Thursday, May 29, 2014

Summer 2014 Plans

We will be at Healing Earth from 28 June to 20 August 2014 inshaa Allah. During that time, we hope with Allah's Permission, Blessing, and through His Rizq and Mercy to complete the following:

  • purchase a used stock trailer
  • plant 100 tree seedlings (50 hazelnut, 50 Honeylocust)
  • plant some quick growing vegetables for summer consumption like lettuce, spinach, etc.
  • plant 2000 sunflower seeds around the perimeter of the 28 acre piece of land
  • build 3 x 144 sq.ft. bathroom structures
  • build a 200 sq.ft. kitchen structure
  • build a 200 sq.ft. farm store
  • build two of the four 200 sq.ft. barns we will need
  • add playhouse, slides, hammocks, sand box, picnic area and more to the children's playground
  • construct a combination football/soccer/rugby field
That is what we are focused on doing this summer. If you are wondering why everything is 200 sq.ft. or less, it is because no permits are needed for such structures.

If time and money permit, we would also purchase a 3000 gallon water tank, build 2 cob ovens, and put up a 2 1/4  acre fence around the barns. We pray that Allah enables us to complete these things and more.

Want to visit, learn a little, join our Ramadhaan studies, or help out? Drop us an e-mail on inshaa Allah!

Sustainability: looking at what's around you...

So much about sustainability is meeting your needs with what is available naturally around you. The state plant for New Mexico is the Yucca plant. We are in the northeast, where it is too cool to grow it without  greenhouse, but it is easily available from other areas of the state and can be bought in farmers markets.

I have just read these amazing instructions on how to make soap and shampoo from the Yucca root. Just HAD to share these links!

How to make soap from Yucca roots

Yucca root powder shampoo

Monday, May 26, 2014

Parenting without "Punishment"

Terminology is very important. We often, as parents, use the term punishment with our children. They, in turn, use the word and think of whatever they face in response to incorrect or bad behavior as punishment. However, I realized something about the whole issue and feel it is important enough to write about. It is important to understand the reactions, the reasons, and the process as parents and as children. If we have correct understanding and thinking about how we respond  to our children, we will find ourselves naturally choosing appropriate strategies for their discipline and correction.Inshaa Allah, you can explain to your children as I have explained to mine.

When they do something wrong, the initial reaction from us as parents may vary. If it was something dangerous like playing with the stove/fire, then they might have a smacked hand to instantly make them retreat from the danger. If they do something immoral, like lying, they might have a spanking or be told to face the wall. These are instant deterrents. Actions we take to immediately stop or respond to the incorrect behavior, that are meant to be unpleasant and so make the children refrain from doing it again. These should come with a clear explanation of what wrong action is being responded to and why. For example, "I smacked your hand away to stop you burning it on the stove. You must not reach for the pans or try to touch the fire on the stove, because you will get burned and it will hurt you." So the instant response is a "deterrent."

Some behaviors are only addressed by a deterrent and an accompanying explanation. However, if those deterrents don't work, then parents must look for alternative strategies, such as taking something away from the child that they like each time they repeat the  undesired behavior. This has to be something that is effective for that individual child and their circumstances. If you tell the child they will not be allowed to play in the yard for that day, but they don't like playing in the yard and sit for hours with video games (may Allah protect all our children from that!), then it isn't an appropriate or effective correction strategy. The correction strategy must be based on things that the child will not like or want on a continual basis, to make them stop the undesired behavior.

In addition, there are bad habits or behaviors that may require a more lengthy correction plan. These are called, rectification programs. An example of this would be a child who continually speaks badly or causes fitnah amongst their siblings. That child may be separated from the others for a period of time, effectively cutting off communication until the self control to communicate positively is acquired or put into practice. During that period, it is important to provide them with the tools for rectification such as quotes from the Qur'aan, ahadeeth, and articles or books from scholars that address the behavior(s) to be corrected. It is best to make the rectification program for a short period of time, and then test the waters to see if there is improvement. If not, the program can be extended and further developed or intensified.

Throughout the process of addressing a child's dangerous, undesirable, or incorrect behavior, it is important that you explain what you are doing, advising the child that it is meant to set them right so they will please Allah and have a truly happy and successful life and aakhirah. In using the terms deterrent, correction strategy, and rectification program, you are informing the child of the purpose for your actions and also reminding yourself. You will find that you come up with far more appropriate and effective responses to your child's behavior when you think in those terms. Rather than take a blanket approach of looking at the wall for every offense, you will understand that different actions require different reactions and inshaa Allah find more success in your relationship with your children.

Parenting: Communicative Problem Solving - Understanding Sorry

As parents, it is vital that we inculcate in our children the true concept of feeling sorry, having regret for wrong actions. This is because being sorry is a key ingredient in the recipe for tawbah - sincere repentance to Allah. If there is no regret and sorrow at doing a wrong, then there is no sincere repentance and also no conscience, which is part of developing morality - the knowledge of right and wrong. These are the questions posed to our children  


  • What does it mean to be sorry about something? 

  • What kind of actions might someone feel sorry about?
  • What are some actions that you feel sorry about?
  • Is is good to feel sorry about something that Allah sends us, like the life He decreed for us, a punishment, or a test? Why or why not?
  • Why is it important to feel sorry about doing haraam actions and things Allah dislikes (makrooh)?
  • What happens if you don't feel sorry about doing those things?
  • If you say you are sorry to someone, but you keep doing the same thing to them or being rude or mean to them, are you really sorry or just saying it?
  • If you did bad actions to a few people, but only say sorry to one or two, what does that mean?
  • Can you tell if people say they are sorry to you, but don't mean it? How can you tell?

The extension is an additional few prompts or reminders to correct thinking or bring about more in-depth thought on the subject.

If Allah sends us a punishment or test, what is the best thing for us to say? What is the best reaction to have  in such situations?

The Sad and Bad of "Sorry"

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Natural Gnashers, Choppers, or in plain talk, TEETH!

One of the major issues in personal care is dental health. While we have striven to avoid commercial toothpastes containing SLS, chemical, and artificial ingredients, it is only this past year that we switched to making our own toothpaste and tooth oil. As we are living in Madinah, Saudi Arabia for 10 months out of the year, we are limited in what we can obtain. I have come up with these recipes, based on what is available.

Tooth oil:

I used a tooth oil years ago that was excellent, but very expensive. It was simply a sweet almond oil base with spearmint and peppermint essential oils, in a specific proportion. Well, I decided to make my own tooth oil, obviously at a fraction of the cost, and after experimentation, changed the recipe to this. Please note that I make this in a small essential oil bottle - 10 ml I believe.


Coconut oil (this has proven benefits for oral health and we found it preferable over the almond oil)


20 drops each of spearmint and peppermint essential oil
40 drops of sweet orange essential oil
5 drops of thyme essential oil
5 drops of 4 thieves oil (or the equivalent blend - we use Germ Killer)

These amounts can be adjusted to taste, and the oils can be changed to others that are also beneficial to oral and dental health. Simply put two drops of the oil on a wet toothbrush and brush teeth, gums, tongue, and roof of mouth thoroughly. Although this is perfectly safe to swallow, you will have brushed the toxins off your teeth and mouth and you will be swallowing those as well, so it is best to rinse your mouth out thoroughly afterwards. You will have wonderfully smooth teeth and fresh breath, inshaa Allah.

Our homemade toothpaste:

This is a real mix and match of recipes I saw online and what worked for us.

Baking soda (fill 1/2 of a 4 fluid ounce container)
Essential oils: 50 drops sweet orange oil, 20 drops peppermint, 20 drops spearmint, 5 drops 4 thieves/germ killer oil, 5 drops thyme...or oils to your needs/taste.
Raw honey - add honey up fill the 4 fluid ounce container to 3/4 full (in other words, 1/4 measure of the container/`1 fluid ounce)

Stir up and add a few drops of water (or coconut oil) to the desired consistency.

Other recipes:

I plan to make this once we can obtain the ingredients inshaa Allah.



As for toothbrushes, we still haven't given them up (old habits die hard) so since last summer we made a conscious decision to buy sustainable, good toothbrushes. We all use Radius Source toothbrushes -

even the baby, maashaa Allah.

That said, our goal is to become totally comfortable with the full time use of miswak, thereby having a totally natural toothbrush from the twigs of the neem or arak tree. This is, by far, the best toothcare option as we know the Prophet Muhammad - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam - said he would order us to use them before every prayer if it wouldn't be a hardship.

Oil pulling:

I have practiced oil pulling before and am looking into resuming it. While it is controversial as to how much it really does, aside from cleansing the mouth well, it certainly does cleanse the mouth well! You can find many resources on oil pulling, but one is here:

Tooth healing:

We have looked at these reports and others like them:

and plan to get these books this summer, inshaa Allah.

What we're reading in May 2014

This month is rather busy for us, as we finalized our Permaculture design project, are looking at the money available for the summer and prioritizing what needs to be done, and are trying to pack and prepare for our summer at Healing Earth. Reading has been very focused on what we need to know for the farm and preparing a new curriculum for our homeschooling. The girls are knitting gifts for their grandparents, who we will visit in England for 10 days before heading on to Healing Earth inshaa Allah.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Permaculture Project Final Design: Part 3 Integral 28 Acre Map

2          2 x Animal complexes

To safely house the sheep, goats, chickens, miniature cows, and donkeys/horses while providing enough space for them to roam and graze when not taken out to pasture.

Design Features:
Four 12.5’x16’ barns with 50 feet of chain link fence run from each to the next, forming a large courtyard area for the animals to safely roam in. While 10 acres (20 x ½ acre sections) are available for rotational grazing, this courtyard area provides a safe, lockable place for the animals to be housed at night and if the family should travel. Each barn can house up to 10 sheep or goats, 48 chickens, two miniature cows, or two horses or donkeys. The chickens can feed from the livestock manure, keeping a healthy environment.
We plan to keep 3 ewes (Dorset), 2 goats (Nubian), 2 miniature cows (Jersey), 2 donkeys (Mammoth Jack), and 4 different types of chickens, 48 of each type. Four chicken coops will house them, each type being kept separate. One type will be in each animal complex. The other two will be in areas where they are needed. The types of chickens are Jersey Giant for eating and large eggs, Sussex for eggs and meat, Easter Eggers for their unusually colored eggs, and Marans for their chocolate brown colored eggs. The “gourmet” egg collection will be sold in the farm shop, at farmer’s markets, and any other viable outlets.
There is room for expansion, as more barns can be added within the perimeter fence, still allowing for a good-sized central area. Rain catchment from the barn rooftops will be channeled into a 3,000 gallon water storage tank to provide drinking water for the animals, irrigate the grass, and for cleaning out the barns. Drinking and feed troughs, as well as grass will be in the complex.

3          20 x Gazebos

  •  To provide shade for the livestock while grazing on a rotation system
  •  To harvest rain-water for the animals to drink
Design Features:
Made of wood, these inexpensive 8’ x 8’ structures used for livestock shade will have metal roofs to harvest the rain-water and moveable galvanized steel troughs will be in place for the days they are grazing in that section.

4          2 x Wallapinis

Underground greenhouses with stable, sustainable temperatures year-long to facilitate the growth of plants requiring a different climate, delicate plants, and germination of seeds

Design Features:
Wallapinis will have a modified Plexiglas roof to maximize aerodynamics in the high winds, to use fewer materials, for aesthetics, and to provide more surface area for rain catchment to feed water barrels inside, thereby creating moisture within a microclimate.

5          Farm Shop

To sell produce, eggs, herbs, baked goods, dairy products, refreshments, and any other by-products or goods produced by the farm. This in turn is hoped to provide some income for the general expenses. It is situated near the state road, Route 39, with nothing around it for about 19 miles towards the east and 5 miles towards the west. There is little to be found along the route, so it will serve as a stop for refreshments and organic food supplies. It will also be used as a check-in and check-out station for the pick your own organic orchards.
Design features:
Wooden 10’x12’ shed used so the shop can be up and functional as quickly as possible. Eventually, it is planned to cob around it, to provide insulation, strength, and aesthetics in line with Healing Earth’s farm and architecture.

6          Pick Your Own Organic Orchard & Picnic Grove

To be a source of income for Healing Earth, create a micro climate, wind break, and encourage rain.

Design features:
A selection of trees including: various types of apple, pear, peach, nectarine, plum, cherry, fig, and pomegranate. Companion planting will be employed to encourage beneficial insects, to add nitrogen to the soil, impede grass growth, create a microclimate, and additional food source. A chicken coop in the area will be used to fertilize, eat pests and fallen fruit.
Picnic grove will have gazebos with wooden trellis roofs for shade and grapevines planted at the base of the posts, to provide shade and food. Insect repelling plants will be planted around the perimeter and natural seating by way of rocks or wooden benches will be in place. Fire rings or barbecue pits will be built beside them for picnicking.

7          Family Orchard

To provide family food supply, this orchard’s fruits and nuts will be eaten fresh and also dehydrated, canned, or frozen for long term storage.

Design features:
Trees are all circled with mulch 6 inches from the trunk and the mulch ring is circled by rocks. The mulch provides cover which retains the moisture in the earth and the rocks provide a natural watering system by gathering condensation overnight or in wet/damp conditions and it rolling down into the ground. The mulch also eventually composts down to nourish the earth and rich compost can still be added around the trunk and under the mulch. The trees and berry bushes are saddling the naturally occurring swale the runs down from the house to the vegetable garden, benefitting from household grey water run-off. The bushes are planted in a zigzag formation to maximize space and assist gravity with the irrigation system.
A chicken coop will be built in this area so the chickens can free-range, fertilize, and eat any pests & fallen fruit.

8          Vegetable Garden

  •  To provide food for the family
  •  Excess and scraps for the animals
Design features:
A well mulched area, organized into rows for easy access, this falls at the end of a natural swale running from the northwest corner perimeter wall of the housing compound. It will be supplied grey water as well as have rainwater channeled to it when it rains. It will be served by a nearby composting unit for fertilizer and is beside a composting toilet and tool shed, for convenience.

9          Flax field

  •  To grow flax for domestic cloth needs
  •  To make rope and twine
  •  Fibers for cob mixture
  •  Organic matter for composting
Design features:
½ acre field, which is enough to provide approximately 44 yards of fabric, will be sown. Specific types of flax will be sown to ensure a good quality, softness, and soil management.

10       Grains Field

  •  To provide the yearly grain needs for the family
  •  Straw bedding for animals
  •  Straw for cob building
Design features:
Plant 2-3 acres of diversified crops covering many grains and grasses that are very expensive to purchase. The varieties will include: hard and soft white wheat, einkorn and emmer wheat, kamut, spelt, amaranth, millet, oats, quinoa, sorghum, and the grass buckwheat. This gives the best chance of having sufficient grains, so if one doesn’t do well, there are others to compensate.

11       Zone 5 Forest/Tree Nursery/ Pick your own nut orchard

  •  To have a 3 acre forested area as windbreak, source of wood for fuel and lumber, and seed clouding
  •  This will serve as a place to grow seedlings in a nursed environment, especially for the more unusual or exotic trees we would like to try growing and trees for sale
  •  Provide a different environment for a bee hive
  •  This area will also house a pick your own nut orchard, approximately 1 acre in size, open to the public
 Design Features:
A special feature of this forested area is the planting of Pinon Pine Trees. There are no cultivated pine nuts in the USA, largely due to the length of time for the trees to produce. It takes 25 years to have an initial harvest and they reach their prime for harvesting in 75 years. This is a planned source of income for our children, and the generations after them.  Considering that pine nuts are very expensive, with only macadamia nuts being higher in cost, it is planned to be a long-term, high income cash crop.

12       Existing Access Road

The state road, Route 39, borders the southern side of the property. It is elevated from the land, with a sharp grassy drop. It is always exceptionally green from the rain runoff, and we can use this area to plant trees that require more water. This road is the main highway that connects Texas to Taos, a major ski resort and natural building haven. Cars traveling this route are potential customers for the farm shop, especially as there is no pick your own or organic store within 1.5 hours drive.

13       Existing County Road

The existing county road, Homestead Road, turns off the state road. The farm entrance and farm shop are accessed from it. There is a wide enough section of land between the road and the perimeter fence to allow parking for people who stop for the farm shop or the pick your own.

14       External Kitchen

An external kitchen is established in a 10’ x 12’ building northernmost on the property, housing the solar array to run a solar freezer. It will include a cast iron wood stove, all food supplies, and the outdoor cooking apparatus, such as the rocket stove and sun oven. This will be used by the family until the houses are built, and later on by guests, course and workshop attendees, and volunteers such as WOOFERS, POOSHERS, and apprentices.

15       28’ Travel Trailer

This serves as temporary housing while building the houses and other structures. It can sleep 8, so can be used in the future for a guest house or accommodation for volunteers coming to work on various projects with us.

16       Bee Hives
  • Pollination
  •  Honey
  •  Nurture and restore bee population
Design Features:
Strategically placed in different growing areas to pollinate the various plants and trees

17       Perimeter Windbreak/Privacy Screen

  •  Windbreak
  •  Firebreak
  •  Privacy
  •  Attraction for potential customers passing by
  •  Food for wildlife and humans
  •  Nature trail surround
Design Features:
Sunflowers will be planted first on the inner side of the perimeter fence, both perennial and annual, to establish a border and some nursing for tree seedlings. They grow up to 10 feet tall. Wildflowers will be planted on the outer side of the perimeter fence, for a lower cover, to attract bees and other insects for pollination and propagation. Along the inside perimeter fence we will plant lilac, lavender, and New Mexico privet hedge for long-term, lower, and fast growing cover. Then three layers of varying drought resistant trees will be planted, which will make a dense privacy border, a windbreak, firebreak, cloud seeding, as well as a pleasant moisture/temperature controlled micro-climate.
Capitalizing on the dense and aromatic privacy border, a pathway will be woven amongst them to provide a beautiful and secluded nature trail for reflection, relaxation, personal enjoyment, and access to the border trees and bushes for harvesting, maintenance, and watering if necessary.

18       Internal roads

  •  The internal roads connect plants, trees, and barn areas to control where vehicles are driven on the farm
  •  They will also provide cycling paths for recreation
19       Cemetery 

  •  To keep Islamic burial traditions
  •  To keep burial expenses to a minimum
  •  To provide plots for other Muslims in the surrounding areas
Design Features:
On the easternmost section of the farm, midway between the northern and southernmost sections will be a ½ acre Islamic cemetery. This section is the highest elevation on the farm and located in a non-flood plain (a requirement for zoning), and the area least accessible to pick your own customers. The cemetery will be surrounded by flowers and hedges to provide privacy and help restore bio-diversity.

20       Bat houses
  •  To control the ever increasing and annoying mosquito population
  •  Reintroduce bats into the area
  •  Help restore bio-diversity
  •  To make nights more enjoyable
 Design Features:
On the eastern and western corners of the farm, running parallel to route 39, two wooden bat houses will be erected. A 6x6x16 beam will be used as a post for the houses. By burying the beams 3 feet into the ground, the post will be secure and out of predators reach.   

Note on the positioning of various zones and fields

To ensure that family members get a good amount of exercise moving from place to place in their daily lives. Health and wellbeing of the family is paramount, and healthy organic food is effective in conjunction with physical exercise. Exercise should be an integral part of daily life, not something that has to be made time for or done in an artificial way. In this way, all areas of the farm are surveyed on a daily basis and everyone gets plenty of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise.

Permaculture Design Final Project: Part 2 Housing Compound and Main House Design

Map Corresponding Numbers

1a       Housing Compound Area

Building Strategies:
Cob houses at four corners joined by perimeter wall to form a 1 acre private courtyard, which will be zone 0. The courtyard will have small scale structures, landscaping, and vegetation to address the family’s immediate needs and recreation within close proximity and privacy. 

Design Features:
700 sq. ft. round houses on each corner of the family complex all have access to southern side sun for passive solar. Made of cob, entirely earth friendly and insulating – cool in summer, warm in winter, and well suited to the relatively arid climate. Houses will have metal roofs for maximum rainwater catchment and longest life. No pipes or cables will compromise the strength or insulating properties of the walls, as the houses will not have plumbing or wired electricity. 
Cob and straw bale perimeter wall will provide windbreak, privacy, protection, and due to the thermal mass, create a micro-climate in the family courtyard area. Plants requiring partial shade and a warmer environment can be grown both inside and outside this perimeter wall.
Power will be supplied by solar arrays, housed in one building used as family office, schoolroom, and library. This will be the repository for the computer, printer, and charging other electrical appliances, etc. Personal solar phone chargers will be used to keep phones operational while mobile.
Water for drinking and cooking will be from rainwater catchment, filtered and purified through a Berkey gravity feed unit. 

1a.1    Details of Main House

This is a cob round house of 30 meters in diameter that has a conservatory on the southward facing wall. The conservatory wall begins at 123.71° and continues to 236.25°. These degrees coincide with the winter sunrise and sunset. As the hours of sunlight are shorter in the winter, this will allow us to maximize light and heat to conservatory vegetation. It will also assist in the solar passive heating of the house. The inner wall between the conservatory and the living space of the house will be a Trombe wall. During the day, the Trombe wall absorbs light and circulates heat. In addition, during the night it retains and radiates heat.
The kitchen is located at 66° and the dining room is located at 90°. This will allow for maximum sunlight during the hours where the kitchen is used for breakfast, so no artificial or additional light is required. The summer sunrise is at 5:38 a.m. and the winter sunrise is at 7:07 a.m.
There are thermal masses built into the walls where heat would be needed the most. The wood range kitchen connects to one of these thermal masses to radiate heat into the kitchen, dining room, living room, and one bedroom. Two additional thermal masses make up the wall of the second bedroom, with a built in rocket stove. This will heat the other room and assist in heating the living room. In the center of the living room is the third thermal mass, which will radiate heat from the house’s epicenter.
The bathroom and bedrooms are located in the areas that receive the least amount of light, as minimal time is spent in them or darkness is preferred.

1b       4 x bathhouses/composting toilets

  • To house composting toilets and bathing facilities
  • To harness their own supply of water
  • To provide a windbreak
  • To create shaded, protected areas for storage of composting toilet supplies to the rear

Design Features:
These facilities will have metal roofs with guttering for rainwater catchment draining into 55 gallon drums – one above ground and one buried ¾ into the ground. The above ground drum will have rainwater stored for washing needs. The interred drum is to collect the grey water from washing to irrigate crops in zone 0. Composting toilets will be emptied in a composting unit outside perimeter wall. Extended metal roof to perimeter wall will provide covered storage for composting toilet supplies, i.e., cover material and additional 5 gallon buckets.

1c        Playground area
  •  Play area within the courtyard to provide a safe place for children to play
  •  Creativity center
  •  Snack/picnic area
Design Features:
Wooden play area will have special features such as a working loom, so actual textiles can be woven, natural games such as tic-tac-toe, hopscotch, and large 1, 2, and 3 foot long Lincoln Logs to build life-size structures. It will have a surround of a fruit salad garden, edible flowers, and snack plants. In effect, a small selection of dwarf fruit trees: plum, peach, apricot, apple, pear, cherry, and nectarine will be planted with grapevines along the side of the play decks. Two decks at 5’ height off the ground allow for an under-deck picnic area and on the other side under-deck sandbox with rings, trapeze, and rope swings. The shaded under-deck areas will be edged with berry bushes, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, and edible flowers interspersed with companion plants that deter pests. Playhouse on deck will have planters with strawberries and, interspersed, will be planters that have insect repelling plants such as lemongrass, citronella, gardenia, catnip, mint, and rosemary. Run off from playhouse will provide water for surround and edge plants.

1d       Small prayer building

  •  As prayer is an integral part of our life 5 times a day, a place for spiritual retreat is needed
  •  Rain catchment
Design Features:
Made of cob within the courtyard, it will provide thermal mass, heat retention, shade, assist with micro-climate, and rain catchment channeled to 55 gallon steel drum for irrigation of surrounding grass and flowers in family garden.

1e       Small laundry building

  •  Wash clothing
  •  Dry clothes (winter)
  •  Rain catchment
Design Features:
Made of cob within the courtyard, it will provide thermal mass, heat retention, and shade. Rain catchment from the metal roof will be channeled to 55 gallon drum for laundry needs. Grey water will drain out through simple pipe at base of the perimeter wall to a swale beginning outside perimeter wall that runs down between the berry bushes to the large vegetable patch.

1f        2 x Herb Spirals

Convenient access to herbs for culinary and medicinal use
Design Features:
These will be stone-walled, raised bed spirals, where there is a choice between having a footpath or a place to grow root crops in the ground between the stone walls.  

1g       Water Tank
To provide water for drinking and cooking
Design Features:
1650 gallon, above-ground water tank