The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Monday, March 30, 2015

I Don't Have a Clue What to Write

I really don't. It's late. I'm tired and I can't think of anything interesting to share with you. Frank and I have been very busy. We made the unplanned trip to look at the goats. Very informative, and the ride gave us time to reflect on our decision to come home with an empty trailer. We're still glad we did. We've contacted a few other folks about a new buck. We'll just have to see how that works out.

Frank has spent a couple of day working on a new CB installation in the vehicles that we will share with you sometime in another post.

Cabbage seedlings the rabbits are chewing on.

The seedlings are doing well now that we got a few days of sunshine. The part of the garden that is planted is growing. The turnip seeds I sprinkled in the front of the herb bed are coming up very well. I look forward to picking the greens for man and beast alike. With all of the cloudy cool weather we had this month, our seedlings grew very, very slowly. The small cabbage and broccoli we planted are finally starting to take off and grow. We did buy some spinach, lettuce and a few cabbage plants to provide some food a little earlier than our small seedlings will.

I also ordered more plants for the herb bed this year. They are getting acclimated, and will be planted in the next few days. I will do an article on how the herb bed is coming along in the next few weeks. I'm excited about the number of plants that are established and have been coming back year after year.

We are getting ready for more baby goats this week. Tomorrow we will be working on the barn making sure everything is in order. Cricket and Lady Bug will hit 150 days of gestation on Thursday, and Penny will do the same on Saturday. Since they are all first fresheners, I may not get much sleep after Tuesday night, with trips to the barn at all times of the day and night checking for babies, then checking on babies. You'll be hearing all about them as well.

I tried a new low carb fried chicken dinner last night that was really good. After I do a little more research and put it all together, I'll fill you in on that one. It was one of those experiments that I just didn't know if it would taste good or yucky. Good thing for us it turned out very good.

We bought some seat cushions for our dinning room chairs. There comes a time in life when a little cushion can make a difference. They came in today so we haven't had much time to try them out. I also ordered a roll of high density foam to put in the cushions on my chair. This is where I sit with my laptop and write these articles, and the cushion needs a little more umph. And, yes, that's a heating pad. My back's been acting up again, so during breaks from planting the garden and such, I fire it up.


We all know there is a drought going on out in California, and there is a drought going on in western Oklahoma, but there is not a drought in my neighborhood. It seems like just a few weeks back we had snow on the ground, then we had ice on the ground, then we had snow again.
Every now and then we'd have a pretty day or two, then we'd either have cloudy days with rain or rainy days with clouds. Once we had about three or four days of sunny weather, and Frank got the garden tilled. But, down deep it was just too wet and everything clodded up. So, when we needed to do some planting, we took some hard rakes and broke it down. Then in rained for four or five more days, then we had about three days off from the rain and actually had some pretty weather. So, Frank tilled the garden again, still too wet, but the clods were a little smaller this time. Then, you guessed it. It rained for three or four more days. 

Now, I have to say, the last three days have been beautiful. Sunny skies, light to moderate breeze. So when we got home today from running errands, Frank tilled the garden again. And, yes, it's still too wet, but it's getting better. Because you know what's forecast late tonight and for the next five days? Liquid precipitation. If it could hold off for a little while tomorrow morning, then we can get the barn cleaned out without changing the corral into soup. Our weather men continue to tell us that we are running short on precipitation for the year, and I'm sure they're right. 

 The folks we talked to at church Sunday mentioned that they haven't planted a garden yet. It's just too wet. Two Sundays ago at a potluck, I asked a lady if she had brought her famous turnip green dish. She said no, to do that she would need to build an ark. Somebody else made reference that to get to their garden they would need a canoe. I sure did miss those turnip greens. Well, that's what the weather's been doing lately.

See, I told you I didn't have anything to write about..... I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. Feel free to share what you've been up to.

Until next time - Fern

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Raising Boys to be Men

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

 Every now and then, like most people, I run across an article or a post that just kind of stays with me. Last night while reading SurvivalBlog I read one of those type articles. It's written by a man with his perspective about raising his boys to become men. 
I was in public education for almost 30 years. I saw lots of changes in the way schools respond to boys. Now, I may take a little heat for what I'm about to say, but it seems that there's an agenda in our society now days, to restrict the development of boys into men. It's a quiet movement, very subtle, but it's there. And then you throw in television. For years TV has been degrading fathers and men in general. There is probably a much larger reason for this passive kind of movement.

But, back to this man's article. It's relatively short in length, but it hits on some points about his technique of raising his boys. If you would, take the time to read it, and then look around at what you see in our society, at the things that we are doing to turn little boys into anything but men. We need more kids out on the playground with stick swords slaying dragons, and not a bunch of little boys discussing how they feel about what Billy Bob said about them. 

Things have changed a lot in the last 30 years. If certain groups had their way, they'd make all little boys sit down to urinate. Hope you enjoy this article, I certainly did.

Understanding Unconventional Warfare As It Applies to Conservative Families, by Swamp Fox

Your comments would be appreciated.

We'll talk more later, Frank

Friday, March 27, 2015

Shopping for Goats

We went shopping for goats today, came home empty handed, and wanted to share the reasons why. Our trip was about 170 miles round trip and took about four hours. When the gentleman asked what we thought and Frank told him we were going to pass, he told us he was sorry we had wasted a trip. Frank told him it was not wasted, we got to visit the whole way. Isn't that neat? There is not much Frank and I would rather do than spend the day with each other whether we are home or on the road, so today has been another day well spent.

A few days ago I found an ad on Craigslist that had the potential for adding some new blood into our herd. We called and set up a time to make the trip. The gentleman wasn't much of a phone talker, and just recommended we come look. I should have tried to ask a few more questions. 

One Stripe
We went to look at a Nubian doe that had black and tan quadruplets. I have always liked black and tan goats, but we have only had one, and she was an excellent specimen of a milk goat. She had a nice thick, long body, she was big and had great babies. Even though my favorite goat at that time was more of a big belly kind of goat, just because she was friendly, kind of like One Stripe. All of this leads to the confirmation of the animal, the type of body structure they have which will add to a herd and not bring some unwanted traits.

Google Images
The first thing we noticed about this doe was her udder. Now that I have learned more about milking and udders, I have realized that there are many subtleties that can add or detract from the performance of an udder over the short and long run. Although this doe's udder was nice and full, and she was able to feed all four of her babies, it wasn't well attached. By this I mean that the ligaments that attach the udder to the body wall were more narrowly spaced allowing the udder to swing or sway side to side when she walked. This is not a desirable characteristic for an udder at our farm. Over time it will break down more quickly allowing the udder to sag, sometimes all the way to the ground.

Copper a week before she gave birth
A well attached udder should be widely spaced between the legs and up to the belly area. It's hard to describe in words. Frank described it to one of his friends using a paper sack analogy. A well attached udder would be like an open paper sack that is wide open. A poorly attached udder would be like a paper sack that is squeezed closed at the top, like you were going to blow it up and pop it. The actual area of attachment to the body is much smaller.

The second thing we found out about this doe is that she is a polled animal. Polled meaning that she was born without horns. There are folks that will tell you that some goats are just 'naturally' polled, but we are of the opinion that any goat that is natural will have horns. Another problem that occurs among polled goats is that if you breed two of them together you may end up with a hermaphrodite. A hermaphrodite is a goat that has "both sex organs and sterile". The gentleman had bought this doe from a lady that had all polled goats.

The next issue we noticed is the way the kids were disbudded, or dehorned. The gentleman's disbudding iron did not have the right tip and he had burned all the way across the top of the kids' heads. Even so, the horns were still growing out.

Copper's ear before we fixed it.
And the last thing was the ears. The doe's ears were turned over sideways, similar to this picture. This can be corrected when the goat is very young, just like we fixed Copper's ear. One of this doe's kids had one ear that was the same way.

We wouldn't have bought the doe because of her udder alone. A pendulous udder is not a trait we want in our herd. We had a doe named Red that was born here and was a great milker. I milked her for two years, then one day as she was walking out of the barn I realized that her udder was swinging from side to side much more than any other doe. As I
Red taught us why we don't want horns & about pendulous udders.
watched and really looked at her, I realized that her udder was not widely attached like the other does. Then I really looked at her. Sometimes when you are used to something you don't always 'see' what is really there. Another instance of that was the first goat we had born with parrot mouth. I always knew this goat looked a little different, but it took a number of months for me to realize what it was that was creating that difference. These are the 'ah-ha!' moments of learning, and I am grateful for them even when they lead to an undesirable decision. The goat with the pendulous udder we sold, pointing out this deficit to the buyers. The goat with the parrot mouth we butchered, not wanting to pass on a deformity in our herd or to anyone else. The doe today, we did not buy, even though I would really like to have some black and tan goats.

This gentleman also had a billy goat today that we wanted to look at. He was solid black, which is unusual, a solid, nice looking animal. His draw back? He had horns. That was an instant decision. No horns at our place, so no nice big, black buck. Then as we stood and visited for a minute, the buck started backing up and putting his head down in a stance that indicated he would like to butt something or someone. The owner indicated the buck liked to 'play', not a behavior we care to have in a buck when that 'play' can
Teddy was a great looking animal with some bad behaviors.
hurt someone. The buck was separated in an area by himself. The owner said he put a couple of the baby goats in there with the billy for company, but he just chased them and chased them around, so he had to take them out. The only time this billy was allowed around other goats was during breeding time. All in all, what I saw in this goat was one that was not socially adapted to being with other goats or people. So, even if he had not had horns, his behavior would have prevented us from buying him. We learned a lot about unwanted buck behavior from Teddy, who was a very nice big billy and the father of Cricket, Lady Bug and Penny.

It takes time to 'learn' an animal, whether it is a chicken, dog, cat, goat, or any other animal. Time is a good teacher. Having friends, neighbors, or other folks with the same type of animals can help a tremendous amount. Observing and studying your own animals can teach you a lot. Over the years we have made our fair share of mistakes with animals. Buying some on impulse. Trying to ignore bad traits, or think somehow we can overcome them by some magic. It never works out. We just end up dealing with someone else's problem, and it's never worth it in the long run. 

If you are starting out or looking for new animals, research all you can, talk to everyone you can, don't overlook flaws that will cause you troubles and listen to your instinct. Then you still may end up with an unforeseen problem. But if you do, learn from that as well, and in time, you will end up with the herd or flock you want. Healthy, productive and content. We have been blessed with stewardship of this small spot of earth in southeastern Oklahoma, and we give thanks for that every single day. Even when we didn't get to bring home a few more goats.

Until next time - Fern

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Sounds of a Peaceful Morning Milking

I've told you before how much I enjoy milking in the mornings. Listening to the birds, the goats, and just watching the world wake up for the day. Well, recently I took the camera with me and recorded a few more short videos. Just for you. So, without further ado, A Peaceful Morning Milking.

You will notice a metalic kind of sound in this video. I have just begun to milk, and the bucket is empty. Copper fusses at me every morning because she has to wait and be second in line. She just doesn't see any reason she should have to wait for her mother, One Stripe, to be milked first. If you milk more than one doe, and are consistent with your line up, you will find that they figure out their place in line, although at first the goats new to the milking routine will try to cut line. 

Now the sounds of milking have changed and Copper is on the stand. I was surprised at how well the sounds came out while taking these videos with my camera. Interesting. By the time I am about half way through milking Copper, the babies start to get restless because they know that they will get to have breakfast soon.

This was the first morning I noticed one of the kids up on their 'dog house' playing. This was originally our Great Pyrenees, Pearl's, doghouse when she was a puppy. Now we use it for the kids when we pen them up away from their moms at night. The first fresheners are still fussing at me because I didn't feed them out in the feed trough like I do on most mornings. This morning, I brought them in on the milk stand to eat individually. I have been doing this off and on for a few weeks now.

This video shows the kids 'escaping' the pen for breakfast. It's a little shaky here and there, but shows you the routine.

Now I have Lady Bug on the stand and I'm showing you how I feel the babies kicking. You can usually, but not always, feel the babies moving around when the does are about three months into their gestation. At first the babies are higher up on the side and up closer to the rib cage. Since all of the young does are due next week, their babies have dropped down and moved back closer to the udder. All of their tail bone ligaments are very loose, and their udders are growing out nicely. I handle the does a lot when they are on the stand. I want them to be comfortable so when it comes time to be milked, that will be the only new thing added to this routine. I show you how I get them comfortable standing with a little wider stance. This gives more room for the milk bucket and for me to comfortably reach their teats to milk. It is a matter of patience and repetition. After a while they will be comfortable and not resist the repositioning of their leg. 

This is Cricket. Here I show you how much I handle the does. At first they kind of cringe with all of this attention since they are a little skittish about being on the stand at all. But by this time they know they will get to eat while I mess with them. I've also trimmed their hooves once since I started bringing them in. It's much easier for me to have the milk stand hold the goat, and I don't have to bend over as much making it easier on my back.

Now for the switch over. I will take Cricket out and let Penny in. Penny is the most hesitant to come in to the stand, so sometimes I have to bring her in, but she's doing better. At first when these young does left the stand they were kind of lost and didn't know which way to go, but now they have figured it out for the most part. Penny is also like her mother, Copper. She will usually come in, turn in a circle, then jump up on the stand. It's funny how that runs in families.

I had to find an application to shorten the videos I had originally taken before Blogger would upload them. First I had to learn how to do the video on my camera, now I am having to learn how to alter them to fit into the blog format. You know, if we had never started this blog, we wouldn't have bought a new camera a year ago, and I wouldn't be learning any of this stuff. So, thank you for encouraging us in our blogging endeavors. We continue to learn much all of the time.

As I try to think of the things we do and have learned about goats so I can share them with you, it helps me to really think through everything. I guess that can go for just about anything we do. We have felt all along that the purpose of this blog is to share what we have learned so that it might benefit others in some way. I hope that is the case.

Until next time - Fern

Monday, March 23, 2015

Our Daily Herbal Tea

For a few months now, we have each been drinking two cups of herbal tea a day. At this time, we are buying the herbs that we are using in our tea. We feel like this is a healthy addition to our diet. Here's why.

I start off with:

3 tbsp. dried dandelion root simmered in 2 quarts of water for 20 minutes. I start this time when the water is still cold. This makes a decoction.

The benefits of dandelion root include:
  • liver detoxification/tonic
  • promotes good digestion
  • good for indigestion
  • good for arthritis
  • regular use helps reduce cholesterol
  • gentle laxative
  • good for psoriasis

After the roots have simmered, I turn off the fire and add:

1 tsp. celery seed & 1 tbsp. meadowsweet, which sits and steeps for 10 minutes. Seeds, leaves and flower parts are used to make an infusion, which is the steeping process. Since the roots of the dandelion are much harder and thicker, they need to simmer to release the desired properties.

The benefits of celery seed include:
  • helps reduce high blood pressure
  • good digestive; reduces muscle spasms in the muscles of the intestinal tract
  • purifies the blood
  • helps treat arthritis
  • has anti-inflammatory properties
  • stimulates thyroid & pituitary
  • clears uric acid from painful joints
  • acts on kidneys & is a mild diuretic

The benefits of meadowsweet include:
  • antacid properties
  • astringent
  • anti-inflammatory
  • contains salicylates like aspirin
  • diuretic 
  • calming for overactive digestive system
  • helps acid stomach, heartburn, ulcers, hiatus hernia
  • helpful for rheumatism & arthritis
  • clears sandy deposits in urine

This information has been compiled from several of my herbal books. Not everyone agrees with the effectiveness of herbs upon the body. You will have to do your own research and decide for yourself what is right for you.

Last year we began harvesting and replanting dandelion seed in the herb bed, just for this tea. I know many people see them as the bane of a beautiful lawn. Every time I see them I think of the benefits they are providing our bodies. We will continue to harvest the seeds and spread them all over the herb bed. They are already up and blooming this year, so it won't be long before the seeds are ready. Now I need to learn how to harvest and dry the roots for our tea, as well as start incorporating some of the greens in our diet.

May 2014

I have one meadowsweet plant established (I think, I haven't seen it yet this spring) and need to add many more to provide the amount we are currently using. 

October 2014, over wintered and is coming back out now

Celery seed may be a whole new challenge. I think I will do some more research and see if I can dry the leaves and/or stalks to use in the tea. It would be much easier for us to produce the plants than the seeds. My other research will include celeriac to see if it contains the same beneficial constituents as celery.

The lemon balm is just starting to come out now.
June 2014

We have some other things growing in the herb bed that I will be adding to a tea blend of our own. These ingredients will be chosen for the beneficial characteristics they have, as well as compatibility with other herbs. Lemon balm and peppermint are on the list for now. If I can get a good crop of chamomile and echinacea, I will add them as well. We're trying to cut down on the amount of herbs we buy, because we would rather consume those we can grow and harvest 
Peppermint, May 2014
ourselves. I still have a lot of learning to do when it comes to growing herbs, harvesting them at the appropriate time, dehydrating to retain the most benefit, and usage. This is another dream come true. I have wanted to be able to grow and use herbs for many, many years. Now I am starting down that path, and it's wonderful.

This is just one more way Frank and I are trying to reclaim our bodies from the effects of the chemicals we are bombarded with everyday. I am grateful we still have the peace and freedom to do so. The more I can learn now, the better off we will be if it ever comes down to having to make do with what we know, have and can do. I pray it doesn't reach that point, but it sure looks that way more and more every day. Learn something important this week that will benefit your family should times get hard. It's critical.

Until next time - Fern

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Trouble Is Brewing - A Re-Post

 Hello Everyone, Frank here.

A little shy of a year ago, Fern wrote an interesting piece called Trouble Is Brewing. And it is. The pot just keeps on boiling, things continue to get worse everyday. Our government is unquestionably out of control. Most of us just sit around and watch it happen like we don't have a care in the world. We all need to pay attention, because the better informed we are, the better the outcome will be. If you wouldn't mind, take the time to re-read this article that Fern posted. Then if you have comments, please share them. I hope you enjoy this article. It's mind provoking and stimulates thought.

We'll talk more later, Frank


Folks, we're all in a lot of trouble. Things are changing so quickly in our country that it's literally impossible to keep up with everything. But there are a few things that are becoming very, very obvious. So much so, that it appears there is a planned or intentional means of upsetting the populace and putting everyone on edge, or worse yet, forcing us into a corner.

We Americans speak much of our rights. What are rights, really? Do we have a right to liberty? We believe we do, based upon the founding of our country. But that seems to be one of the things that is changing very quickly. Remember, you can now only have free speech if you can find one of those 'free speech zones'. If there is not one near you, you may have to travel a ways before you can express yourself, or you may have to apply for a permit to set one up closer to your location. That will decrease the need to burn more evil fossil fuels and decrease your portion of the carbon footprint, which is increasing global warming. Okay, so some of that was a little sarcastic, but you get the drift.

Back to our rights. According to the foundations upon which our great country was founded, The Declaration of Independence states "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." You notice the title of that document includes the word INDEPENDENCE not DEPENDENCE. This is one of the things that appears to be fading quickly into a distant memory. There are people that couldn't care less. There are those that embrace a full-fledged take over by a tyrannical government. There are those that only want their checks to keep coming so they can continue to talk on their free cell phone, eat chemicalized food and stare endlessly at their giant screen television and video games. Some people don't care that others rights are being stolen like a thief in the night. They can't even pull themselves away from staring in a zombie-like trance long enough to notice. There are even places that have made texting and walking illegal because it is such a problem. Rights come from God. I don't remember reading anything in the Bible that says people have the right to a cell phone. People have the right to the pursuit of happiness. Pursuit is an action, it requires work on the part of the person that is doing the pursuing. They do not have the right to take away my happiness to support their happiness. We have lost the true meaning of what rights are meant to be.

Another unfortunate side effect of staring at these screens all day is buying into the mantra that anyone who disagrees with some of these government tactics is a domestic terrorist or mentally unsound in some way. We have actually heard a high school counselor say that everyone that has ever been in the military has mental problems. Every single one of them. And this person is a counselor for high school students. Unbelievable, but true. 
It appears there will come a day when these two sides will have to choose. For the mindless millions now demanding their free cell phones and giant screen televisions, it will be an easy choice. They will do whatever it takes to never work a day in their lives for all of this 'free' stuff. They will do whatever it takes to continue enslaving the 'workers' so that they can NEVER WORK A DAY IN THEIR LIVES. So even if the SHTF, they won't know how to work anyway. Besides that, the working class folks OWE them the money anyway. It's one of their rights.....right? We've all heard of the experiments of how you can get good, decent people to do utter atrocities by threatening them or their families with harm. It will be no different this time.

It's amazing how it has now become okay for most, and unfortunately I now include most, politicians to lie, cheat and steal from the American people. If they have a microphone in front of their faces, they're lying. If they make a promise to The People, they will break it. It doesn't mean anymore than the hot air escaping from their lungs. Most of the political arena appears to be so deep into the pockets of major corporations or power hungry elitists, that it doesn't matter one single iota what The People need, want or demand. Not one bit. The People have become an expendable commodity, useful only to the extent that it pleases the Masters. If birds, fish and bugs can bring thriving industries to a screeching halt, regardless of the devastating impact upon the lives and welfare of The People, then what will they stoop to next?

I really think it is a matter of control. Gramsci had it right. If you try to force control upon a population in a conflict, they will revolt. But if you gradually take control of a little bit here and a little bit there, they will acquiesce. Like the frog in the pot, slowly waiting for things to cool off while it cooks to it's death. That's where we are. In the midst of cooking to death. The rights and liberties of We The People are being carved away one brush stroke of the pen at a time. Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1839) was right, 'The pen is mightier than the sword'. And it's writing us into a corner of slavery with a life devoid of freedom.

The recent treatment of the men and women of our armed forces is enough to bring us to tears. Then after that initial reaction, it angers and frustrates us to no end. Our once proud military is facing more downsizing; denied the opportunity to back up fellow Americans under fire; have been exposed for duties performed under orders when that exposure brought danger to their lives; mandated sensitivity training instead of spending their time training for battle and the protection of our country and assets abroad; and most unbelievably, the men and women that have signed an oath to protect us are now considered possible terrorists because of the training they have received. For the life of me I cannot comprehend the motivation behind gutting and demoralizing our military.

How many executive orders have been signed and implemented in the past, let's say, year and a half, since January 1, 2013? According to The White House, thirty (30). And since January 1, 2012? Sixty-nine (69). Now some of these may actually be in the
best interest of all of the country, but many of them are not. This president is not the only one that has employed executive privilege to further his agenda, many in the past have done so as well. It is just during this presidency the use of such privilege has increased dramatically, circumventing the democratic process of approval by the congress. This has been just one cog in the wheel that has increased the divisiveness in our country, and thus the willingness of people to get along all across the country. We have not been so divided in many years. The sense of working together for the common good no longer appears to be within the grasp of the common man. This sense of antagonism toward those that disagree with your agenda has increased the level of stress and discontent across all cultures, economic backgrounds and locations, and it grows more and more everyday.

Where is all of this leading to? I don't know. But I do know that it doesn't look good. The tentacles of control have slowly but surely wormed their way into the lives and minds of us all. It's now okay to be groped if you want to travel by air or go to a major sporting event, just to name two
venues in which TSA plies their wares. The national department of education continues to mandate the type of permissive education that teaches our children that anything is okay. Things that I will not specify here, are being taught to the youth of today that people would have been put in jail for when I was a kid. If you try to disagree or state a differing opinion you are labeled some kind of 'phobe' and a hate monger. We read a news story a few days ago about a 42 year old female teacher that gave a student a 4 minute lap dance for a birthday present, in the classroom, with other students video taping. It is beyond me how any adult, especially one in a supervisory capacity, would think this was an appropriate activity. Totally beyond me.

So, what do we do? How do we manage? Frank and I have talked many times about the things transpiring in our country, and what we keep coming back to is this. We need to be informed about what is happening, and with this knowledge we hope to make wise, informed decisions. Most events in this life we have no control over at all. They may bother us, or give us the courage and determination to live the best life we possibly can. But most
importantly, we can control how we react and deal with these events. We can evaluate information as it comes in, analyze the data, and determine the best choice of action for us, for our lives. That is what we are going to do. The best we can. It is all we can do. If we allow ourselves to get totally bent out of shape, we are no good for ourselves, each other, or anyone else. Some days this is a difficult feat to master, but our efforts continue to be focused in this direction. There is a scripture that says something like, after all we can do, God will help us with the rest. That is our prayer. Do all you can to maintain your honor, dignity and freedom. And remember, God is with you.

Until next time - Fern

Friday, March 20, 2015

Two Kinds of Comfrey - Which one is right for you?

Back around 2009, when I began my serious research into what kinds of herbs I wanted to establish in a permanent herb bed, I began reading about comfrey. Well, we originally read about comfrey sometime back in the late 1980's or early 1990's in our first herbal book, Weiner's Herbal (this link goes to the new edition, ours is much older). So I knew when I started my new research, that this was something I wanted to consider. Well, I ordered a plant or root sometime in 2009 or 2010 and got started with one plant. I didn't do much but let it grow. I knew it was something I would eventually use, but my focus was on increasing my gardening, canning, goat raising and cheese making skills at that time.

Original plant, True Comfrey, 2011

Since then the goats, cheese and garden have fallen into place as more routine ventures, and my focus has again returned to the herb bed. For three reasons. As spices and seasonings, as medicinal herbs and as animal feed. A couple of years ago I began occasionally picking some leaves from my comfrey plant and feeding them to the chickens and goats since I knew they were very nutritious and high in protein.

New Russian Comfrey roots, May 2014

Last spring I ordered six new comfrey roots to increase the production of animal feed. Some day I plan to make comfrey salve as well. It's kind of an herbal antibiotic salve. But more about that when I get around to making it. These six new plants were planted at the end of the herb bed in an unused space. Lucky for the
The same 6 roots, September 2014
comfrey, a few years prior we had dumped a good amount of barnyard in this spot with plans to disperse it elsewhere, but it all  remained right there. I knew this would be a rich, loamy soil and had high hopes for these new roots. Little did I know they would grow and grow. Initially, I didn't intend on harvesting anything from these plants the first year because I wanted them to become well established. But after the leaves became profuse and two feet long, I started picking six to eight to ten leaves a day and feeding them to the chickens. The chickens loved them and got to where they would stand at my feet waiting for a leaf to eat.

With the great success of these roots last year, I ordered 20 more this year to extend my comfrey bed and production. I plan to incorporate the leaves fresh into the chicken, goat and pig (when they arrive) feed all summer, and hope to dry some for additional nutrition in the winter. The new roots have arrived, but for now they are sprouting out nicely in tubs waiting for the ground to dry up enough to work. They will also have to wait for us to kill and remove the brushy weed trees, briars and vines that currently reside in their new home. I will also add a deep layer of barnyard before planting to try to replicate the success of last year's new bed.

Original True Comfrey
New Russian Comfrey

I noticed last year that the new plants and the original comfrey were similar, but different. The original plant's leaves are much smaller and it is more prone to blooming. They are beautiful blooms, I might add. Because the new plants grew much bigger leaves, which provided more animal feed, I preferred this type of plant. I didn't take the time to look up any information about the two kinds, though, until I received a question in an email recently. I just love questions. They prompt me to do more indepth research and learn. It turns out that the original plant I got is a true comfrey. It propagates from seeds, has smaller leaves and tends to be taller, about two feet. The new plants are Russian comfrey. The leaves tend to be much larger, it flowers but they are sterile, and it propagates through root division.

Here is a better explanation from Horizon Herbs. "What's the difference between this plant [Russian Comfrey] and true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis)? The Bocking 14 cultivar of Russian Comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) is a sterile hybrid that will not self-seed and is extremely robust and vigorous.  The true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) is a bit less vigorous of a grower, has more elongated leaves and (I think) prettier flowers, and does indeed make seed.  Although both types of comfrey (Russian and True) are useful for making medicine and making compost, in an ideal world one would use the bocking cultivar for producing large amounts of biomass for permaculture gardens, composting, and animal feed, and one would use the true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) for medicinal purposes.  Again, both types (and other species as well) are used interchangeably in agriculture and in medicine." 

The roots I bought last year and this year came from Horizon Herbs. I am very pleased with the quality of their comfrey, as well as their price. I have no affiliation with them, I'm just a satisfied customer. After reading the paragraph on their site about the two different types of comfrey, I'm glad I have both, one for animal feed, the other for medicine, but I can use them interchangeably

So the next time I went out to the garden, I took a closer look at the comfrey I planted last year. It is already coming up very nicely, and I have picked a few leaves for the chickens twice already. Guess what? Each of the six roots I planted last year have multiplied! Most of them by at least four or five times, meaning my plants haven't just doubled in one year, they have....what would you call it? Quadrupled or quintupled. If I had realized that, I may not have ordered so many new roots. I still would have ordered some, but probably not 20. With this multiplication rate, I will be able to have many more beds of comfrey and a whole lot more feed for my animals. What a great bonus!

I wanted to share what I have learned about comfrey, just in case you may be thinking of getting some, or like me, you may already have some, but didn't realize the difference. I guess this is one case where ignorance has been bliss. I had no idea I would be blessed with such an abundance by choosing a different variety of a specific plant. There are so many times that life can throw you a loop, and sometimes it pays to grab hold and see what that loop may hold. You may find a very pleasant surprise. 

Until next time - Fern