Mar 29, 2014

Oily Gear Must Haves

So, I talk a lot on this blog about the amazing benefits of Young Living essential oils.  We. Are. Hooked!

If you are lucky (and smart!) enough to have already gotten your Premium Starter Kit, you might be wondering if there are any other tricks of the trade you are missing out on.  This post is for you!  I would like to share a few of my favorite oily tools to best utilize my oils on a daily basis.

Oily Gear Must Haves

    1.  Young Living Aroma Glide Roller Fitments
     Use these guys to create your own blends in an empty bottle, or even just pop one on top of your favorite oil and use the roller ball for easier application.  I have a blend of Lemon, Lavender and Peppermint and I love having a roller ball on Valor.  These are quite simple to put on and take off the bottle - here is a Youtube Video on the how to's.

     2.  Small Glass Jars

    Once you dive into the world of Essential Oils, you will be looking for more ways to incorporate them into your lifestyle :)  Trust me!  Whether it be DIY Body Butter, Bath Salts, Sugar Scrubs, or Bath Fizzies, a cute little container will be needed to store your mixtures and to give as gifts!  I love using the half pint sized wide mouth mason jars or the ones shown in the image below from Abundant Health.

    3.  Foaming Hand Soap Dispenser

    My first oily recipe to make (and still by far the easiest) was Thieves Foaming Hand Soap.  Just a squirt of liquid castille soap, a squirt of vitamin E oil, a few drops of Thieves and some water and you have a wonderful smelling, attractive addition to all the sinks in your house.  I also love to use these as hostess gifts and teacher gifts.  This particular pump is from Abundant Health, but you might also check out these from Amazon.

    4.  Bottle Labels

    An entire set of these puppies costs right around $3.  You can find them in your Young Living virtual office order form under Accessories.  They stick very nicely on the tops of your bottles so that you can see what you are using when your oils are in a case.  So nice to have everything organized and readily available.

    5.  A Reference Book (or 10)

    To make the most of your oils, you NEED a reference book.  With these books, you will be able to look up specific oils and blends as well as ailments and what oils to use.  I highly recommend the books in the image below.  

    And here are links to books:

    6.  Sample Bottles

    Maybe it is just me, but I think it is nearly impossible to experience Essential Oils and not want to share them with everyone you know.  But in order to share, you will need sample bottles.  Check out these from Abundant Health (ps.  I am not receiving any sort of benefit from giving you links to AH, they just have high quality products at good prices).

    7.  Travel Cases

    It is impractical to carry around your entire Premium Starter Kit in your purse anytime you leave the house to run errands... but what if you need your oils while you are out???  This awesome travel case holds 8 sample vials (and comes with the small bottles) and easily hooks on your keys or in your purse. 

    Don't have your starter kit yet?  This is the PERFECT time!

    And don't forget the promo I am running while supplies last:

    Want to know how to purchase your own oils? Check out this info here!

    Please remember that I am a Mama and not a doctor. These things work for us and I am in love with using homeopathic remedies for health in our home and I am excited to share them with you, but please use your best judgement for your own home. 

    Mar 25, 2014

    The Natural Way, Part 4

    Welcome to the fourth installment of The Natural Way, a series in which we are showcasing individuals and companies that are making a difference in their community by doing things "the natural way" with a focus on sustainability.

    Take a look at the first part in the series - we talked with Lauren Nitschke of Nitschke Natural Beef about ranching and the importance of knowing your farmers.

    In the second installment, we talked with Catalina, director of Art of Peace Montessori about "non-traditional" early childhood education and the importance of teaching children about sustainability and the environment.

    In part three, we talked with Mike Randall, founder of All Who Are Thirsty.  Mike and his team help to bring clean drinking water around the globe in a sustainable manner.

    Today, we will be talking with Andrea Bithell, Garden Lady of Oak Cliff Organics.  Andrea is small town famous - the person behind many of the slow food restaurant gardens in the area and a huge encouragement to many of us who feel as though we have whatever is opposite of a green thumb.  Read more about her story below!

    Q:  Hi, Andrea!  Can you introduce yourself?  Tell us a little about who you are.
    A:  I am Andrea Bithell, the Garden Lady of Oak Cliff Organics.  I live in Oak Cliff and am the proud Mom to an almost eight-year-old little girl that has changed my life.  In my business I work to share what I have learned over the years in growing food and doing so organically.  I design, create, and maintain organic gardens as well as host classes and demonstrations on growing and preserving food and synergy in the urban oasis.

    Q:  You haven't always been involved in organic gardening, what did you do before you dove into this lifestyle?
    A:  I grew up in Prosper, when it was a small farming community.  We had 100 acres, five for homestead, two to grow on, and the rest to grazing, and growing cotton or wheat.  From there I went to UNT in Denton and studied communication and public address.  I chose technical writing as my minor, as it would get me out of school quicker.  That decision took me into the next 15 years of writing an various forms from hardware, software, creative, marketing, editing, and governmental too.

    Q:  Can you tell us a little about WHY you decided to make this leap?
    A:  When I became pregnant it was suggested I eat organic food.  I thought nuts to that idea!  I just got a ticket to donut land!  But upon further encouragement I tried my favorite, blueberries.  These organic blueberries tasted better than any I had eaten, and the texture was perfect, not mushy.  I continued trying other organic produce and each time the flavor was great and the texture was too!   But why????  So I began my research phase and learned about conventional growing methods and the toxins used.

    Q:  What is the difference between organic gardening and "traditional" gardening?
    A:  Organic growing methods use all naturally occurring materials, things you can identify and pronounce:  compost, molasses, greensand, lavasand... to name a few.  These products create a stronger soil, plant and healthier produce for you and your family.  Taste better too!   
    Conventional growing methods use chemicals and pesticides that are toxic to our ground, pollute our water tables, and harm our bodies.  Have you ever looked at a "fertilizer" bag from a big box store?  It says to use eye and mouth protection, long sleeves and gloves when using the product.  Interesting.  Why would I feed something to my crops that would cause me harm? 

    Q:  Why is this important?
    A:  For your health!  What you feed your plant is ultimately what you end up eating.  Before I changed my diet to mostly organic I was on five different medications (upper GI, lower GI, allergies, sinus, asthma).   Approximately 4 years into my life change I was able to get off all of the medications! 
    Q:  What is the hardest part about what you do?
    A:  Education of why for the reason to eat organic.  - "Organic food cost too much, I can't afford it" is the most common complaint.  To which I say I can't afford not to eat organically!  If you think about how much I paid monthly for insurance, plus copay on five different medications, plus my additional over-the-counter meds, plus doctor visits, plus the fact that I felt horrible all the time... my ability to change to an organic diet and lifestyle is way cheaper PLUS I feel great! 
    Just like organic growing methods create a stronger plant, more resistant to pest, disease, cold and heat, those same principles apply to us when we eat the produce!

    Q:  What is the best part about what you do?
    A:  Educating the next generations (the kiddos)  and training folks to grow using organic methods.  When they hear about it they become interested, if the taste organic produce they become excited, then when they actually grow their own and eat it and understand the methods that got them there, well my job is done!  Raise your child in the garden and they will eat their greens, because if they grow it, it has got to be good!

    Q:  Can you explain a little about how you participate in sustainability?
    A: I have adopted the idea that nothing should ever leave my property.  I paid for it, why would I want to send it to the dump!  From composting to rain capture, I try to figure out some way to reuse everything. 

    Q:  Do you have any advice for our readers?
    A:  Understand the "why" that is behind anything you do, it is indisputable.  I always start my lectures with explaining how I got where I am.  I use organic growing methods because it changed my life.  I use them for the health of the plant, the Earth, and ourselves. 

    Q:  Any other things you want to add?
    A:  Edible Landscaping!  One of my soap boxes is, if I am going to invest my time, talent and treasure into something, I'd better get a return!  That is why I am into edible landscaping!  The resources of land and water aren't cheap, neither is time.  Oak Cliff Organics does edible yard designs, call today!

    Thank you, Andrea!   This is a concept that my family finds very important.  If you want more information on Andrea and Oak Cliff Organics, check out her website and facebook page!  Call Andrea and design your very own edible garden!

    Next week, same time, same place - more on living life The Natural Way!  Stay tuned!

    Mar 22, 2014

    Springing into Spring

    I love spring.

    Ever since I was young, I have hated being cold - the winter months feel kind of like I am imprisoned.  I long to soak up the sunshine and lay in the grass and spend hours and hours outside enjoying the day.

    When the cold finally begins to break, we "spring forward" and it is light out later, and the trees start budding and flowers start blooming, I breathe a sigh of relief.

    Here is a collection of spring DIY's - crafts for kids, for your home and in the garden!

    Crafts for Kids:

    - Build and Decorate a Bird House from Lady Goats

    - Cookie Cutter Bird Feeder from Prudent Baby

    - Paper Plate Lady Bug from Housing a Forest

    - Butterfly Surprise from Classic Play

    - Rainbow Wind Catchers from A Pretty Cool Life

    Spring in your Home:

    - April Showers Print from The Wheat Field

    - Indoor Bulb Garden from Fun At Home With Kids

    - Beautiful Spring Wreath from Wreathink Gifting

    - Painted Mason Jars from It All Started With Paint

    - Spring Artwork from Craftwell USA

    - Spring Print Pillows from Spoonful

    Spring in your Garden:

    - DIY Mini Green House from The Frugal Girls

    - Initial Planters from Henry Happened

    - Seed Starters from Dana Made It

    - Scrabble Garden Markers from Sow and Dippity

    - Palette Garden Tool Storage from Our Little Acre

    Stay tuned for some awesome spring crafts from Mama Marcie :)

    Mar 18, 2014

    The Natural Way, Part 3

    Welcome to the third installment of The Natural Way, a series in which we are showcasing individuals and companies that are making a difference in their community by doing things "the natural way."

    Take a look at the first part in the series - we talked with Lauren Nitschke of Nitschke Natural Beef about ranching and the importance of knowing your farmers.

    In the second installment, we talked with Catalina, director of Art of Peace Montessori about "non-traditional" early childhood education and the importance of teaching children about sustainability and the environment.

    Now for the third installment of this series.

    Today we are talking with Mike Randall, Founder and Director of Operations for AWAT - All Who Are Thirsty, an organization focused on bringing "fresh water filtration systems and sanitation education to rural communities without access to clean water throughout the world."  A noble task, indeed!

    Q:  Hi, Mike!  Can you introduce yourself?  Tell us a little about who you are.
    Well, I grew up in Dallas, TX.  I've been married for almost 7 years to my wife Lindsay and we have an 18 month old son Noah.  I'm a worship leader at Gateway Church, and I run a non-profit called All Who Are Thirsty (AWAT).

    Q:  What is AWAT and how was this organization conceived?
    AWAT is a humanitarian aid organization dedicated to delivering clean water filters to developing countries as well as providing basic sanitation education to the people who live in the rural parts of Central and South America, and eventually the entire planet. How were we conceived?  Honestly, from a vision from God.  I spent some time in Guatemala in the summer of 2013, and what I saw there stuck with me much deeper than I realized at the time.   I was sitting in my backyard one day praying and God gave me a very clear vision of what he wanted AWAT to look like.

    Q:  You haven't always been involved in humanitarian aid, what did you do before you dove into this lifestyle? 
    I have known for years that I would love to play some sort of role in humanitarian aid at some point in my life.  I am a musician by trade, so my artistic focus and passions have really been on music for the past decade.   

    Q:  Can you tell us a little about WHY you decided to make this leap? 
    Honestly, the reason why I decided to take the plunge is because in spite of the millions of dollars going into the clean water effort around the globe, it is really only making a dent.  The more boots on the ground the better, and this is something that has to be addressed.  In our current global culture, this is a problem that can be solved but it takes a lot of people and a lot of awareness.  There wasn't and isn't enough noise bringing enough attention to the clean water and sanitation (or lack thereof) issue on our planet.  I decided to try and make a little more noise and make a little bigger dent.

    Q:  Who is this organization benefiting? 
    Our organization is really benefiting a lot of people.  Obviously the recipients of our filters and  the people who attend our seminars are the immediate beneficiaries.  Their lives are immediately changed and their families lives are immediately changed.  It also benefits individuals and organizations here in the States to be able to participate in a real effort and be able to see immediate results from their giving and participation.  

    Q:  Why is this important? 
    Almost 900 million people don't have access to clean water on our earth today.  A child dies roughly every 9 seconds from complications related to bad water.  It is such an huge issue with such a simple solution.  It's important because knowledge is power, and unless these people are taught basic things about sanitation and cleanliness, the entire world who is in the know is responsible for sharing that knowledge.  

    Q:  What is the hardest part about what you do?
    The hardest part about what we do is probably two things. First, I would say that dealing with greedy/shady people keeps us on our toes. There are a lot of people looking to take advantage of the ones trying to help developing countries. Secondly, the hardest thing we face is effectively communicating the real issue to the people who need the education the most, and the real solution about clean water and sanitation.

    Q:  What is the best part about what you do? 
    The best part about what we do is the peace of mind that after every project, approximately 300-600 people now have clean water and don't have to worry about getting sick with parasites or bacteria, and they can now achieve the goals that they have for their family.  When we get to see a community start to thrive because of something simple we were able to provide, it makes everything worth it. 

    Q:  Can you explain a little about how your organization is involved in sustainability? 
    We are very concerned about sustainability in our programs and the solutions we offer people.  When we were researching water filters and technologies, we wanted the best bang for our buck, but also we wanted it to be sustainable and green.  No chemicals, no replacement parts, no cartridges, nothing but the filter.  And we have been able to come up with a solution that meets a lot of our needs in the Lifestraw Family filters.  In a nutshell, each filter has a lifespan of 3 years for a family of 6 using it every single day for multiple gallons of water.  The beautiful part about it, is that most families average around 4 people, so it gives the filter a lifespan of close to 5 years of every day use with a simple and easy way to clean it without ever having to replace anything.  It's amazing.  After 5 years, we intend on running a repeat program to replace the filters once they have expired.

    Q:  Do you have any advice for our readers - people who care about making a difference in the world but don't know where to start?
    If someone really wants to get involved in making a difference in this world, I would say jump in.  Find out what you are passionate about and do something about it.  I didn’t know how to do any of this, but I'm learning because it has to be done.  It needs to be done.  Someone once told me to be and live out the change I wanted to see.  So, I'd say that's a great place to start.  You want to end childhood obesity? Go after it.  You want to end GMO produce, fight it.  If you want to start a little smaller, research non-profits and organizations who are already making a difference and volunteer, give financially, call them and ask how you can help.  Our world is much smaller than you would think, and we are capable of a whole lot more than what we think.  We just have to start doing.  Dreaming is great, don't get me wrong.  But we have to make our dreams come into reality.  How do you do that?  You make it happen.

    Thank you, Mike, for this valuable information!  If you would like more information on All Who Are Thirsty, check out their website or their facebook page.  

    Mar 11, 2014

    The Natural Way, Part 2

    Welcome to the second installment of The Natural Way, a series in which we are showcasing individuals and companies that are making a difference in their community by doing things "the natural way."

    Take a look at the first part in the series - we talked with Lauren Nitschke of Nitschke Natural Beef about ranching and the importance of knowing your farmers.

    Today's interview is with Catalina, the director of Art of Peace Montessori school, an early childhood learning environment with a focus on sustainability, community and learning inside the natural process.

    Q:  Hi, Catalina!  Can you introduce yourself?  Tell us a little about who you are.
    My name is Catalina Murcia, native of Bogota Colombia. I am a passionate school director, Montessorian, "crunchy" parent of two beautiful, lively, intelligent daughters and I consider myself a children's advocate.

    Q:  You haven't always been involved in running a Montessori school, what did you do before you dove into this lifestyle?
    I have spent all of my adult life dedicated to studying child development, child psychology, Montessori and other alternative Education and interning in various schools and early childhood programs. Before running Art of Peace Montessori I was assistant director of a preschool in Irving, Texas. I also operated a sporting goods store for many years. 

    Q:  Can you tell us a little about WHY you decided to make this leap?  
    I became passionate about education while in high school. Through my educational experiences, traveling from Bogota to Dallas and moving around in Dallas, I became aware of the  inequality and the lack of high quality education available to many Americans. For this reason, I decided to study child psychology, education and Montessori/ alternative school education. My goal is to open alternative schools through the world and educate as many adults interested in learning more about alternative educational options for their children.  

    Q:  What is the difference between a Montessori education and a "traditional" education?
     This is a very controversial and long answer. But, I will try to be as concise as possible. Montessori Education was created by Dr. Montessori, a scientist who studied human development, anthropology, Biology, human psychology and scientifically studied children through the world to understand the true nature of childhood and how to best assist this natural process. The method continues to be backed by scientific research, neuroscience, psychology and by the 100 years of success in many countries through the world. Montessori Education is a method of assisting nature, of aiding a child's natural learning tendencies, using what we learn about children to assist their development without interfering or setting our own agenda. Montessori educates the body, senses and spirit as well as the mind. In my professional opinion, most "traditional " education is highly leaned towards academics (unbalanced), standards, preparing for tests, textbook based and has different goals from those of the natural development of the child.

    Q:  Why is it important to teach children in this manner? 
    Because it is the way humans are born to learn. Nature equips each child with an Absorbent mind and human tendencies which give him powers unknown and unattainable to adults. Children are magnificent and eager learners who need only a supportive environment and a prepared adult to educate themselves as nature intended. As it evident in our current state, the "traditional" method is not in accord with nature and is doing more harm than good in many cases.

    Q:  What is the hardest part about what you do? 
    Saying goodbye to students and families at the end of their journey with us.

    Q:  What is the best part about what you do? 
    Getting to know each child and each family. I absolutely love working with families, supporting parents, grandparents and creating a loving supportive community in which our children's best interest is our goal.

    Q:  Can you explain a little about how you guide children to be better stewards of the environment and teach them about sustainability? 
    Sustainability and nature/ the environment are very valuable at Art of Peace. Montessori education has always taught the importance of the connectedness of the universe, of understanding all of the people, places, cultures, atmospheres, micro and macro systems that create our existence. It is in our curriculum to teach love, connectedness, awareness and social justice. Art of  Peace Montessori is unique in its high value for nature exploration and sustainable organic food. A major focus of our community is growing our own food, knowing where our food comes from, how to care for it, how to care for our animals and how to prepare fresh hopefully local organic meals from scratch. A large portion of our days at Art of Peace consist of having unstructured, child led, outdoor exploration.

    Q:  Do you have any advice for someone like me, a working mama with two kids who I want the best for? 
    Read about Montessori Education and Conscious/ Peaceful Parenting. Research Montessori USA-AMI. Read the book: Montessori from the Start, Lillard, read the book: Between Parent and Child, Ginnott. Create a loving, sustainable and supportive community that shares your views on living, education and parenting. I think most moms in our culture are isolated on their parenting journey. It is very important that moms unite, get together often, cook together, clean together, read together, discuss child psychology, share ideas and experiences daily, cry together,  play together and encourage and love one another. 

    Are you interested in more information about Art of Peace or Montessori Education?  Check out their website here:
    Also check out the books that Catalina recommends in her last answer.  Very valuable information in these sources, even for the time we have with our children in our own homes!
    Thank you, Catalina! 

    Mar 10, 2014

    You Rock, Mama!

    Every time I turn around, I see a new blog post that (maybe inadvertently) makes me pang with guilt that I am not enjoying this season of parenthood - what I lovingly refer to as Toddler Olympics.

    These posts showcase the insecurities that parents feel... remind us of our shortfalls, of our mistakes. And make me feel inadequate for being a working mom, for not being grateful for stepping on that Lego, for having to run run run all day, for not sitting down and do art projects with my girls, for not loving every second of my weary days...

    So, to these posts, I have a counter post.  Instead of the Top 10 Mistakes you make on a daily basis, I would like to take a few minutes and highlight TEN ways you ROCK at being a parent (I'm sure there are many more, but this is a blog post for heaven's sake!).

    1. You wake up every single morning.
    2. You are the one they run to when they have a booboo.
    3. You care about their well-being enough to feel insecure and guilty when you read those other posts.
    4. Playing with your kids is more important than showering - so obviously your priorities are totally in line ;)
    5. You go outside of your comfort zone to ensure their happiness - whether that be going to a playgroup with other moms you don't know, or singing in the middle of Target to get them to stop crying.
    6. The snot on your shirt proves you hug, carry and love on your babies.
    7. You sacrifice yourself by napping with your little when it is the only way they will sleep.
    8. They came from you (or maybe they didn't), and they are a product of YOU (whether by DNA or by environment).
    9. The last 5 movies you saw were rated G, were filled with songs that you sing in the car and talk about on facebook.
    10. You do your best to be a better person to set an example for your littles.  It's stinkin' hard, but you do it.  And that totally ROCKS!

     Take heart, mom (or dad, or grandma, etc.), these phases do pass all too quickly, and though we should do our best to enjoy them, it is totally ok to think they suck, too.  

    Mar 4, 2014

    The Natural Way, Part 1

    Today I am starting a new series called The Natural Way.  Once a week, I will be posting an interview of someone who goes a bit against the grain and chooses the Natural Way to accomplish important tasks. 
    Why did I decide to start this project?  I think that the average Joe (or Josephina, haha) thinks that living a more natural life, away from the processed foods, away from relying on someone else for everyday needs, is unattainable.  Everyday, I find it increasingly more important to develop sustainable projects in my home, in our family and community.  It is sad, but true, that we can not always trust for someone else to make the best decisions for us in our food, in our health, in our homes... we have to do research and dig past the commercialized information and seek out truth.  When we choose local, when we choose natural, when we choose REAL, we are making a statement that we CARE about our wellbeing and about our community.  That we value these things over financial gain.
    So, on that note, our first interview is of a long time friend of my family - Lauren Nitschke.  Lauren and her husband, Gary, have two kids and lived for much of their lives in Oak Cliff, a small community in Dallas that is on the forefront for the natural living movement.  Together, they own and operate a ranch in southern Oklahoma, where they now reside.  Their ranch is 100% grass fed and grass finished.  These are happy, healthy cows who are treated with respect and integrity.  What the Nitschke's are doing is a difficult task, but they do it nonetheless.  I wanted to take a moment and showcase their hard work, and at the same time, help us readers to understand a little more about why what we eat is so important.
    Without further ado...

    Q:  Hi, Lauren!  Can you introduce yourself?  Tell us a little about who you are.

    A:  Hi!  I've been married to fellow Aggie Environmental Design grad Gary Nitschke for 34 years. We lived almost every bit of that in 2 1920s houses in North Oak Cliff - one in Winnetka Heights (that should have been a tear-down when we brazenly declared ourselves to be the new breed of Urban Pioneers) and the other on N. Tyler (which was a good tear-down candidate as well, come to think of it..) So we developed a habit of choosing the underdog early on, as well as a propensity to see the potential in not so great looking properties. Both renovations were gut to the studs and rebuilds, but they both were successful in their own right. If you take that mindset into the ranching world, the translation becomes take a piece of somewhat neglected family owned southern Oklahoma rangeland (at the time - Gary's dad had become elderly, then passed on in 2003), pick the most challenging way possible to manage it (chemical-free grass fed/finishing only), endure a once in a lifetime, epic drought, and still maintain a great client relationship with Whole Foods, that's us.  Good stewardship is a hallmark of our Christian faith and always figures into our ranch decision making.  We have 2 wonderful grown kids, the best son-in-law we could have ever hoped for and the cutest, smartest, almost 3 year old grandson.  So far, no ranching aspirations among the offspring, but we have high hopes for grandson!

    Q:  You and Gary haven't always been ranchers.  What did you do before you dove in to this lifestyle?

    A:  I'm a Dallas girl, born in Austin, so city dwelling is in my blood. After finishing up at A&M, we both worked for architectural firms in Dallas that specialized in commercial work.  I had an opportunity to transition to my firm's Environmental Graphics "department" (there were 2 of us!), where I learned a lot about a little known architectural specialty involving signage and wayfinding design.  By the time Brad (our oldest son) was born, I had struck out on my own and Gary joined me just prior to that life changing event.  30-something years later, that's still our "city job", but we truly hope to move into full time ranching soon. Since 2003, we've been delving into every aspect of sustainable ranching, trying to grow delicious, nutritious beef and designing our last home to be built at the ranch, where we now live - in yet another, and hopefully our LAST, tear-down worthy dwelling.

    Q:  Can you tell us a little about WHY you decided to make this leap? 

    A:  Gary grew up in Wichita Falls, about 40 miles southwest of here.  He and his dad drove up to the ranch several times a week to do ranch work and check on the cows, but they never lived here full time.  Nevertheless, ranch life was as deeply embedded in his psyche as city life is in mine.  When his dad passed away, Gary dutifully obeyed his dad's wishes.. he sold the cows and leased out the land - to us!  We were ranchers, like it or not, but I think he always hoped to return to his roots. Despite being familiar with ranch workings, raising cattle and the business side of making it profitable were not part of our experience, so there was a very steep learning curve ahead of us.  They say you make your biggest strides forward from your biggest mistakes and that has proven itself true over and over for us.  Along the way, we've made great friends, found knowledgeable colleagues and feel like we're on the right track.  ALWAYS learning, always experimenting, always striving to understand more and more about the abundance of life in the soil and it's foundation for all that we do to raise the best food we can.

    Q:  What is the difference between grassfed beef and the stuff you find in the grocery store?

    A:  That depends on which grocery store you shop at!  What you find in almost all grocery stores is beef from calves that grazed on pasture for perhaps the first year of life, then were sold, taken to a confined feedlot, shot with growth hormones, antibiotics and then fed a "ration" of grains, perhaps some silage (fermented forages), and no telling what else.  These calves put on weight under those conditions very quickly - upwards of 7 lbs/day - and are slaughtered at large facilities that process their meat for supermarkets, meat markets and restaurants.  Even if you find beef labeled organic, if it isn't also labeled Grassfed, it was finished in a confined animal feeding operation, i.e., a feedlot, but given organic grain feed.  Grassfed beef, as defined by the American Grassfed Association, and the way we raise cattle per our AGA Certification, is:

    Diet — Animals are fed only grass and forage from weaning until harvest.
    Confinement — Animals are raised on pasture without confinement to feedlots.
    Antibiotics and hormones — Animals are never treated with antibiotics or growth hormones.
    Origin — All animals are born and raised on American family farms.

    All of our calves are bred and born on our ranch.  They eat only pasture forage, which in winter or cases of drought, can include high quality hay we either grow ourselves or buy from another trusted farmer. We treat them in a very gentle, respectful way - no prods, no ropes, no confinement, no "rodeoing".  They respond to us easily and truly live a very stressless life here on the ranch. We only harvest when animals reach the fullest potential we believe they can.  Their meat is filled with great nutrition and nothing else.  Below is an excellent explanation of the differences in [certified] grassfed beef from AGA.  In addition, even our processor must be Animal Welfare Approved for their handling and slaughter practices, ensuring that our animals remain as stress free as possible at all stages.

    Q:  Why is it important to know your farmer/rancher?

    A:  Labels are about as confusing as they can possibly be.  The USDA says it means this, the package says it means that; "natural" as a labeled quality means virtually nothing. It's almost as if words are used to make consumers feel good about what they buy, but really have little substance to back what you think that means.  And sometimes labels are just plain deceptive as in "no hormones added" when that species is not allowed by law to have hormones added anyway.  It makes the brand that uses the terminology look better than the brand that doesn't, but they're both essentially the same product.  Companies will get away with what they can get away with, in many cases.

    There are a lot of ways to ranch and farm. Like the labeling issue above, one rancher might say their product is grassfed, when what they really mean is, that animal ate grass until they put him in a tiny pen at about 700 lbs and fed him GMO grain til he got nice and fat. So it really is important to know who raises your food, talk to them and understand exactly what they mean by what their methodologies and protocols are.  Do they use chemicals, if so, what kind and what for, do they vaccinate, at what age and what for, do they use hormones in any form, fly tags, how about feed additives like grain-based cattle cubes, what is their grazing philosophy, how big are the animals when they are harvested, how do they know an animal is "finished"? If you take the time to ask the questions, visit the ranch or farm, see how the rancher handles their animals, you'll know whether or not you can trust them to raise high quality, honest and pure meat. If you don't know what to ask, the American Grassfed Association and Animal Welfare Approved both have excellent websites that can give you some consumer friendly guidance on what the "gold standard" of pasture based ranching really is.  Both of those organizations conduct yearly audits and require detailed records from participating ranches to achieve and maintain their certifications' statuses.  Look for and ask about a rancher's or farmer's certifications and what they mean.  They may simply know they're doing the right things and feel they don't need certifications to prove it, or possibly they know they would not meet the requirements.  Either way, consumers should ask.

    Q:  What is the hardest part about what you do?

    A:  Depending on conditions completely outside our control to grow the pasture forages our cattle need and learning to effectively manage the conditions we can at least influence.  We can't make it rain, but we can develop pasture management and grazing practices that optimize soil health and moisture retention.  We know we'll still be learning til the day we die.

    Q:  What is the best part about what you do?

    A:  Oh, so many good things! Life in the country is so different than Dallas, but so peaceful and worship-full.  I think what floats my boat the most is learning day by day about the wonder of God's creation.. to the most minute detail imaginable - soil structure and microbes - and how they form the base for sustainability of all land life.  I never knew that the beef or chicken or vegetables I ate have that much of a vital connection to what's below the ground, hiding down there, invisible to us.  But it's critical.  If you strip the land of it's life, all you can do is add ever increasing amounts of chemicals to artificially grow nutrient-starved food.  (I might be a bit of a biology nerd...).  But the times I get to spend interacting with the people who eat what we grow, or just want to learn about how we grow it, are pretty special, too.

    Q:  Do you have any advice for someone like me, who wants to do everything they can to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle?

    A:  (Lots of random thoughts as they've come to me.  No particular order...)  Read, read, read!  Be a critical thinker.  Look for products that are as free of processing as possible (the middle aisles of typical grocery stores are where most of the processed stuff hangs out, but the meat, dairy and bread areas are chock full as well).  Read articles, read labels, read & subscribe to blogs about sustainable living.  Be aware that deception does take place so be discerning.  Buy directly from a trusted farmer or rancher.  Buy local if you can and from stores who carefully do their homework and source reliable products, like Urban Acres, whenever possible.  Stay away from GMOs - look for the Non GMO Verified seal on packages. There's a huge movement to government-mandate labeling of GMO containing products, but so far, the voluntary no GMO seal is what we've got to go on and I applaud the companies who have opted in.  Cook from scratch as much as you can and if you don't have much time to cook, eat as much raw food as you can instead.  Grow SOMETHING you can eat!  Even if it's a pot of basil in the kitchen window, it's a start & one less thing you have to go out and buy from who knows where.  Teach your kids to grow things.  Exercise, move, walk, and teach your kids to do the same by example.  Know that it's almost impossible to get it all right (whatever that means....) and don't stress when you have to cut a corner.  Eat out less, be outdoors more.  Join a CSA or a food coop.  Most of all, if you want to make sure there's a steady supply of farmers and ranchers who raise food in a sustainable way, buy their products!!!  Support them.  It's hard going against the grain (ha! literally!).  Big Ag and Big Phama are ENORMOUS forces to reckon with, extremely powerful, and highly involved in all levels of government and agricultural "research", and we're the ones out there, tiny as we growers are, educating some of the most "learned" agricultural scientists in this country about what this all means. We NEED your support!

    Q:  Any other things you want to add?

    A:  We are so grateful to be ranching and absolutely love the wonder of being able to work with nature - inside of God's awesome design of this earth, not fighting it with chemicals and additives.  Sustainability is the very result of this guiding principle. 
    Are you interested in more information about the Nitschke's or about Nitschke Natural Beef?  Check out their awesome website here:
    Their beef is sold around Dallas as well - in many Whole Foods locations as well as at Urban Acres Farmstead in Oak Cliff.
    Thank you, Lauren, for such valuable information! 

    Mar 3, 2014

    An Oily Bath

    Many people think that Young Living essential oils are something to bring out when you are sick - and they are.  However, they are so great to use every single day in many aspects of your life.  

    One way to incorporate the use of essential oils into your WELLNESS routine is to take baths using epsom salts and Young Living Essential Oils.  Baths with oils and salts are perfect for relaxing at the end of a long day and promoting overall health.

    Here's how you do it:

    1. In a small bowl, place a couple hand fulls of Epsom Salts.  You can buy epsom salt at your local drug store, or in bulk at stores like Costco.  
    2. On top of the salts, drop 5-10 drops of your favorite oils and stir.  
    3. While the water is running for your bath at the temperature you like, pour the salts in let the running water dissolve the salts in your bath.  
    4. Soak for 20 minutes or so, and make sure you hydrate with a glass of water or tea.

    Here are some of my favorite oils to soak in:
    • Lavender
    • Peace and Calming
    • Purification
    • Rosemary and Lemon
    • Citrus Fresh
    • RC
    • Believe
    • Peppermint
    Don't take this list as rule - experiment and try your favorite oil or blend in your bath!

    Bath salts also make an awesome gift - quick and easy for a hostess, a thank you, your mom, the secretary at your work, etc.

    Want to know how to purchase your own oils? Check out this info here!

    Please remember that I am a Mama and not a doctor. These things work for us and I am in love with using homeopathic remedies for health in our home and I am excited to share them with you, but please use your best judgement for your own home.