Albert Einstein and Knapweed


Albert Einstein said that our problems cannot be solved by using the same type of thinking that created the problem in the first place.

So here we are, faced with a problem. A full square acre of our property is covered with invasive, prolific, antagonistic, and all around jerk-faced Knapweed.

Knapweed is a nearly useless weed that grows in really terrible, nutrient deprived, tortured and dying soil. Nothing else is able to thrive in such poor soil, and so the knapweed dominates any competition.  But why does this one entire acre have terrible soil?

This acre was poisoned with chemical pellets in an effort to eradicate an over-population of gophers that had suddenly appeared. Along with killing (some) gophers, the poison also killed micro-organisms and macro-organisms that were vital to the health of the soil. But why did the gophers suddenly take up residence in this acre of land?

Before the gophers moved in, this acre was a thriving area of forest, full of evergreen trees, pines, larches, firs, Oregon grapes, and a whole lot of little worms, mosses, ants, grubs, birds, and all of the other living things that contribute to a big, healthy, harmonious, eco-system. This little pine forest had its own wind barriers, moisture regulation, pH balance, root systems, sun and shade zones and more.

Then someone wanted to make a few bucks off the lumber, and had this acre “clear-cut”. In other words, every single tree was cut down to the ground and the lumber was sold to a logging company. This decimated the micro climate and eco-system of the acre. The result?

Gophers moved in to this now “unobstructed” ground. But, the people that clear cut the land didn’t like the gophers – so they used poison to kill. The result?

The soil was dealt a death blow along with some (but not all) of the gopher population.

The result? Knapweed invaded and flourished in a barren field of the poorest soil. The result?

The people that didn’t like the gophers also didn’t like the knapweed. What were they going to do to get rid of this knapweed – a weed that is nearly impossible to defeat?

You guessed it, they were going to spray poison chemical weed killer on the knapweed field. Well, you can’t fix ‘stupid’. Thankfully we purchased this property shortly before they executed phase 3 of Project: Idiocracy.

Never mind that there is a year-round creek that runs the entire western border of this tortured acre and how much poison that water supply – and its own eco-system – would have absorbed from the weed killer; never mind that the property gets its drinking water from a well that pulls ground water not 100 feet away; but would trying to solve the problem by using the same thinking have even worked?

Maybe the knapweed would have been effectively nuked by the weed killer, but then what problem would move in next? Hoards of locusts? Sandstorms and tumbleweeds? If you really hate the land that much why not just pave it with asphalt and be done?

So let’s look at the problem with different thinking.

First, is the knapweed even the problem? It looks to me like it was given a written invitation to move in and thrive on dying soil that was robbed of all protection and nutrition.

Second, all of the attempted solutions were looking for results “now”. Want the trees gone and money in your pocket now? Cut them down. Want the gophers gone now because the mounds are ugly on this barren acre? Poison them. Want the knapweed gone now because it’s ugly and spreading like wildfire? Chemical spray it. Now, now, now.

So we have devised our own strategy and tactics in this warfare against the knapweed that is overtaking the dying soil.

Strategy: Rehabilitate – Turn this piece of land into a thriving area of living forest.

Primary Objective: Good Dirt – Give nature what it needs to make healthy soil. Healthy soil makes good forestation; good forest eliminates knapweed on its own.

Secondary Objective: Silver Lining – Make use of the knapweed for as long as nature leaves it there.

That’s right in this battle against knapweed we WILL NOT CUT, PULL, OR SPRAY, one single stem of knapweed. This is a long-term strategy with a permanent outcome.

Our Tactics: Give nature what it needs to make healthy soil. Harvest any benefits from knapweed for as long as it’s there.

If I had to summarize the game plan in two words: Bees and Compost.

Bees: So, one living creature on this planet that loves knapweed is the gentle honey-bee. It turns out they can make one of the most delicious honey varieties known to man from the pollen of knapweed. We are standing up three honey-bee hives this spring at the edge of this knapweed kingdom. This will also give the new hives a great source of pollen since knapweed blooms in the late fall when there’s slim pickin’s for our little pollenating friends.

Compost: We are going to pump life back into this soil through every kind of nutrient dense compost, manure, and plantings one small area at a time. If we let the soil heal, nature will do the rest of the work to establish its own abundance of trees and plants. Massive root systems will take hold and, rebalance the soil’s moisture and pH while rebuilding its own corrosion resisting wind barrier and shade, and a spawn a whole lot of micro and macro-organisms.

How long will it take? That’s up to nature. The best thing we can do is to stop compounding the problem with human thinking, and give nature the resources it needs to heal itself.

Do you have any uses for knapweed? Please let us know!

In the meantime, we’ll keep you posted of how to get rid of invasive knapweed for good.

From this:1

To this:2

Raising Our Own Meat


Part of being a self-sufficient homestead is producing your own food right?

As Spring approaches we are getting excited for our garden to get producing. While we love our veggies and herbs we are definitely big meat eaters here. We have chickens which are a great option but all of our girls are in the prime of laying so they won’t be meat and we are nowhere near being close to ready to raise a cow or even pigs so we decided on rabbits to start.

If you search the internet for the best type of rabbits to raise for meat a decent size list will pop up. We noticed that New Zealand Whites and Californians usually graced the tops of those lists. We decided to go with New Zealand Whites, mostly because they are a top choice and they aren’t quite as cutesy fluffy adorable as some of the other breeds :/. Sounds bad but we, especially Chris, think rabbits are super adorable. Kind of makes it hard to get them ready for the dinner table right? One of the females is a New Zealand mix…so she isn’t all white but she will do. It should give us some variety in the pelts we intend to use!

Chris built some awesome hutches for them and we started with 1 buck and 2 does. We are expecting to get another doe within the next week or 2. Did you know you can get like 300+ pounds of meat per year with 3 does and a buck? Looks like we will be eating rabbit for every meal. Rabbit soup, Rabbit stew, BBQ Rabbit, Rabbit burgers? ehhh…maybe not.

IMG_20150221_173629IMG_20150225_161857Here are the hutches. We have a 2nd set that matches. Oh and Bill guarding “his” rabbits. He immediately deemed them under his protection. 🙂


The first 2 are the does and the one on the right is our buck. We bred them already and we are expecting our first litter near the end of the month.

There you have it our first step in raising our own meat. I’ll keep everyone updated. In the meantime anyone have some good rabbit recipes they want to share?





A Quick Update


Things are finally getting back to normal around here.

Darci made a full recovery from her accident. We had her in for a check up and they noticed a growth on one of her ears that had a lot of abnormal cells so they decided surgery to remove it would be best and send the sample in to check for cancer.

She had her surgery this week and we received the results today. Luckily the tumor is benign. Poor dog. Escaped death twice in 2 weeks. Phew. Now we can go back to some sort of normalcy around here.

Thanks to all that sent good thoughts and wishes!

I’ll try not to be so neglectful of the blog 😉



A Little time out


I have some great stuff I want to share with all of you and I promise the posts are coming.

On Monday our Boxer had a serious accident. She suffered life threatening injuries and is still not completely in the clear.

We are doing our best to make sure she gets the care she needs in order to recover fully.

The next few days are going to be hectic but I will try to have some fun info on vermicomposting for you all within the next week.


Herb Series 8: Peppermint


This familiar mint scented plant isn’t just great for freshening breath and flavoring gums and candies. This wonderful herb has some great health benefits as well!


Mentha piperita, White Peppermint, American Peppermint, Northern Mint, Lamb Mint, Brandy Mint, and Black Peppermint.

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“Peppermint is a flowering perennial, usually growing between 12 and 35 inches in height. It is native to Europe, and is actually a natural hybrid of spearmint and water mint. The herb is easy to grow in moist soil and is commonly cultivated around the world for its many applications in food and medicine.

The world’s most familiar “mint scent” is the aroma of peppermint. In Greek mythology, Menthe was turned into a peppermint plant when Proserpine, in a jealous rage, found out that Pluto was in love with her. Even earlier, Assyrians used peppermint as an offering to their fire god.

Peppermint contains an essential oil that is unique among mints for its quality and flavor. Artificial mint compounds do not effectively duplicate the aroma or medicinal properties.

Peppermint is one of the most popular herbs in teas, candies, and chewing gums. Cultivation and oil production started in the US in the 1790’s, and was a major export business by the mid 1800’s. The U.S. is still the world’s leading producer of peppermint oil, making an average of 4,117 tons annually. Some companies in Japan are said to pipe peppermint oil into their AC system to invigorate their workers and thereby increase productivity.”

In the Western world this refreshing herb is used to flavor candies, ice creams, pies and other desserts, muddled into cocktails, dried in herbal tea blends, toothpastes, mouthwash, chewing gum and cough drops. In Middle Eastern cuisine peppermint is popular in savory dishes. It is added to spice rubs to flavor most commonly lamb and other meats and it added to yogurt, beans and cheese.

In addition to it’s flavor contributions Peppermint is an effective medicinal plant as well. It is effective in supporting the gastrointestinal tract. Peppermint contains aromatic compounds that increase the production of digestive fluids, relieve muscle spasms, increase blood circulation, reduce pains, promote sweating and have antiseptic qualities. It also contains astringent compounds which shrink inflamed tissues making it a wonderful digestive aid that works to soothe the digestive tract in times of upset. It helps relieve morning sickness, motion sickness, stomach aches, gas, indigestion and heartburn.

Peppermint is soothing to the Upper Respiratory system and can be used for aromatherapy. Making a facial steam is said to help soothe irritated sinuses and alleviate allergies. It has calming effects and is naturally caffeine free so it can be used in the evening combined with lavender and chamomile to promote relaxation.

Peppermint is also very effective at relieving headaches and muscle soreness and tension. Diluted in carrier oil it can be rubbed on the back of the neck, temples and other sore muscles to relieve pain. It is also said to help promote hair growth and scalp health and is even an effective remedy for dandruff!

We drink peppermint and ginger tea if we have upset stomachs or need some digestive help after a heavy meal. We also used a diluted essential oil roll on of peppermint oil whenever we have headaches. It works wonderfully…we can’t live without it. I also use dried peppermint in my homemade mouthwash and hair strengthening spray.

Have you ever used Peppermint medicinally or otherwise?

Herb Series 7: Calendula


Another favorite growing in our medicinal herb garden. This stunning flower not only brightens any day it offers some great benefits, especially for the skin!


Calendula officinalis, pot marigold, Garden Marigold, Gold-Bloom, Holligold, Marigold, Marybud, Zergul.

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“The calendula is an annual flower native to the northern Mediterranean countries. Its name refers to its tendency to bloom with the calendar, usually once a month or with every new moon. The term “marigold” refers to the Virgin Mary, and the flowers are used to honor her during Catholic events. The Egyptians considered calendula flowers to have rejuvenating properties. In the Hindu world, the flowers were used to adorn statues of gods in their temples, as well as a colorant in food, fabrics, and cosmetics, and of particular interest, in the 18th and 19th century calendula was used to color cheese.”

Traditionally Calendula has been used to treat a host of ailments including conjunctivitis, blepharitis, eczema, gastritis, minor burns including sunburns, warts, and minor injuries such as sprains and wounds. It has also been used to treat cramps, menopausal symptoms, coughs, sore throat, digestive upset, colitis and snake bites. Calendula has been considered beneficial in reducing inflammation and promoting wound healing. It has been used to treat a variety of skin diseases and has been seen effective in treatment of skin ulcerations, eczema, juvenile acne and psoriasis. It is particularly effective in soothing skin affected with rashes, burns, irritation, eczema and acne.

Calendula has been used to aid in healing wounds as well as internal and external ulcers. It is antiseptic, increases blood flow and promotes production of collagen proteins. It also works well as an anti-fungal agent when treating athletes foot.

Calendula has a high antioxidant content and is being studied today for possible anti-cancer benefits.

Many people use it in natural herbal hair coloring and lightening recipes, though I have not personally tried it.

We have found it to be extremely soothing and gentle for the skin. I have used it in homemade lotions and creams, homemade deodorant, and healing salves and balms.

Have you ever used Calendula? If so, what for? 🙂

Herb Series 6: Lavender


Probably my #1 Herb/Flower/Plant whatever you want to call it. This beauty has a ton of benefits for you, your garden, your chicken coop, your dogs..all sorts of things. The bright blooms are gorgeous to look at and if you’ve ever walked through a patch of lavender in a garden the smell is like nothing else.


Lavandula angustifolia is the classic lavender that most people are familiar with. It can also be found on the market as Common Lavender, French Lavender (when it comes from France), True Lavender, English Lavender or Lavender. You may also see it labeled as Lavandula officinalisLavandula x intermedia is quickly becoming a popular ‘Lavender’ species on the market. It can sometimes be found as Dutch Lavender, but is often sold as Lavender. We are slowly seeing it labeled properly as Lavandin.

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“Lavender is an aromatic perennial evergreen shrub. Its woody stems bear lavender or purple flowers from late spring to early autumn, although there are varieties with blossoms of white or pink. Lavender is native to the Mediterranean, but now cultivated in cool-winter, dry-summer areas in Europe and the Western United States. The use of Lavender goes back thousands of years, with the first recorded uses by the Egyptians during the mummification process. Both the Greeks and the Romans had many uses for it, the most popular being for bathing, cooking, as an ingredient in perfume, healing wounds, and as an insect repellant. Lavender was used as an after-bath perfume by the Romans, who gave the herb its name from the Latin lavare, to wash. During the Great Plague of 1665, grave robbers would wash their hands in a concoction called Four Thieves Vinegar, which contained lavender, wormwood, rue, sage, mint, and rosemary, and vinegar; they rarely became infected. English folklore tells that a mixture of lavender, mugwort, chamomile, and rose petals will attract sprites, fairies, brownies, and elves.

Lavender has been thought for centuries to enflame passions as an aphrodisiac, and is still one of the most recognized scents in the world. The German Commission E commended lavender for treating insomnia, nervous stomach, and anxiety. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia lists lavender as a treatment for flatulence, colic, and depressive headaches, and many modern herbal practitioners use the herb to treat migraines in menopause. In Spain, lavender is added to teas to treat diabetes and insulin resistance.”

Lavender is said to have these properties:

Antidepressant, Analgesic, Antiseptic, Cicatrizant, Expectorant, Anti-Inflammatory, Nervine and Vulnerary.

It is said to be especially effective in easing the respiratory tract when it comes to colds, coughs and flus. It is also said to be effective in protection against airborne viruses.

Lavender is one of the most useful scents for relieving anxiety, stress, mild agitation and distress. Lavender not only promotes a healthy mood in humans but it also said to have calming effects for dogs as well. Lavender is also particularly good at promoting sleep and relaxation.

Topically lavender can be used to alleviate pain caused by sore muscles, tension, sprains, rheumatism, and postoperative pain. Topically lavender is soothing making it useful for treating skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis and even wrinkles and aging skin. Due to it’s anti-Inflammatory and circulation increasing properties Lavender promotes scalp health and helps relieve dandruff. These properties are also said to promote hair growth.

Mountain Rose Herbs says:

“As a spice, lavender is best known as an important aspect of French cuisine and is an integral ingredient in herbs de Provence seasoning blends. Lavender may be used on its own to give a delightful, floral flavor to desserts, meats, and breads. The flowers can also be layered within sugar to infuse it with its distinctive aroma for use in cookies and candies.

Similar to cilantro, some individuals perceive the taste of lavender in a manner that is undesirable within cuisine. An estimated 10% of the population interprets lavender to have a soapy and unsavory flavor. For this reason, it may be wise to exercise caution while using lavender as a flavoring agent.”

Lavender is a great insecticidal herb. Planting around your chicken coop and throughout your garden can keep pests at bay. It can also be used in your chicken coop bedding to deter pests, enhance the airs fragrance and soothe your flock. Lavender oil used topically on dogs can also help deter fleas and ticks.

Perhaps our favorite thing about lavender? Bees love it! The more bee friendly flowers the happier and healthier the bees. If your garden is in need of some bee assistance I’ve found it useful to plant lavender throughout the vegetables to attract bees.

We use lavender in our homemade soaps and body washes, my face and body creams, my face wash and in my shampoo. We use it in the diffuser each night before bed, in our night time tea mixed with chamomile and as an ingredient in one of our favorite squash soups!

What do you use lavender for?


Suddenly A Busy Winter


Long time no post. I know.

Just as quickly as things quieted down here for winter…they have picked back up again.

With Spring quickly approaching there are suddenly a million things to do and I am looking back at November when I said “Oh, I have all winter to prepare for Spring. That’s plenty of time!” and kicking myself.

In addition to our computer acting up and keeping me from posting (sorry) I have been doing double time planning everything that needs to get done.


Here’s what has been going on at The Johnson Homestead~

We ordered all of our heirloom seeds for our growing plans this year. In addition to vegetables and herbs I am also going to start a flower garden full of Bees’ favorite flowers. Yay Bees. We have also decided to begin growing our own chicken feed as well as rabbit and duck feed.

We ordered our grow lights to start our seedlings indoors and began thinking about the set up for that.

I’ve begun planning which seedlings will go where but we need to build our raised garden beds. The weather is still not right to do a ton of work outside, everything is currently mushy and muddy.

We ordered 3 nucs to start 3 bee hives in the Spring. We have planned out the supplies are getting ready to order everything we need to start those.

We got our vermicomposter and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of 1,000 hard working red wigglers to start making valuable compost and worm tea.

10 new additions to the chicken flock will arrive at the end of March. The chicks will need to be set up indoors in a brooder. We are still working on getting that together.

3 Pairs of Pekin Ducklings will arrive at the end of May. They will be here just in time to take the chickens place in the brooder. We also have to get our pond in tip top shape for them and build a duck house.

We have started planning out rabbit hutches, but have yet to build them.

We started the process of fixing up the inside of the house. Which is exciting but time consuming. New floors have to be put down in the entire house and both bathrooms need completely renovated.

I have a huge list of other things that need to be started but those are the ones that we have been working on the past couple of weeks. As soon as we start getting things set up I’ll document each process and have pictures for you!

On top of all of that I have ventured into the world on home brewing Kombucha and making soap and candles. Posts on that coming soon. I have to keep crafting or I’ll go crazy 😉

Thanks for bearing with my lack of posting and disappearing. Things are getting busy again and we will have plenty to share with you soon!


Herb Series 5: Plantain


Today we are talking about Plantain (Not to be confused with the banana-like fruits Plantains). This plant is technically considered a noxious weed…but one I would be happy to find growing on our property. Much like Dandelion in the sense that not all weeds are bad!!


Plantago major (and minor), Broadleaf Plantain, White Man’s Foot, Common Plantain, Patrick’s Dock, Ripple Grass, Snakeweed, Waybread, Englishman’s Foot.

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“The common plantain is of Eurasian descent, but has since been naturalized around the world with particular prominence in the United States. Native American populations referred to it as Whiteman’s Foot due to its tendency to spring up around European settlements.

Plantain has been used by many cultures the world over, and the Saxons considered it one of their nine sacred herbs. It was considered an early Christian symbol and many cultures today refer to it as an aphrodisiac. Despite its usefulness, plantain is considered a noxious weed in some regions outside of its native range.”

Plantain is said to have antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-toxic and coagulating properties and is used both externally and internally.

It is said to help with minor wounds, bruises, burns, skin rashes, eczema, psoriasis, sores, chicken pox, itching, healing and soothing mosquito/ant/spider/other insect bites, soothing bee stings, ease the itch of poison oak/ivy/sumac, snake bites, ear infections, indigestion, heartburn and ulcers.

Some research suggests it may be helpful in lowering blood sugar and protecting the body against the side effects of chemotherapy but it is not confirmed.

The leaves are edible and can be used like you would any other green such as spinach. They can be eaten raw in salads or cooked as greens for a side dish. The older leaves have a stronger taste that some find offensive but are fibrous and stringy, making them useful for homemade cordage or fishing line.

Plantain can be eaten raw or cooked, used for teas, tinctures, salves and external compresses.

We have used it for spider bites, cuts and in salves for skin troubles, and it worked wonders. I also have used it in homemade mouthwashes for its antibacterial properties.

Have you ever used plantain?

*As with all natural remedies and medicine there are risks and warnings associated with Plantain. Consult a doctor and/or do your own research before consuming/using it to treat any condition.

Herb Series 4: Chamomile


-I am at the mercy of my computer this week. I have been trying to be more regular about posting…and my computer has decided now is the time to stop working. Figures. Sorry everyone!-

Next up in the Herb Series is Chamomile. A little plant you’ve no doubt heard about and used, this one is in my top 3 favorites. The smell is undoubtedly entrancing and relaxing and it is an herb I always have on hand for its benefits.


Matricaria chamomilla, Hungarian chamomile or wild chamomile, Camomilla, Camomille Allemande, Chamomilla recutita, Echte Kamille, Feldkamille, Fleur de Camomile, Kamillen, Kleine Kamille, Manzanilla, Matricaire, Matricaria recutita, Matricariae Flos, Pin Heads, Sweet False Chamomile, True Chamomile.

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“Chamomile is a low-growing relative of the sunflower native to Eastern Europe and now found around the world. It is especially abundant in Hungary, Croatia, and Serbia, although chamomile grown in Egypt has an exceptionally high content of essential oils.

Chamomile was used as a medicine by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Its name derives from the Greek chamos (ground) and melos (apple), referring to its creeping habit and the apple scent of fresh blossoms.

In the US, chamomile is one of the most widely used herbal ingredients in teas as well as in cosmetic, health, and beauty aid products. The amount of chamomile imported into the US each year is between 750,000 and one million pounds, with an estimated 90% used in teas. In commerce, chamomile is often called German chamomile or Hungarian chamomile, which are not to be confused with the rare, and more costly, Roman or English chamomile (Anthemis nobilis/Chamaemelum nobile).

Chamomile is a beloved herbal favorite, appreciated worldwide in tea infusions and liquid extracts. It has a sweet, characteristic smell and is generally used to sooth and relax, either before bedtime or during moments of mental or emotional discomfort. Acclaimed herbalist Matthew Wood refers to chamomile as “the remedy for babies of any age,” referring to its calming tendencies and its ability to promote well-being.”

The plant’s healing properties come from its daisy-like flowers, which contain volatile oils (including bisabolol, bisabolol oxides A and B, and matricin) as well as flavonoids (particularly a compound called apinegin) and other therapeutic substances.

Research has proven the plant to be antiseptic, antispasmodic, antibacterial, anti fungal and have anti-allergy activity.

Chamomile has been used to treat or ease the symptoms of rheumatic problems, rashes and other skin problems such as eczema,skin ulcers, wounds, minor burns, sunburns, skin inflammation, internal inflammation, eye inflammation/infection, mouth sores, gum disease, menstrual cramps, irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal complaints, inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s, hemorrhoids, nausea, heartburn, stress-related flatulence, gastritis, uclerative colitis, morning sickness, aid in digestion, upset stomach, restlessness, insomnia, aid in sleep, teething & colic in children, allergies, asthma, colds and fevers, promoting relaxation and overall well-being.

Impressive right?

The flowers are used to make teas, tinctures, infusions, extracts, oils, salves and creams.

We drink a big mug full after dinner and before bed to help with digestion and sleep. We also diffuse the essential oil in the bedroom to aid in relaxation at night. I also include it in homemade lotions to help my dry skin.