Jupiter Ridge 2019 CSA | Week 1 Newsletter

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Greetings CSA Members!

(Or non-members who happen to be reading, or even potential future members…)

Heading into our first CSA week 2019, we’re so excited to have you on board. Tomorrow brings our first delivery to the Cedar Rapids area. Expect your first share (delivered in personal cooler with ice packs) on your porch or stoop tomorrow evening! During the time of your delivery, we will also be in the neighborhood delivering fresh produce to Cedar Rapids restaurant favorites like Cobble Hill, Rodina, The Map Room, and many others!

*Next Tuesday, make sure to leave the cooler we left you out on your porch/stoop at around or before 4 PM.*

We will swap it out, clean it, and replace it with a fresh new cooler packed and cooled with your new share next week.

The first delivery will include: 

  • Mixed Cherry Tomatoes
  • Shiitake Mushrooms
  • Cucumbers
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Basil (Purple “Opal” variety)
  • Carrots (Orange)
  • Summer Squash
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Kale Bunch (Green)
  • Bunched Sweet Fresh Onions (Red, Semi-Sweet)
What Are Garlic Scapes? | Some Explanation and Tips

To those who are already acquainted with and delighted by garlic scapes: my apologies. For the rest who may be curious reading that they will find garlic scapes in their share and who have never experienced them, you might be thinking: what are they? What will they be?

Or, when you open your share, you’ll wonder: “What are these pigtail-looking things?

Garlic Scapes | Jupiter Ridge Farm
Meet garlic scapes.

Garlic scapes are the flower of the garlic plant. As the garlic plant gets larger during the early summer months, the flowers must be picked off and removed so the plant shifts its focus from flower/foliar production back to bulb production. Scapes must be picked (and we choose to pick them) so we pull up the biggest, most pungent and delicious garlic bulbs come late summer for garlic harvest.

Though we don’t want them on our garlic plants, they’re very, very, VERY welcome in the kitchen.

You can chop off the pale white/yellow flowering head you see pictured and mince the green part of the flower stalk. Think of it as a cross between green garlic or onions and a garlic bulb, except it packs a bit more of that trademark garlic pungency.

Jupiter Ridge’s farmer Will recommends very finely mincing garlic scapes raw into a salad with cucumber, basil, tomatoes, olive oil, and vinegar.

Jupiter Ridge’s farmer Adrian would suggest using it in place of bulb garlic in pesto, it seems to bring out a “punchier” garlic flavor. It’s also great on pizzas (kind of like the wood-fired pizzas you’ll find at Park Farm Winery, which use our own local organic scapes!)

To keep it simple, garlic scapes can be minced and used to replace bulb garlic in just about any recipe.

Let us know if you have any questions about it – email us, Facebook message us, or Instagram message us. We’re happy to talk to you about them.

Wellness Spotlight On: Shiitake Mushrooms

I can’t tell people enough about how great shiitake mushrooms are for health at farmers market.

Talk about the ultimate meat replacement for all you vegans out there (and to you meat eaters, shiitakes make an EXCELLENT pairing with steaks and burgers). Shiitake mushrooms come packed with tons of protein and fiber, the former being incredibly important for vegans/vegetarians skimping on meat, but the latter (fiber) is important to your gut (and you won’t find it in meat).

Also, sun-exposed shiitakes (like ours to some extent, which are grown outdoors) are some of the highest non-meat food sources of vitamin D out there, which is a very important vitamin for non-meat-eaters to stay on top of. The same goes for vitamin B12 (which, yes, shiitakes also contain small traces of).

So there you go – for anyone wanting to cut out or replace meat consumption (but are worried about missing out on the nutrition we crave from it), shiitake mushrooms are a satisfying choice.

Also: we can’t forget that shiitakes are considered a “medicinal” mushroom in some parts of the world. The antioxidants they contain have been shown to support healthy blood pressure levels, boost the immune system, and reduce the risk of major illnesses, even cancer.

Find shiitake mushrooms in your share this week!!!!

We look forward to delivering to you tomorrow, and we hope you enjoy the very best of the summer fare we have going on right now.

Adrian & Will | Jupiter Ridge Farm

Finding My Roots: Enjoying Herbal Roots and Root Vegetables in a Late Spring

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I know what most Iowans (and other Midwestern denizens) are probably thinking right now: it seems like spring is never going to come.

Harvested Spring Dandelion Greens | Iowa Herbalist
Harvested dandelion greens in spring – something to look forward to soon (I hope)

I rarely write about how I feel personally in relation to the weather, nature, herbs, and whatever is around me on this website, not to mention even in my writing work. But it’s been strange seeing how my emotional state has been a parallel (or even a microcosm) of the stop-and-start spring we’ve been seeing over the past month: a glimmer of warm days ahead, only to get a dusting of 2-3 inches of snow and deep cold again instead.

It’s as if everything is saying: you’re not ready. Not yet.

Ginger Root and Powdered Turmeric | Iowa Herbalist

I haven’t felt ready for spring for several weeks.

It’s been a perfect echo of the weather here, but it’s not my usual self– and just as unusual as this weather. During the cold months I write more for a living, a perfect indoor activity for such a season. But come spring, I restlessly gear myself towards the outdoor work I do more of during the warmer months and the growing season on our farm.

As it tends to go, physical labor outdoors is something I really look forward to and achingly welcome after months of getting soft and pithy, sitting inside.

Only in this long winter, for some reason, I’m not.

Parsnip Roots | Iowa Herbalist
Delicious parsnip roots – roasted in the oven, they’re a perfect indoor hygge food.

Even as a farmer and herbalist, my work in the winter doesn’t stop since I’m also a writer. It just changes to work and pressure of a different nature.

It’s losing count of the cups of coffee I drink to meet staggered deadlines. Its skipping meals and getting that feeling like I’m getting more done somehow by doing that.

I haven’t been able to get a tropical vacation getaway like some people. Despite winter forcing me indoors, I haven’t quite rested and re-nourished– I haven’t had my break, and I think by not being ready for spring, it’s because I’m still chasing that rest and re-nourishment.

The other reason: I’ve been addicted to hygge lately. Staying inside, peering with a comfy feeling at yet more snow on the ground, sipping hot beverages with a satisfied feeling – I think I’m still addicted to the feeling of winter. I don’t quite want to let it go yet, before the busy farming season hits; there is still more rest and renourishing to do, I sense.

Calamus Roots | Iowa Herbalist
Harvested calamus roots grown in my home. Potent, healing, soothing, and very aromatic.

Apparently, this weather and the late spring agrees.

So what does this have to do with herbalism? Don’t worry, I’m getting there.

The excessive coffee and skipped meals, lately, have been coming at a price. I’m getting stuff done– but at the expense of something. My energy, my excitement to go outside, and obviously my overall outlook and, to some extent, my positivity, perhaps.

Though I’m not hauling shiitake logs and working the soil outdoors, my body– and especially my back– have been feeling the pain of too much sitting work, which tires me out even more. Overall, I have felt deficient and even ungrounded.

I’m ready for the growing and harvesting season to begin in my mind. But getting in touch with my body… I’m absolutely not. I’m not taking care of myself.

I’m not…. rooted.

So it was with a strange coincidence that, one evening recently during this bizarre and un-ending winter, instead of skipping dinner to meet a writing deadline, I baked a sweet potato.

Sweet Potato Closeup | Iowa Herbalist

Let’s just say that I’ve long loved sweet potatoes, but that it had been a while. But the sensation and flavor when I ate it this time around was eye-opening and amazing.

I’m not going to lie – it was near-orgasmic. Something my body (AND my mind) was deeply craving was suddenly satisfied.

And go ahead, think of me as a weird person for finding a vegetable so pleasurable.

The next time I was at the grocery store, needless to say I stocked up on a ridiculous amount of sweet potatoes. Ever since the re-encounter with this root veggie I’ve always had some affection for, the hunger was real. I couldn’t get enough.

Instead of skipping meals, I’ve been baking sweet potatoes instead. It’s almost felt like a medicine, something my body has sorely needed.

And, in a weird way that will never be proven by science– only in my empirical experience– it’s also felt like a medicine for my mind.

Sweet Potato | Iowa Herbalist

Following at the tail end of that, one evening I also ran out of decaf coffee. I’d been drinking it in the evenings for its roasted, toasted hygge feeling of comfort, one of the main reasons I love coffee in the first place (though the caffeine buzz is great, too).

I had a sudden remembering that I had store-bought dandelion root coffee in the cupboard (it may also have chicory root or burdock root in it too, but I’m not sure). Instead of bewailing my lack of comforting evening decaf or going to the store, I made a piping hot cup of that instead.

Again, just like the sweet potato root, it was absolutely amazing. It catapulted me into feelings of comfort, happiness, and feeling…


Roasted Chicory Root Coffee | Iowa Herbalist
Closeup of roasted chicory root coffee, a beloved beverage in Europe– and particularly countries like Belgium, where my family comes from.

It’s strange the way nature talks to us. Even stranger are the ways it provides us with exactly what we need.

Maybe winter tells you you’re not ready for spring yet by, well, simply not ending…yet. And maybe, for each of us, it’s got a different message depending on where we’re at.

Though I find it funniest of all that I stumble on the comfort of root vegetables and herbal roots precisely during a time when I need more nourishment and rooting.

It should be noted, too, that late spring is also the best time to harvest a lot of herbal roots– because the energy in these roots is just waking up in preparation for spring and flowering. That’s just when you want to nab them and dig them up: when they’re supercharged.

This might not apply to the delicious sweet potato and some other agricultural root crops we roast during winter, which are more frequently dug up in late fall. But it does apply to herbal roots like dandelion, burdock, and chicory, which I’ve been enjoying so deeply in the form of toasty late spring coffees as of late.

Chicory Flower | Iowa Herbalist
The flower of the chicory plant.

Instead of chugging coffee and nothing else to get through winter work, I’ve instead reconnected with these hearty root vegetables and herbal roots (or, at the very least, made a genuine effort to).

Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins A, C, B vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and even healthful fatty acids, for example. Studies also suggest they could be important natural therapies and future drug sources for fighting cancer and diabetes as an anti-inflammatory food.

Dandelions are known to contain all this nutrition too, as well as tons of vitamin K, plus the benefits of being an herbal digestive bitter. Studies also show they could protect the liver. With chicory as a very very close relative, it’s not so far-fetched to think it could have similar health perks.

And, as a result, am starting to feel more nourished and rooted than before.

I’m hoping and planning to grow sweet potatoes in the upcoming seasons at our farm, and to even roast my very own herbal roots coffee (recipe on harvesting/roasting to come, it’s still too cold to harvest these wonderul herbs yet– though you’ll find a nice baked sweet potato recipe below) from wild chicory roots and dandelions I will weed out and forage while farming.

More projects, more goals, more work to do when it’s warm.

But, still, slowly. Spring is far from being here yet.

So in the meantime, I’m going to keep rooting… for myself. In this winter that seems to have no end in sight, even in April, maybe you should try it, too.

Chicory Root Coffee | Iowa Herbalist
Dandelion and chicory root coffee.

Baked Sweet Potato Recipe

What you need: just one large medium- to large-sized sweet potato (so simple).

  1. Take your sweet potato and jab it all over with a fork, as evenly as possible. This way the heat can travel deep within the tuber to roast its insides as well.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
  3. Once heated, place your sweet potato on a cookie sheet or oven pan. Place in oven (I prefer the bottom rack but I don’t think that matters too much). Let roast for half an hour.
  4. After half an hour, flip it over. Put it back in the oven. Bake an additional half an hour, or until sweet potato caves in when poked with the blunt side of a fork– or when carmelized, sweet inner juices start crackling out of the fork holes.
  5. Remove from oven. Split open. Sprinkle with your additional desired accoutrements. Popular choices are a bit of sugar, butter, sliced nuts, sliced bananas, even almond butter or a drizzle of honey (or even a floral simple syrup).
  6. Eat, savor, and enjoy.

Baked Sweet Potato | Iowa Herbalist

Crafting Chaga Double Extract

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Double Chaga Closeup | Iowa Herbalist

Ever harvested the chaga mushroom?

If you’ve never lived in the north woods (or spent time in these environments), I would expect you to say “no” – but I wouldn’t put it past you, either.

I, myself, have never harvested chaga. I have to thank my good friend, Lisa Maas, up in Alaska for handing off these priceless, healing nuggets to me that she herself received as a gift (no doubt from a seasoned chaga harvester).

They could indeed be called the “black gold” nuggets of the medicinal mushroom world: looking much like gnarled charcoal that, once busted open, reveal tawny-gold, clay-like insides.

Chaga Layers Side View | Iowa Herbalist

She passed these on to me while still in Iowa before relocating to Anchorage – ironically, a northern Alaskan city near boreal forests where chaga spores are known to roam, spreading from birch tree to birch tree.

Not knowing what to do with them on her part – and me, on my part, being completely inexperienced with them – I took them gladly, seeing them as a new herbal adventure.

Why take the chance on an unknown mushroom, you might ask?

Because any healing mushroom, especially one rich in polysaccharides and triterpenes, can be made into a healing double extract – a recipe for which we will delve into later in this article.

Chaga Double Extract | Iowa Herbalist

Healing & Background

As stated above, chaga mushrooms are denizens of boreal forests, northern woods that host mostly conifer tree species, but also a mix of poplars, willows, and birches. And it’s the birch trees that are what chaga especially love.

From small little knots to oversized chunks, these mushrooms crack and burst through the wounds, crotches, and notches in the trunks of these beautiful trees.

Paper Birch | Iowa Herbalist

While some might think these harvestable parts of the fungus are the reproductive fruiting body, that’s actually not the case: they’re called sclerotia, a part of the actual mushroom’s mycelial network, and the literal living, breathing organism part of chaga.

Traditional use of the mushroom is well-documented, with especially important roles in the folk medicines of Russia, Eastern Europe, Siberia, northern China, Japan, Korea, and First Nations in the northern latitudes of North America.

It was used as a healing tonic, brewed similar to tea or coffee, and given to strengthen the body against weakness and disease, to defeat cancers, prevent wasting, and even to promote longevity (markedly better than other mushrooms used by the very same peoples). Studies today are confirming a lot of these uses as very accurate for today’s illnesses, too.

Chaga in Snow with Pine Branches | Iowa Herbalist

A north-woods, alpine, boreal, and/or taiga dweller, you’ll find it growing wherever it’s regularly cold in the northern latitudes, and where there are plenty of birches to be found.

The northern ranges of Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia, and Russia/Siberia are the most well-known chaga haunts. But apparently you can find it in pockets of northern Minnesota, the Appalachian mountains, and the Adirondacks of the Northeastern U.S, as my well-traveled, well-mushroom-learned husband informed me.

Chaga in Iowa?

Being an Iowa local these days, a state that’s not quite northern enough to host chaga, I still wonder: maybe it could have, at one time in the forgotten past, at least in very hidden pockets and corners.

After all, Iowa is host to the largest number of algific talus slopes in the world, small little micro-climate environments speckled across the northeastern portion of the state (known as the Driftless area). You can read more about Iowa, algific talus slopes, and herbalism here.

Wild Yellow Birch Iowa | Iowa Herbalist
A wild naturally-growing yellow birch tree in White Pine Hollow State Park in Driftless Iowa

Rich in yellow birch trees and mountain ash, these year-round cool habitats are supposed to be much like fragmented bits of northern high-altitude boreal forest, trapped deep within the heart of Midwest forest, prairie, and oak savanna.

So who knows. Back when the state was home to a lot more algific talus slope habitat (which does host plenty of birches), perhaps there was a population or two. We’ll never know.

The Marriage of Chaga and Birch

Returning back to their love of birch trees, fascinatingly, chaga’s predilection for them has a lot to do with their healing properties.

These fungi absorb betulins, a triterpene found in birch species (of the genus Betula), which are responsible for a great deal of their vigorous anti-cancer properties, and famous for surpassing those of most other highly touted mushrooms (including reishi and shiitake).

Chaga Extract Looks Like Root Beer | Iowa Herbalist

It is theorized in one study that chaga takes betulin, a potent anti-tumor compound, and synthesizes it into betulinic acid – chaga’s cancer-fighting triterpene.

The clincher here: betulin is powerful, but not bioavailable to humans; betulinic acid is, and can be taken orally.

I forget where I heard this (it’s scribbled in my herbalist notes, for which any source is missing), but chaga was known to be the most potent when grown on a yellow birch tree. Apparently, the tree is much richer in its signature betulins compared to other birch species, thus lending any chaga growing upon it more powerful healing properties.

Yellow Birch Tipton Iowa | Iowa Herbalist

So if you’re keen on learning to harvest the mushroom on your own, finding one up on a yellow birch means that you’ve stumbled on a prime specimen!

Some Notes on Harvesting and Sustainability

Writing about everything to do with harvesting chaga would take a whole other article to properly illuminate. Still, there are some very important issues related to harvesting that absolutely must be touched on– particularly in regards to foraging it sustainably.

Chaga is not an officially endangered fungus (yet), but it is fast headed in that direction. Because its healing properties are of such wide repute nowadays, the gnarled mushroom is often over-harvested (or, more accurately, incorrectly harvested) by commercial wildcrafters to make a quick buck with supplement companies meeting the consumer demand for chaga in their own lives.

Chaga in Snow | Iowa Herbalist

Foraging enthusiasts can do their own damage if they harvest it incorrectly, too– and the problem with over-harvesting appears to be the greatest in North America, and especially Canada’s boreal forests. It not only depletes chaga, but harms the birch tree from which it is taken, making the trees these fungi need more vulnerable to disease and death as a result.

If you’re wanting to harvest (or purchase and use) chaga as sustainably as possible, make sure to examine a chaga-selling company’s harvest practices. Or, harvest it sustainably yourself: only take about a quarter of the chaga you encounter from each growth in the tree. That’s all you’ll need.

Read how to sustainably harvest chaga here at Black Magic.

Why Make a Double Extract?

Why not just make a simple tincture? Or, for that matter, pick up a convenient supplement at your local co-op or store instead?

Beyond sustainability, most folks who look into taking certain mushroom extracts may not realize: the properties of mushrooms (like lion’s mane, for example) are locked tightly away in one of nature’s hardest substances called chitin, a fiber that naturally occurs in these fungi. These contain the compounds you’re after, but your digestive system just isn’t equipped to get the betulinic acids out.

Chaga with Antlers | Iowa Herbalist

That’s why double extracts are the way to go for a home preparation, and why non-double-extractions are products you shouldn’t buy. The combination of alcohol and water (specifically hot water) guarantees that all the mushroom’s compounds– both triterpenes and polysaccharides– will end up in your extract, so you can enjoy ALL the benefits that chaga can give: reduced risk of cancer, immune-boosting, antioxidant troves, and more.

A powder or supplement alone won’t have it all, and solely a water or alcohol extract (separated) won’t have it all, either. Hence the need for a double extract!

Two-Phase Extract

This recipe is inspired by Guido Masé’s reishi double extract.

Chaga Double Extract Closeup | Iowa Herbalist

You’ll need:

  • Chaga mushroom
  • High Proof Alcohol (I use 151 Everclear)
  • Glycerin (though I consider this optional)
  • Water

-Take your chaga and grind it up. I’ve been recommended hammers and cheese graters to do this, and really liked the cheese grater quite a bit. Chaga is tough, but I was surprised that it didn’t beat up the cheese grater at all. Grate or hammer the chaga into a powder or into the smallest nuggets possible, and then split that amount evenly in two parts.

Grinding Chaga | Iowa Herbalist

-Using the first part, prepare a tincture by covering the powder with a solvent of 75 percent alcohol, 15 glycerin, and 10 percent water (if opting out on glycerin: 90 percent alcohol, 10 percent water.  Glycerin is meant to help with the emulsion).

-Set tincture aside, and let it steep for four weeks, shaking it occasionally.  Then strain it and measure its volume.

Chaga Tincture | Iowa Herbalist
Shaking chaga tincture, you’ll notice it forms a frothy, foamy head, quite a bit like root beer.

-After you’ve strained the tincture, take the second part of the chaga mushrooms and simmer them for at least one hour, preferably two or more, in twice as much water as you used for the total solvent volume.  Keep adding water, if necessary.

-At the end of the simmering, strain it all out and reduce the volume of fluid you have left by boiling it down so that it equals the volume of strained tincture. Take this off the heat and allow it to cool completely.

-Combine the simmered broth and strained tincture, mixing well with a whisk.  Make sure you are adding the tincture to the broth and not vice versa to reduce the amount of concentrated alcohol the constituents in the broth have to endure.

-Bottle and store, preferably in a dark-tinted glass bottle or container.

The Life of a Farmer, Herbalist, and Freelance Writer

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I’m back after a long hiatus on this website. And my, has life changed in some wonderful ways.

Companion Planting | Iowa Herbalist

In my last and most recent article from almost a year ago, I shared with you all how I would be putting my writings about herbalism (for this website) on hold. That’s because in early 2017 my husband William Lorentzen and I finally started our own organic farm – Jupiter Ridge Mushrooms & Veg – a longtime dream.

Our first year has been amazing, full of its trials and tribulations in a way, but the rewards were worth it and our first year was definitely a success. A lot of hard work, energy, sacrifice, and uncertainty went into it all. But I can say with all honesty that I’m even more excited for the upcoming 2018 season than last year’s season.

Last spring, as it always is with farmers, was a time for a huge push to get Jupiter Ridge up off the ground and running. As part of that, I made some big pushes with my writing career, the only other source of income and side-hustle we had to fund our efforts – while putting my personal writings on the back burner.

I’d have to say, success in both areas of my life has unexpectedly come through. We did well at both Cedar Rapids and Dubuque farmers markets, and established some pretty amazing relationships with chefs in both cities and beyond. We got healthy, purely naturally-grown food to tons of people. Those relationships will continue into 2018, and I couldn’t look forward to them more – and to expanding on them.

At the same time, I started to step up my writing career a notch in spring, as it has been an important part of funding our farm endeavors. As a result, articles of mine (on sustainable agriculture and the plight of young farmers) have landed in The Guardian and Civil Eats. What more, I’ve become somewhat of a regular contributor to Rodale’s Organic Life, and a very regular contributor to Healthline on health/home remedy related content.

I’ve written about herbalism, farming, nutrition, sustainability, health, and everything in between, with more clients, article ideas, and publications on my horizon.

Shiitakes Picked | Jupiter Ridge Farm

With this year coming to a close and looking back, I’m excited for my husband and I to strike up more relationships with even more chefs, direct consumers, establishments, and most importantly, people in need. And in order to make that happen with more certainty, I’m stoked to keep pushing my writing career forward, with hopes and plans to get my writing even more and more out there and into more publications, and to work with new clients. (Or maybe a book someday? Who knows!)

Which is why, with delight, I was happy to recently return to this website and take a look at it with fresh, new eyes.

I’m now a farmer, herbalist, and freelance writer all in one. What more, my writing career is in need of it’s very own personal site to promote myself, and promoting our farming endeavors also as an extra would be a huge bonus.

A lot of my writings also focus on health, natural wellness, nutrition, and herbalism anyway, much like this website. I am an herbalist of course, a maker of products in my own personal time (with some hopes to sell health-oriented products alongside our produce and mushrooms), and this is a way to grow and represent my own craft to promote my writing career – as well as my own very unique approach to herbalism as a food-oriented organic grower.

So after a busy year, I’ve returned to Deer Nation Herbs and my personal writings, and I finally know how to seamlessly intertwine it all together as a farmer, herbalist, and freelance writer.

Herb Table | Iowa Herbalist
Photo Credit Hannah White

I’ve also been shocked by how, without any new blog posts or work on the website, it has nonetheless continued to expand with subscribers, social media followers, monthly visitors, and readers. Some of my articles have also risen the ranks quite quickly on Google. (I show up as #6 when you look up how to use a neti pot – I never aimed for that!) So I must be on to something.

As such, instead of welcoming you back to Deer Nation Herbs, I’d like to welcome you to Iowa Herbalist, where you can find all my latest writings, whether personal, professional, or published – and hopefully with a lot more frequency and posts than I have been able to put out over the years (and don’t worry, Deer Nation still exists as strictly the name of my herbalist operation). I bought the IowaHerbalist.com domain a couple years ago with plans on doing something with it, and I think it does fit with my writing career and projects quite nicely as a name.

Mixed together will be musings on farm life and its struggles, politics, joys, and the perspective of the young farmer. There will also be writings about herbs, mushrooms, plants, and vegetables, and how they can improve health – whether they are wildcrafted herbs or plants/produce that come straight from (yes!) our very own farm.

And, of course, peppered into all that will be farm updates, writing career news, and more about what this farmer, herbalist, and freelance writer has been up to.

For those interested in my writing work, you could even get in contact with me if you’d like to hire me to put an article or other writing project together for you. (Feel free to check out my portfolio.)

But what I’m most excited about: putting together herbal and plant-based recipes that incorporate farm-grown veggies, fungi, and herbs with wild foods and botanicals, and all with a wellness focus (minus all the woo-woo, health guru, and quackery camps – this is something foodie, wild, and entirely unique I’m aiming for). I have a huge list of ideas to develop, explore, write about, taste, test, make, and illucidate on all their health benefits and nutrition.

As a little preview, here are some of my upcoming projects: making chaga double extract, how to grow baby kale greens all winter, herbal kombuchas, herbal chai lattes, how to harvest herbs wisely in the Midwest, making hops bitters, and so much more.

Herbal Shrub Drink | Iowa Herbalist

Someday there may be products too – and if folks are open to it, there are always herbalist consultations. One day, this might also become part of our farm business’s newsletter to inform a future food & herbal CSA about the health benefits they might find in their own shares.

I’d also love to challenge readers about thinking of a farmer as an herbalist, and perhaps make more herbalists think about being farmers – and to also make people in the food and health worlds think about farmers and herbalists, period. Does it matter if I call myself an Iowa Herbalist rather than an Iowa Farmer? Do these two titles have to be mutually exclusive? There’s a lot to discuss here.

I want to thank all people reading this who have kept up with my writing: thank you for listening.

To those who have also helped my writing career get off the ground: thank you. The same goes for our farm. You know who you are. Thank you. I will be happy to see any of you join me on this new leg of my writing journey as a farmer, herbalist, and freelance writer all in one.

Spring Radish | Jupiter Ridge Farm

And while this blog will transform more into a professional, promotional site of sorts and less of a hobby site, I can assure you that I won’t be changing its content too much. I aim to make it still just as valuable to readers with it’s educational, crafty, foodie, herbal, and sometimes esoteric content.

What better way to promote yourself anyway, other than just doing what you like best and writing about it?

Putting Things On Hold…For Now

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The time has come for me to take a little hiatus on herbalism (writing about it, that is).

Iowa Prairie | Iowa Herbalist

For those of you who have been reading up on my herbalist stuff: no, I won’t be gone forever.

The end of 2016 has brought about some startling changes that will, inevitably, take me away from my computer in my free time.

The biggest change of all: my farmer husband William Lorentzen and I are starting our own organic farm!

We’re working with generous land donor, Steve Beaumont, and SILT (the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust) to begin work on 5 acres in the Driftless Area of Iowa in Garber, not all that far from Elkader. Over the years, this could expand into up to 20 acres of operation.

The farm itself is situated on the closest thing that could be called a mountain in Iowa: an enormous bluff with 360 degree panoramic views, probably the highest point in Clayton County.

The whole mountaintop is planted with native prairie that has been in place for over 15 years, but is now ready to produce some healthful food for the surrounding areas, too.

Iowa Mountaintop | Iowa Herbalist

Veggies and shiitake mushrooms (quite possibly oyster mushrooms as well) will be the farm’s specialty. Plans are to make all these healthful, organic foods available at markets in Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, and possibly even Cedar Falls – perhaps Iowa City as well. Restaurants and Co-ops may be on our sights at some point, too, and potentially a CSA as well.

The name? Oak Savanna Mushrooms and Veg will be our farm name. Make sure to check out the website, and there will certainly be updates there to come. (We also toy with the idea of planting some of the mountaintop with oaks on the northern exposure side, to truly restore it partially into all-natural oak savanna in areas where veggies will be harder to grow).

As such, my focus will turn on organic veggies, and how these healing plant foods that should be made available to everyone.

However, I do hope to graft traditional herbalism into these endeavors somehow, and someday, while still being able to make ourselves a living – and this may be part of my journey of discovery through next year’s process.

Maybe products, a CSA, or something similar can become a part of this operation. It will take a lot of experience and getting acquainted with what’s possible, and how the worlds of herbalism and organic farming can truly meet.

Driftless Iowa | Iowa Herbalist

So this means less musings, writings, recipes, and rantings about herbs, health, and everything in between for most of 2017. At least, that’s what I predict.

All my time will be dedicated to my freelance writing work on herbalism, health, organic agriculture, gardening, food, nutrition, and so much more. I’m even planning on getting my feet wet in the world of farm-funding grants, both private and federal.

Any other time I’ll have will be fully dedicated to get this farm up and going!

I’m also to be an up-and-coming herbalist-in-residence for a blossoming herbal products company with a focus on women’s health specifically. That should be exciting, and also keep me plenty busy, too.

It’s hard to tell if I’ll find some time to write an informative blog post here and there.

But who knows: one or two might still be able to make it out. We’ll see. I hope to pick the pen back up when I know how to properly combine my work in real life with writing in a way that enhances them both harmoniously.

So, until then: I’ll be on the Iowan mountaintop!