with finely chopped herb or herbs, or you may use a food processor. Start with 8-10 tablespoons of minced fresh herb or mixed herbs per pound of butter, and adjust to your taste. Place the butter on a large sheet of plastic wrap, and shape it into a roll. Wrap the butter tightly by rolling in the plastic wrap, then twist the ends. Refrigerate or freeze. Delicious! Use to rub over poultry prior to roasting, in sauces as a finish, over vegetables, with olive oil while sauteeing- basically any way you would use butter. My favorite combinations are Garlic, Red Pepper Flakes and Rosemary; Chives and Thyme; Lemon Balm or Bee Balm or Parsley with some added lemon juice; Calendula and honey butter; Basil and Garlic.


Herb infused oils and vinegars can be used for cooking, sauces and dressings… and even as medicine! I always keep Sage infused vinegar around for a sore throat gargle that works incredibly well on winter colds and flus. For vinegars: I always use cider vinegar for cooking and eating- and save the white vinegar for cleaning. Fill a clean mason jar (you choose the size) with lightly packed fresh herbs of choice. No need to chop- just remove any hard stems and get the herbs into the jar. Heat enough vinegar on the stove to fill the jar- heat only until the vinegar is hot but not boiling. Pour the hot vinegar all the way to the very top, place wax paper or plastic wrap over the top of the jar, and cover tightly. Let it sit in a cupboard for 2-3 weeks, strain and discard the herbs. Try vinegars with the stronger flavored savory herbs: Rosemary, Sage, Mugwort, Thyme, Garlic. Be creative!


Herb infused oils are prepared in a similar way. Clean a mason jar, and remove any woody parts of the herbs. Place the herbs in a jar, lightly packed, and pour cooking oil over the herbs. Place the jar & oil in a crock pot of water and set it on the very lowest heat setting.  The water in the crock pot should come at least 2/3 of the way up the side of the jar. This method of infusing oil lowers the incidence of bacteria growth in the oil. Let the herbs infuse for 24-48 hours in the low heat, then strain and discard the herbs. Refrigerate the oil.


Herb cubes: Place fresh herbs in a blender and add a small amount of cooking oil (I use olive oil) OR water. Blend the two, adding oil or water until you have a pesto like sauce. Pour into ice cube trays. Refrigerate the oil/water cubes until firm and store in freezer bags. Freeze the water/herb cubes and store in freezer bags. Pop these cubes into soups and sauces, or melt into a hot pan. Fresh herbs all winter!


I hope I have inspired you to go outside and harvest some of our local herbs and weeds for your kitchen. Even more, I hope you’ll see weeds in a new light and put the Roundup away! Cooking with herbs adds a whole new flavor dimension to foods, while boosting nutrition and killing dangerous microbes. Email me if you have questions. If you are a hands-on learner, attend one of my classes on herb preservation, or get a group together and I will come to you. Bon appetit!!





The Outrageous Cost of Healthy

The search for good health has become incredibly complicated; elusive; expensive. Recently, during an energy healing session, my client broke down into tears saying “I just do not know anymore what to eat, what to take, and who to believe.” A sentiment shared by many. Shiny packaging promises a miracle of science and technology, while displaying a pretty green leaf to assure us that it is ‘natural’.  TV pharmaceutical drug ads show serene couples bathing side by side in outdoor claw foot tubs, surrounded by incredible natural views as they hold hands… deeply in love. This can be your life too with the miracle of that drug- please don’t bother with the pesky side effect warnings. Powerful, beautiful people with sleek bodies and perfect families drive shiny new cars. Surely your biceps will get bigger if you drive a Ram or Powerstroke? Raw power will be yours in a Jaguar or Barracuda? Money and prestige in a Country Club or Diplomat??


The nation’s largest retailers spend millions every year on marketing. These costs are rolled into the price of their product, whether that product is a drug, cosmetic, automobile, food or service. And marketing professionals earn their pay by researching what attracts you. What you yearn for. What excites you. It is a powerful game played very well by corporations to increase the bottom line: Profit. Now, I am not saying profit is bad! I want to profit too! What I am saying is that we often become confused by conflicting, seductive information- even when our own good instincts and intelligence tell us otherwise. We have become habituated to spending the largest chunks of our income on products and services that keep us trapped into stressful jobs and lifestyles. We say we want to change- eat better, excercise more, adopt wholistic practices, live our dreams- but we simply cannot afford it. I challenge you to explore that paradigm, friend.


Food is a great place to start.  Seductive ads for hot, salty french fries and a smooth, yummy milkshake (I drool as I write this) get our cravings going. And this fast food is so inexpensive! And FAST! And organic food is so expensive and time consuming. All that chopping and slicing. But who hasn’t heard at this point about the dangers of GMO’s; the nutrition deficiencies of monoculture crops; the increased incidence of disease caused by pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics? So why do we keep eating this stuff? Government subsidized foods and crops are deceptively cheap. We pay for them via our tax burden, and when we are shopping at the super market we feel we need to choose the inexpensive stuff because we simply cannot afford organic, free range, hormone free. Crazy. We are a nation of overweight, stressed, disease ridden people. We throw away TONS of food each year. Research indicates that Americans eat out 4 to 5 times a week, spending over half of our food budget in restaurants. So I ask you- can we really not afford organic, or are we lost in habits that override our intellect? Is it truly about the cost of the organic food, or more about choices? Hey don’t get me wrong- I love to eat out with my friends too! And everything I put in my cart at the market is not organic. And I really get tired of the constant work in the kitchen. However, I value my health and I pay more for my groceries. I shop at farmer’s markets. I raise my own eggs and vegetables. I pressure can and freeze food from my garden and the markets. I shop at these markets as well as my grocery store more frequently than I used to, and buy less so that I waste less. This is hard work that takes time! Organic is hard. Living a long, healthy life is good.


Healthcare is another hot topic these days. As an energy worker and herbalist, I am always hearing clients say that while they know they benefit from Wholistic care, they simply cannot afford it. How much do you really pay for your health care? Add up the monthly amount you and your employer pay for your health insurance. Multiply by 12. Now add in the cost of your prescriptions. That’s a lotta cheddar, my friend. But we NEED our insurance, right?? Maybe we do. But what about choices? Here is a big question to ponder- would you stay at your job if you did not need the health benefits?  Do you like being told how to spend that huge chunk of your income? The U.S. has the highest cost per person for health care in the world- but we only rank 37th in overall health. Read the eye opening report by the World Health Organization for yourself. Did you also know that 80% of the world’s population uses ‘alternative’ practices as the first line of defense in staying healthy, using allopathic (Western) medicine only as a last resort? I am not saying that Western medicine should not be used. If you break your leg, please go to the ER- my herbs won’t help you. But herbs and supplements can and do help you to speed the healing of that broken bone- without the long term damage that continued exposure to pharmaceuticals & those unwanted side effects can cause.


Our allopathic health care system is frighteningly ignorant in the prevention of and recovery from disease through diet, nutrition, stress reduction and plant medicines. These alternative practices are gentler on the body and encourage homeostasis- a body in balance. Homeostasis offers us a way to feel vibrantly healthy, a way to enjoy our days instead of simply surviving.  I see so many people who have been ‘cured’ of diseases by allopathic methods, only to be rushed out of the health care system, with bodies that are alive but somehow… unwell. So what are we to do?


Choose with your eyes open. Trust your intellect. Scrutinize your choices. If you cannot recognize the ingredients in your food or cosmetics, are they really natural and chemical free? Does that ad or packaging play to your emotions? Can a pill really make you skinny? Does an expensive new car, and the painful monthly payment, really improve the happiness in your life? Americans are the most overworked developed nation in the world- want some data on how much you work? Click here. Now look at where you are spending your very hard earned income. Are you choosing or are you being directed?  Do you really know how the cheap food in your store is grown and processed? Watch the movie Food, Inc.  Want to get started on organic eating on a budget? Know the Dirty Dozen– the most highly pesticide contamined foods- and choose organic instead. Want to know more about the benefits of plant based phytomedicines vs. pharmaceuticals? Come chat with me, or watch the movie Numen. I have the DVD- anyone want to have movie night? Message me, we’ll get a group together. Change in our world begins with each one of us. Change is hard. Life is good. And in the end, shift happens.

A Natural, Non-Toxic Approach to Flea Control

This year has been a bumper crop year! The frequent rains & hot temperatures have everything growing like mad. Including the bugs. Mosquitos, ticks & fleas are the worst I have experienced them in years. Many of you have called me looking for a natural alternative to ridding your home of fleas- which travel in on you and your pets and can be extremely hard to get rid of once they are established. So today I will share with you my tested and effective flea control methods- without using a single drop of neurotoxic chemical pesticide.

First, though, I will share a story with you. Many years ago, I showed pure breed dogs as a hobby. People would send their dogs to me, and I would keep them with my own dogs for several months while showing. I often had as many as a dozen plus pups staying at my small kennel! These precious dogs helped me learn about natural flea prevention. The methods I am going to share with you kept my dogs, home, yard  kennel 100% flea free. Some years later I shared these techniques with a friend who had paid a professional pest control company hundreds of dollars to treat a commercial space in downtown Martinsburg. These chemicals were so strong that all people had to vacate the premises for 12 hours after treatment. The fleas were so thick in this building that your legs would look like they were covered in pepper. After three very expensive treatments the fleas were still there. I helped her treat the building naturally- and the fleas were gone in 2 days. Save your money, save yourself from exposure to deadly chemicals, and save our environment. Please.


A little about fleas first. Did you know that there are several types of flea, and each has a preferred host? There are dog fleas, cat fleas, human fleas, rat fleas and fleas that prefer fowl. These fleas will bite others if their preferred host is not available. Fleas can jump up to 7″ vertically and over a foot horizontally- which makes them very mobile! They easily move from host to host, host to person, and host to HOUSE. Flea saliva contains chemicals that can cause a severe itch response in some animals and humans. This is known as flea bite dermatitis, and can lead to infection if scratching or biting the area is intense. However, some people have fleas in the house and never get bitten- or simply have no reaction to flea bites. Did you also know that fleas are a host for tapeworms? Tapeworm eggs travel inside the adult flea, and if the flea is accidentally swallowed or inhaled by an animal while licking or chewing , the animal then may become infected with tapeworms. The animal also becomes a host for tapeworms. And if that animal is YOUR PET, you may also be exposed to tapeworms. Yuck. Finally, flea eggs can lay dormant in your home for months, just waiting for their preferred host to arrive. Let’s get rid of them NOW.


Flea dirt

How do you know if you have fleas in your home or on your pet? Watch for frantic scratching, digging and biting from your pets. Using your fingers, comb the hair backward around their rump, base of tail or tummy, where fleas love to live. Fleas are tiny brown spots that move quickly, and they leave small black dried blood spots in your pets fur. These tiny dots of dried blood are called “flea dirt” and is often the most noticeable sign of flea infestation. If your pet has flea dirt but you don’t see any fleas? THEY HAVE FLEAS. And fleas lay 20 to 50 eggs a day- which roll off the host onto bedding, carpets and furniture. If your dog has fleas- you have fleas. Get over it. You are not dirty or bad… you just have fleas.


SO! Here are some things to know about killing fleas. Firstly, they are very hard to crush. No matter how hard you squeeze, you cannot kill them, you must use your nails to break them. Yuck. Fleas need moisture to survive and prefer around 70-80% humidity. Without adequate hydration they struggle to live. Immersion in water, however, drowns fleas quickly. Armed with this knowledge, we begin our treatment.


Give your pet a bath in warm water with shampoo. ANY shampoo will do- it is the water that drowns the fleas. I do not use flea shampoos as I think the chemicals are dangerous and they are no more effective. The flea shampoos say they repel fleas up to 3 months, and I have found this to be false. I use tearless baby or pet shampoo on my animal’s head & face so that I can get right around the eyes. If you do not soap up the face, the fleas will actually pool around the eyes in an attempt to escape. Gross. I use a diluted castile soap on the body- Dr. Bronners Lavender Castile works well and has the added benefit of soothing any sore, bitten areas. The other blends work well too, choose your favorite scent.  Use about 1/4 cup in a quart of water. Let the pet stand for 5-10 minutes in the shampoo. Rinse well. Watch the dead fleas run down the drain. In the meantime, wash every sheet, towel, comforter, blanket and throw rug that you can fit in the washer. Use warm or hot water. OK you have now killed most of the live fleas. But what about flea eggs and fleas still living in the house and yard?


Enter 3 flea killing friends: Best Yet Cedar Insecticide , boric acid powder & diatomaceous earth. These 3 inexpensive, non toxic ingredients will keep your home & pet flea free. Maybe you have heard of these- but it is important to know how to use them. Here we go. Go to your local dollar store or follow any link here to buy on Amazon and buy a plastic bottle of roach powder. It is often called Roach Prufe or similar. Read the ingredients- it should be almost 100% boric acid. It should cost a few dollars. If you buy boric acid at the hardware store it will be 2 to 3 times as much money to buy. While at the dollar/online store, buy one of those glass cheese shaker top jars. Take your bottles home. Open the boric acid and for each cup of powder you use, add 1 tablespoon of Best Yet Cedar Insecticide. Shake this up well and put into your shaker top jar. Shake this powder over every surface of the home. Carpets, under the furniture cushions, cracks of hardwood floors. Take a broom and sweep the powder into the surfaces so it is well-distributed. Leave for 24 hours then vacuum it all up. (I actually just leave the powder under the seat cushions of my furniture) Now take your spray bottle of Best Yet and spray the baseboards, your closets, any vertical surface that the powder will not adhere to. Do this once a week for several weeks. No more fleas. The boric acid dehydrates the fleas, and the cedar insecticide suffocates them. Boric acid has the same toxicity as table salt- so while it is relatively harmless, do not let children and pets lick or lay in a concentrated amount of it. It is not tasty, they won’t purposely seek it out. Don’t get stuck on this point- boric acid is hundreds of times less toxic than chemical flea sprays, bombs and powders. This carpet/floor treatment will also kill ticks, carpet beetles, roaches, spiders and anything else that dares to crawl around your home.


Aengus McKeeNow back to the pets. Kitty & puppy are all dry and clean from the bubble bath. But without protection, they will simply go back outside and bring back more fleas. With your new & continued boric acid and cedar insecticide flooring treatment, the fleas will not survive in the house. Remember to wash the pet’s bedding often. But the fleas will still dine happily on you and your pets. Boric acid is, in my opinion, to harsh for direct application onto a pet’s skin. But Best Yet Cedar Insecticide and diatomaceous earth are very gentle and totally non toxic to pets- even if they lick and chew after application. (ALWAYS test a VERY small amount on cats first- they are ultra sensitive) [Note: As of 3/11/16: CedarCide, the manufacturer of Best Yet, has recently marked a few of their products as “not for use on cats”. Best Yet is now known as “Original Formula” and is still approved by CedarCide for use on cats. Read this link] Those flea drops that you spread onto your animal’s neck? They are proving to be very dangerous. Google it if you want to see. I won’t press that point.  Often a good wetting down of your pets coat with cedar insecticide spray is all that you will need to keep fleas away. Wet the pet’s coat down, covering all areas, once weekly during the hot summer months, less during the winter.  It is so gentle you can use it on puppies and kittens, as well as your kids and yourself to keep mosquitos and ticks away. Apply directly to exposed skin and clothing. I practically BATHE in this stuff- the mosquitos LOVE me. It smells great, works great, and can be used for so many of your buggy problems.

Some pets, though, need a little extra protection. Just like with people, some dogs and cats seem more prone to attract fleas than others. For these pets, we will kick it up a notch. Go to your local pet store or to my online store and buy some diatomaceous earth (DE) that is made for pet application. It looks a lot like flour.  If you wish to treat your yard, buy some additional DE for lawn & garden use (it’s cheaper) and follow the directions to treat the yard. Do not use lawn & garden DE on your pets. For the pets: Mix 1 cup of organic food grade DE powder with 1 tablespoon of Cedar Insecticide. Mix well and sprinkle over your pets coat, rubbing the powder in well. Use extra in the places the fleas like to live: tail, rear, and belly. You may even sprinkle a bit of this into your pets ears for ear mites. Do this outside or over a towel to keep the floor clean. I have found this powder & cedar oil mix to be foolproof, even during the height of flea season! And again, totally non toxic. Apply as needed- I apply once weekly during the hot summer months.

I hope you try these simple and effective natural flea treatments. They are better for your pets, your family, your wallet and our beautiful planet. Please leave a note with questions or comments. Hugs~

Alien in the Garden

scary bug

scary bugThis has been a very “buggy” year in the garden. Several friends and fellow gardeners are lamenting the extreme invasion this year. I have been gardening for many years, and as such I have some tips and tricks with regard to getting a good garden harvest before the bugs take over and get the rest. Which is my first tip: KNOW that the bugs, bunnies and deer will get some of your harvest, and plant extra for them. Non resistance…

In general, I have found that growing heirloom varieties is helpful. Surely the bugs have been around for as long as humans have been encouraging vegetable plants to grow too closely together in a convenient (for the humans) location in micro climates that the plants may or may not have chosen themselves. I mean a garden, of course. These people planting plants had a personal relationship with them- tending them daily, encouraging high yields and such. People would have naturally noticed (as I now do) that some varieties worked better in their garden than others. And grown them as favorites, year after year. Modern hybridized for monoculture, commercially sold seeds in pretty packages have a different set of values. But thats another story.

costata romanesco

Costata Romanesco

Then there are the bugs.  As usual, squash bugs reign supreme, always the victor in our annual struggle for squash consumption. Costata Romanesco is my all time favorite in terms of taste and squash bug resistance. Over the years I have tried many yellow squash varieties growing right beside my Costata and every year the squash bugs will choose any other variety to attack before moving on to the Costata. This gives this fast growing variety a chance to get huge and set fruit before the inevitable attack. It works- I always get lots of squash from this variety.



Adult Squash Bug

On to to my squash-and-squish technique. As I browse the squash bed for harvest, I am also browsing for the eggs and nymphs of the squash bugs. The adult squash bug looks to me like a cross between a stink bug (and we ALL know what THEY look like) and a cockroach (ditto). And they are invincible. Powerful! SUPERBUGS! Nearly impossible to kill- and the nasty stuff you have to use to kill them is simply NOT going into my body. Period. I am experimenting with a natural product to control them, and will let you know the results. In the meantime- squish.



Squash Bug Eggs. Pretty.

These are squash bug eggs. You will find them growing on the tops and undersides of the leaves. They are pretty! A lovely deep orange-red color, and so neatly arranged in symmetrical squares and lines. Do not be fooled! These are the pods of an entire ARMY of squash bugs, neatly arranged by the aforementioned adult, ready to hatch and destroy. Squish them. Put on gloves if you must, and rub your thumb over these eggs untl nothing but an orange smear remains. Really sounds aggressive, doesn’t it? Don’t want to kill baby bugs? Trust me, even doing this they will still win. You are simply slowing the tide, my Zen friend…


squash bug nymphs

Cute little nymphs!

And, just for your further education, here is a picture of squash bug nymphs. These little tiny grey bugs are kinda cute. You will find them in huge clusters where your orange eggs used to be, since you didn’t squish them. Then you will find them all over your squash. Then they will fall in love…

Squish them too. Or squirt them with insecticidal soap. When they are very small, they can be controlled to some degree in this way. But do know- they will still win. They know the game- and they work at it full time. I aim toward losing a close game vs. being shut out. I get squash, they get squash.




This year I am seeing a bug I have not seen in a while- hornworms! My observation is that when the use of BT (bacillus thuringiensis) became a popular control for worms and caterpillars, these disturbing looking bugs disappeared for a while. They’re BAAAACK! These caterpillars are the larva of the five spotted hawkmoth, a rather plain looking critter. But the babies are impressive! They are HUGE- around 3 inches or more long, very round, have a scary looking but harmless “horn” on their rear ends, and are voracious eaters of tomatoes, peppers and other garden plants. And yet, they are REALLY hard to see at first. They have a fabulous camouflage.


Hornworm poop

A large pile of POO

I first became aware of the hornworms this morning as I was browsing for ripe cherry tomatoes. I noticed some very large… um… POOP on the leaves of my tomato plants. Years of gardening has had me take note of such things as POOP on my plants. Yes I know- a fabulous talent. At any rate, I noticed. There was a good bit of it. This poo-clue had me look upward at the tops of my plants.



hornworm damage

Hornworm damage

Hornworms are voracious eaters, and they simply denude your plants of leaves. So, that is a second clue to look closely for these bugs. Here is a picture of the ends of some of my tomato plants. You might think “deer” at first glance, and you may be right. But big bug poo and naked stems mean look closely… and try not to scream like a girl when one of these large, scary looking caterpillars suddenly comes into focus. What now?? OK, I refuse to touch them, I fess up. But I will snip off the branch that the bug is clinging tightly to, and then call the chickens. WOW do they fight over these! If you lack chickens, you could squish. Or drop said bug into soapy water. You Zen readers- you could simply relocate the critter, it is soon to turn into a grey-brown moth.



Big Fella!

This is one of the two fellows I found on my tomato plants this morning. I put my hand behind the picture so that you can get an idea of the SIZE of these jumbo bugs! This caterpillar could really put a new gardener off gardening. But simply removing them from the plant stops the damage. If you have an infestation, you can spray with topical BT, as mentioned above. I linked the first mention to the Wiki on BT, for your further reading. Simply stated, BT is a naturally occuring bacteria that when ingested from the foliage, causes the caterpillar’s digestive system to shut down. It works on lots of wormy-things, and is harmless to the beneficials. I do not promote genetic modification of plants with BT, topical application works just fine in bad infestations without playing with the plant’s genetics. But that too is another story…


gardenSo, as indicated by the title of this blog, I do often feel like the alien in my own garden. But I continue to acknowledge that I too am simply another creature in Nature. Spending time with plants and bugs and all things Earthy, I recall and recognize the connection. I learn to work in cooperation with the bugs in my yard… hoping to feel less alien as I press onward…

What… you thought I meant the BUGS??? Heh heh!