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“A Post About Today: February 1st, 2021”

It’s a bright, sunny Monday morning.  My orders are in the post and I’m now hiding in front of the computer.  The thermometer says it’s 38ºF in the greenhouse.  The top of our greenhouse today will likely reach 50ºF, whilst the draw below the cabin is likely in the teens or single-digits.  It’s a comfy 70ºF inside after a busy morning of frying up sausage, pancakes, and onions.

Why am I indoors in front of the computer?  I fractured my ankle and I’m trying to stay off it.  It’s been a blessing in disguise, considering I got THIS done!  This website!  The thing you’re looking at right now!  I get to busy my time indoors writing posts like this and migrating my inventory into this fancy new shop.  Once I’m up on my feet again I won’t be getting quite as much computer work done.

How did I fracture my ankle?  Walking.  I was walking, then I was on the ground.  I don’t know what happened.  My body glitched and fell down.   I soaked my foot in a series of foot bathes during the first few days.  Featured herbs included horsetail for tendon and ligament healing, comfrey/hound’s tongue for healing the fracture, and birch bark and marshmallow to reduce inflammation.
 It hurt for 2 or 3 days and then I was fine for about a week.  I puffed myself up with pride; “Ha-HA!  Take that fracture!  I heal you instantly with my herbs!”  Then I spent a day mechanicing on the ever-broken vehicles.  My front right brake caliper was seized up completely and I had to take the caliper pins out, strip the grease and rust off, re-grease them, put them back in, and replace the caliper.  We had the car completely blocked and suspended since it’s all wheel drive and we can’t test the steering and wheels with just the front end jacked up.  I was prepared to change a CV axle, but because of the seized brake (which had apparently been seized for some time be we didn’t notice because we’re just crawling up and down the icy mountain roads, not driving around town), the brake pads and ball joint on that side were trash.   So we needed to get the ball joint and new pads before tearing everything apart again and replacing stuff.  May as well do as much as you can in one sitting while you’ve got it in pieces!

Anyway, a few hours of crawling around on cardboard mats on the snow and ice in 25ºF, moving tires and cranking on wrenches, and my ankle was starting to scream at me again.  That day really lit it up with pain.  Now for the last week I’ve been laid up and barely able to walk on it.
I got too cocky and confident!  I stopped my tea bathes when the pain stopped.  Of course fractures aren’t going to heal in 4 days!   So it’s back to soaking in tea bathes and minimizing my walking.

But more about today and recent events!  Well, Andy recently built a bathtub out of wood, that’s super cool.  I mean, I have no qualms bathing in a plastic tote, but I realize not everyone is lucky enough to be so small that they fit in a storage tote.  Sometimes I pity the tall, I really do.  
The bathtub was made out of a single length of 16″ lumber that he milled with a relative’s saw mill.  We’ll likely never see boards like them again. The massive tree they came from was gifted to him, we certainly don’t have trees that large on our farm.  So the tub is roughly 16″ tall, 16″ wide, and 4′ long with a nicely sloped back rest.  He filled with with ultra-fine saw dust from the table saw and then filled it with water; as the water runs out of the seams, it sucks soggy sawdust through it it and clogs all of the leaky joints.  It’s sealed well enough in this way that, if left filled with water, it will only leak about 1″ of water per day.  To empty it we scoop the water out with 5 gallon buckets and water the plants in the greenhouse with it.  Even in winter, they still need water delivered!

He now wants to make bathtubs for everyone he knows with the last of this magically gigantic lumber we have.  So far no one is interested in a wooden bathtub.  I can’t fathom why!  A 100% natural, raw material bathtub with no chemicals, plastics, sealants, or other harmful crap!  What’s not to love?  I mean, yeah, it’s gotta be spritzed with some thyme or other antiseptic teas to keep the mycelium from moving in and eating it.  But hey, maintenance is maintenance, whether it’s wood, metal, plastic, or porcelain!

In other news, only 6 more weeks until baby goats!  And do you know what that means?! 7-8 more weeks we can go back to milking the goats!  😀  I swear I’ve been dreaming about fresh milk and cheese since we stopped milking a few weeks ago.  It’s important to dry a doe off before she kids.  Not only do want her to focus her energy on growing the kids instead of producing large sums of milk to humans, but milking too close to her due date means you could start milking out colostrum that the kids need to develop their immune systems when they’re born!  We’re toying with the idea of selling 1 doe’s kids as bottle babies so we can milk her for us, and letting the other raise her kids.  It will likely depend on the genders they have.  Several of the neighbors are interested in buying the kids, so who knows, they might want every one we get and we’ll end up milking both does!

I’ll leave it at that for today. Thanks for reading 🙂

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“How Herbal Healing Became and Interest”

People: “How did you get into herbal medicine?

Me: “I cut my achilles tendon open.

Yeah, it was horrible.  I hate that it happened.  But it did.  I should say, actually, “someone’s bicycle cut my achilles tendon open.“…

So I had this cut into the back of my foot, parallel with the bottom of my foot, making a 1″ flap of my heel, cut straight through, that could open up like a mouth.  I was at a Renaissance  Fair at the time, would you believe! I had to drive 45 minutes home (on manual transmission no less) with dog and goats in the car.  Thankfully when I got home I had a few sets of helping hands to put the goats up and help me inside for some medical attention.  I was bordering on shock by the time I got indoors and sat down.  I made it, phew!

At the time I’d never really used herbs with any competence for healing.  I was skeptical because I was ignorant.  A willing pair of hands helped me keep the wound clean, flushed, and bandaged.  She had to flush it every day to work the bicycle gear grease out of the wound.  I refused to look at it, knowing how much worse it was going to hurt if I did.

After a week of sleeping with my foot elevated, hopping around the barnyard with crutches and bucket handles clenched between my teeth, and keeping bandages changed, it was still as raw and bloody as the day it happened.  Thankfully no sign of infection or complication had set in.

A friend of mine, who is a seasoned herbalist, looked at me one day and said “This is totally ridiculous.  Sit down.

She brought me a tub of hot water steeped heavily with comfrey leaf and well salted with epsom salt.  I had to put my foot in the hot concoction and grit my teeth for 2 hours.  I asked more than once if I could be done soaking my foot.  “No.” was her answer.  By the end of the soak my toes were curled tightly and my foot was tightly clenched.  Everything felt… stuck in that position, like I couldn’t move anything in my foot.  But it didn’t really hurt.  I didn’t fight the sensation, I just bandaged up and went home.

The next day the wound was sealed shut, no more bleeding.  2 days later I was walking on it with confidence.  I was dumbstruck- after a full week my body had made 0% progress on healing.  And in a single night of comfrey soaking the wound had healed almost fully.

Thus my interest in learning more about the medicinal properties of herbs was born in earnest.  And a good thing, too!  Because a few months later I put a nail through that same foot and treated it confidently, comfortably, and successfully on my own with herbs.  But that’s another story…

Someone: “Why didn’t you go to a hospital?

Me: “What would they have done?  I didn’t sever the tendon, nothing can be stapled, it’s clean and not infected.  And I don’t want stitches.  There’s nothing else a doctor can do for this wound other than charge me money looking at it.

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“I Put a Bone in My Foot…”

Yep. I was on a steep slope, unfolding a large sheet of greenhouse plastic, and I stepped on what looked like plain dirt only to hear a grotesque juicy crunch and a surge of pain in the arch of my foot. I sat/fell down and proceeded to uproot a small -something- sticking up out of the dirt. It was the tip of a buried jagged, gnarly chunk of dog-chewed deer vertebrae with old black gristle clinging to it still. I threw it as hard as I could out into the forest and turned back to my foot. The pain I felt was a bruise-like pain, maybe I just landed on it really hard… Nope. Blood began seeping out of the new hole in the sole of my shoe (I was actually wearing shoes, would you believe!).
Well then… Buggery dadgum gosh darn it, and goodness good golly gosh.
I hopped uphill to the cabin and commenced steeling myself for what I was about to have to deal with. With some helping hands I got a hot pot of water on the stove for tea. Priority #1 was cleaning the wound out and numbing the maddening pain. I sat down and let it bleed for a few minutes, hoping that the body’s natural response would help to flush any junk out of the puncture. Once satisfied, I lightly covered it in some clean gauze and wrapped it to keep any dust or debris from encroaching.
The tea water was hot by this time. I snipped a dollop of usnea lichen to bits with scissors, added a generous portion of crushed holy basil leaves, and dumped a hefty sum of epsom salt into the large sauce pot filled with piping hot water. Then I busied my brain with computer nonsense, did my best to ignore the pounding pressure, and waited for the water to cool off enough to dip my foot in.
Holy basil is my best friend when it comes to punctures. It’s nervine properties are truly miraculous. I have used culinary basil in a pinch with good result, too. But I prefer my friend Rama Tulsi. The leaves are not only numbing to nerve pain, but are antiseptic as well. A few years prior I put a nail through my foot and the procedure I did then was the same. As long as I keep the holy basil in contact with the wound, it’s virtually pain free.
Usnea is my go-to choice for anything I want to keep from getting infected. It is high in usnic acid, which is an antibiotic. It grows abundantly here and is simple to use. Nothing I’ve used usnea on (so far) has become infected.
And of course the epsom salt is just my choice form of personal torture for the sake of ensuring a clean wound.
After a good long initial soak, I felt I had the constitution to inspect my foot for the first time. I patted it dry with clean gauze and took a look. Tiny beads of… something… were poking out of the wound. Slightly horrified I pointed it out to Andy, who immediately picked up a pair of tweezers and loomed with morbid curiosity towards my upheld foot.
Me: “What are you doing?! Don’t grab it with tweezers! What if it’s attached to me!?
Him: “Just hold still, I’m gonna find out if those are tiny rocks, you might have a bunch of junk in there. We need to get it out.”
Me: “PUT THE TWEEZERS DOWN! Don’t just pull at whatever’s sticking out of my foot!
Him: “Just hold still, Jen…
He’s laughing at this point. I retracted my foot and coddled it in terror, keeping an eye on his eager tweezers. I poked at the little pink and white bubble-like chunks protruding from the wound.
Me: “Okay, okay, okay, I touched it, it’s definitely a part of me. That’s a piece of my foot, don’t pull it out!
Him: “Are you sure? It totally looks like burger meat. Let me take a look.
This went on until I was almost in tears of despair before he gave up. He really wanted to try and pull it out.
So I went into this wound vaguely terrified. I’d dealt with punctures, but this was a 1/2″ long, jagged, Y-shaped, deep punch into my foot with a nasty piece of old dirty bone. And my foot meat was sticking out of the wound. Did I finally get an injury so bad it would beyond me to fix? One of our neighbors is a medical doctor, he offered to come take a gander at it if I felt I needed help. I told him hopefully I wouldn’t, but I’d let him know if I did.
I spent the first day soaking my foot in antiseptic salt water, loathing the incident. It was our last beautiful, warm week of fall before the plunge into snowy winter. And I was now bunged up and out of commission.
Him: “You’re not gonna be walking on that for awhile, Jen.
Me: “Give me 4 days.
I mapped out my plan of action for healing my foot as quickly as possible. After and in between my foot baths I dressed the wound with an activated charcoal drawing salve and wrapped it in clean gauze again. I had to keep it moist; never let a puncture seal over on top before the inside is healed.
Day 2 was much the same. Curse-hopping around the house, each hop pumping more blood pressure into my bloated foot. Trips to the toilet were dreadful. I spent most of the day soaking my foot and intermittently laying down to read. A neighbor had given me the book “A Long Trek Home”. Ironically, this is when I picked it up to read about walking thousands of miles on foot, and my foot pointedly throbbed with displeasure at the thought. That night I again applied the drawing salve to help ensure any foreign material would leave the wound.
Day 3 was the day I felt confident that my wound was sterile from the antiseptic/antibiotic salt baths, so I added horsetail to the mix to gently stimulate tissue healing. Hopping around the house was less bothersome, but sitting inside watching the last beautiful 70º days of fall slip by was torture. Also my hopping thigh was killing me. I soaked my foot all day long- at least 8 hours in the horsetail-loaded tea. At night I applied the drawing salve one more time to keep it moist and encourage cleansing of the wound.
Horsetail is a gentle stimulator of tissue repair. It’s mild and fairly soothing and will not rush the wound to seal shut before it’s ready to do so. I favor horsetail for punctures.
Day 4 was the test of will and skill. I had slept much more comfortably than the previous nights with almost no pain. I sat on the edge of the bed and braced myself for the test; could I put pressure on it?
I triumphantly hobbled into the kitchen to say “Hey look! You said I wouldn’t be walking for a good long while. I said give me 4 days.” I was quite pleased with myself. That day I repeated the same protocol from the day before; heaps of horsetail in the antiseptic, soothing salt bath. All day long I sat and read and soaked. That night though I switched to a gentle comfrey salve to keep the wound moist and encourage more tissue repair. Little pink and white beads of meat were still protruding from the wound, but it was otherwise looking fantastic.
Comfrey and should not be used on a puncture until it’s in its final stages of healing. It will stimulate such rapid tissue repair that you may risk sealing over the top of your puncture and leaving an unhealed pocket within, which may lend to a deep infection that has no way out if there is any debris or bacteria in the wound.
On day 5 I was hobbling with more confidence. My herbal regiment remained unchanged. I managed to hobble down to my car, drive over to the barn, and milk the goat myself. A satisfying accomplishment, as normally that is my own chore.
On Day 6 was walking gingerly, wouldja believe! Day 7 though 9 brought steady mobility improvement and an unchanged treatment routine. All-day horsetail soaks, with fresh comfrey salve and clean bandages before bed.
I was up and walking with a mildly uncomfortable limp by day 10. I switched to twice daily foot bathes loaded with comfrey or hound’s tongue to seal the deal on my wound. I kept clean dressings over the wound and wore shoes to get around and do my farm chores.
By day 14 the foot-burger-meat had retracted into the wound and for the first time I stopped applying salve before bed. The wound sealed shut over night for the first time. For the next week I did evening foot soaks, still with my staple mix of usnea, holy basil, and epsom salt to ensure no infection could set in. During the day I kept clean bandages over it to prevent debris from finding the wound. It would split open as I went about my day and bleed a little bit. This, as far as I’m concerned, was excellent, helping to ensure that it healed from the inside out, as punctures should, as well as ensure that any new debris was likely being pushed out of the body by the blood.
At the time of writing this, it’s been 25 days. The wound is completely healed over. A bit of a hard knot remains in the arch of my foot; that will dissipate with time. The body’s ability to heal is truly amazing.
*And an added update 3 months after the incident, my foot has remained healed and without complication.