If you could ask a seasoned, homeschooling and homesteading mom of six for a little advice, what would it be? Pull up a chair with my friend Rhonda from The Provident Homemaker as she shares one of her favorite foraging books, her 5 steps for keeping the family healthy and her special recipe for elderberry syrup.
For more ideas to grow your family on your homestead, be sure to check out our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. With over 400 pages of homesteading DIYs and how-to’s written on four different levels of homesteading experience, there’s bound to be something of interest to you!
The following advice comes from an interview with Rhonda at The Provident Homemaker. From her small-town childhood to raising six kids of her own on her urban homestead, these are the things she’s learned in her own words about keeping families healthy.
Being a Small Town Kid
I’m the oldest of seven children. We moved around quite a bit while I was a child, from small-town Idaho through remote desert ranch in Mexico. The place we lived longest was on a farm in a high mountain valley in eastern Utah; I was there from the beginning 6th grade through graduation.
It was there that I grew to really love watching the sun rise, crisp summer nights, the sound of water, and the amazing number of plants around us. I started to want to know all about the plants- my dad would tell me the names of ones he knew as we irrigated our fields, walking across them with a shovel slung over our shoulders.
My parents bought a 2” thick book—Weeds of the West— I’d pore over. I own a copy of that book myself now; it holds a place of honor with a whole collection of books that tell me what plants can be eaten, what parts to use, parts and plants to watch out for, and how they can be used to help our bodies heal themselves.
I have six children; one is gone as he graduated from high school last year. Of the others, one is in public school (high school), one attends a charter school (Jr. high), and the youngest three are home schooled. I love to cook and bake, to sew, garden, landscape, and learn about many things. I love to teach and share, too– with adults and children, and have a website at The Provident Homemaker.
Keeping Kids Happy and Healthy
- We love to be outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine.
- Our family grows a big vegetable garden and have integrated fruit trees and berry bushes into the landscape.
- The kids keep six Brahma chickens for the eggs, but they’re really the kids’ pets.
- I bottle and dehydrate fruits and vegetables, use my garage as a root cellar in the winter, cook from scratch most of the time, and read labels like crazy when packages or cans are involved.
- While we do go to the doctor on the occasions it seems necessary, more often we use home remedies, medicinal plants from our yard, and essential oils.
Keeping Perspective for Young Mothers
Everything comes in cycles. Whatever your insane schedule is now, it will change later. Enjoy the good about each one; there’s always beauty in there someplace.
Sometimes it becomes harder, sometimes easier, but it always helps you become a better person if you culture a grateful and giving heart.
(Can I horn in and just say, AMEN! Some things feel like they’re going to last forever but, with a very few and important exceptions, nothing ever does.)
There are two ways to make this syrup – one with fresh elderberries and spices. The other is with elderberry juice and essential oils. You take your pick which you’d like to make for your family.
Elderberry Syrup with Spices
- Combine 4 oz (2/3 c.) berries in 3 ½ c. water.
- Add a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, skinned.
- Also add 1 tsp. cinnamon and ½ tsp. cloves.
- Simmer until water is reduced by almost half.
- Strain, pressing on the berries.
- Cool until just warm, stir in 2 cups of raw honey.
Elderberry Syrup with Essential Oils
- Start with 2-3 cups elderberry juice (depending on strength) – if not strong, boil to reduce to 2 cups.
- To the warm, NOT hot juice (to preserve the enzymes in the raw honey), stir in 2 cups of raw honey.
- Also add 5 drops ginger essential oil, 3 drops cinnamon essential oil, 2 drops clove essential oil.
Store the elderberry syrups in the refrigerator. It’s probably best used within a couple months – though I’ve had syrups stay nice for a year, refrigerated. You could store them longer if you seal them in sterilized jars.
To use Elderberry Syrup Medicinally:
To use medicinally, take a tablespoon straight or mixed in 6-8 oz warm water, every 3 hours if you’re sick and an adult, or take once a day as a general immunity booster.
The recipe, and more information about it, can be found by following this link.
Our Many Thanks to Rhonda and be sure to visit her at The Provident Homemaker for more wonderfully useful information for you and your family!
Cover graphic gratefully attributed to this Wikimedia Commons user.