How To Build A Solid Wall Yurt

This manual provides step-by-step instructions on how to build a semi-solid wall fully portable yurt in under 40 hours. Assembly time: 3-4 hours. Disassembly time: 2 hrs. Available on or, or from the author's website at

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hawthorn A Great Survival Food

As autumn sets in, the harvest yield of wild plants and foods begins its steep decline. However, fall is one of the best times for gathering of many of the berries and roots that can be stored over winter. One of the most beneficial, yet least tasty berries is the hawthorn.
Hawthorn shrubbery is not native to North America, arriving on this continent with the early European settlers. Like dandelion and horseradish as well as many varieties of sparrows, hawthorns are opportunistic, quickly flourishing in this climate and environment. Often, like horseradish, hawthorn can be found growing near old homestead sites.
It is a hardy shrub, growing ten to fifteen feet in height, but producing ample sharp thorns that make harvest tenuous and risky. Early pioneers, turning adversity into opportunity, used those protective thorns as sewing needles, and records show that they were even used to suture deep wounds. My mother, on one occasion, used the thorns when stitching up the cavity in our Christmas turkey.
Like many of the staple emergency supplies used by North American natives and Canadian explorers, hawthorn offers little in the way of culinary delight, yet it has found its way into many dishes and meals, because of its nutritional value.
Berries are dried (preferably in the open air and shade), for use throughout the deep winter months. For most effective use, those dried seed pods are ground, using a small coffee bean grinder. The result is a rather gritty tea base that needs to be filtered, using a cheesecloth (tea ballers let a lot of the powdered residue through, as they do with rose hips).
The most common use of hawthorn is as a tea or infusion. For improved flavour, add ½ teaspoon of ginger powder (or let a piece of crystallized piece of ginger steep with the hawthorn) and one teaspoon of honey to each cup of berry tea.
Another recipe for hawthorn herbal tea is to mix two teaspoons of hawthorn berries, one teaspoon of yarrow, two tablespoons of horse chestnut and one to two teaspoons of ginger to six cups of boiled water. This blend is excellent for treatment of varicose veins, and is believed to strengthen veins and capillaries.
Some herbalist parents use rooibos, chamomile, ginkgo, lemon balm or hawthorn to treat hyperactivity in their children. It is recommended, though, that you consult with a physician prior to implementing any such treatment.
Bad breath and mild stomach conditions are relieved by using an infusion of hawthorn, fennel, ginger and boiled water.
I have found that one of the best preventive combination of herbs for my regular gout condition is a mix of celery seed, nettle and hawthorn. When dried, I have ground and sprinkled them on salad, but most frequently make a concentrated infusion, then mix the tea with cherry juice.
A First Nations friend of mine swears that hawthorn also is effective to repair fatigued and strained muscles, and has been successfully used to treat sprained ankles, and to reduce hypertension.
Regardless of the many claims of healing powers attributed to hawthorn, it provides excellent nutritional benefit, particularly in winter months. It is high in vitamin C, and is a phenomenal survival food for winter country hikers. Commonly, as a result, hawthorn was used, along with dried saskatoons or blueberries, rose hips and even mountain ash (another non-native to Canada’s prairies) in pemmican recipes, carried by couriers du bois and natives on winter excursions.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Yarrow -- A First Aid Kit for Wounds And Cuts

Considered an edible wild plant, yarrow is one of those medicinally beneficial plants that offers little in the way of culinary pleasures. It has a somewhat unpleasant, bitter taste (not unlike fireweed) and, unsurprisingly, was used years ago as a hops and barley substitute in beer. Yarrow can be used in soups and stews, and works well as a spice rather than a leafy green. It goes well with heavier meats such as beef and lamb, offering a taste that provides the same effect as worcheshire sauce.
Although its culinary value is not significant, it is quite edible, and offers great nutritional benefit. Along with its nutrition, though, it contains thujone (found in wormwood and absinthe), which is considered narcotic. Yarrow contains flavonoids and terpenes in abundance, and is anti-oxidant.
Modest culinary benefit and good nutritional benefit are the two lesser properties of yarrow, however. It has an incredibly wide array of medicinal and cosmetic uses that have been relied upon for centuries.
antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, emmenagogue, stimulant is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant.
Yarrow is an effective aid to reduce bleeding from cuts, and to speed healing of wounds and burns. Innovative pioneers and First Nations even used yarrow to treat toothache. It is an effective treatment for relief of colds, hay fever, sinusitis and influenza. Labelled by the early English as “soldiers’ woundwort” and “carpenters’ weed,” the nicknames attest to its value as a treatment for wounds and bleeding. Because of its astringency, yarrow, as a lotion or infusion makes an excellent cosmetic aid, cleansing and tonibg the skin. Containing camphor and salicylic acid, yarrow can be a great pain reliever when drunk as a tea.
The wide variety of uses for yarrow extend to the garden, with yarrow being used as an accelerator for compost, and to provide valuable copper to deficient soils. As a companion plant, it boosts essential oil production in those plants, deters many insects and acts as a great repellent . Added to water or ammonia, it can be used as a good cleaner.
Late summer and early fall are the ideal times to harvest the feathery leaves and umbrella-shaped flower or seed heads. This plant is found in wastelands around the world, and has become naturalized to North America. Like many herbs that produce quality essential oils, it appears that it is its propensity for growing in marginal locations that contribute to its oil content.