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Alicia Bayer

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since Oct 13, 2017
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homeschooling kids purity trees books cooking
I'm a writer and a homemaking, homeschooling mother of 5 kids (ages 6 to 19). Our family does a lot of foraging of wild foods, organic gardening, homesteading and preserving. I am also the author of several books about foraging and nature studies, and I run a number of blogs and Facebook pages about foraging, homeschooling, natural living and living well on less.
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Recent posts by Alicia Bayer

I stumbled onto this resource while researching nature study topics and wanted to pass it on.  It's a free 110 page PDF on how to build rain gardens.  It's designed for schools and organizations and goes into very precise detail with step by step plans, a glossary, pictures of all kinds of rain gardens (at the end), planning info and lots more.  Here's the link.

Hope it helps someone!
1 month ago
I have never had success growing potatoes this way.  I used to use grass and clippings, and I just didn't ever get much yield at all.  Then I read a garden book this year that said it was so important to use soil if you want a good potato crop.  I think if you're trying to make a new bed and will just be pleasantly surprised by a few potatoes, this is a great plan.  I'm tired of sad potato results though and will use good garden soil for mine this year.  I usually have great success with anything planted in our good Minnesota soil.  We'll see what happens.

PS The best way I have established new beds is by putting kiddie pools in the yard for the kids to play in all summer.  Come fall I put away the kiddie pool and underneath is a perfect circle of nothing but dirt.  I plant there, edge it in large stones, and then keep making it bigger as the stones kill the sod underneath.  With five kids and limited time, I have slowly converted much of our grass to permaculture gardens this way over the years.  :)
Wow.  That's a lot of money.  To be frank, I'm a little worried for you.  I have never used a publicist or agent, but I also haven't sold $9,000 worth of books (though I'm getting up there).  My biggest advice would be to ask for proof that he's done this for other people.  Who has he made moderately rich and famous with his services?  Ask for some success stories and some references that you can contact.  Otherwise, it just feels like this could be a really expensive lesson.

Here are some ways you can ask people to support you and help make this book successful without spending any of their own money.  You have such a big following here that I would hope you could get some big responses along these lines even for people who can't donate cash.  People who want to help can:

~ Sign onto Goodreads and make an account.  Once there, either rate the book, better yet review the book, and possibly add the book to lists so people will see it when they're looking for related books (click on lists, and then search for topics like permaculture, etc.).  It's also helpful to friend people there, because the more friends you have, the more people will see the books you've rated.  That's not nearly as important as just getting the numbers up there and getting good quality reviews up there.  

~ Ask your library to carry the book.

~ Post on social media about the book, with a direct link to it.

~ Review the book on Amazon.

~ Recommend the book to groups, websites, etc. with similar values.  Always post a link when you do so.  People are lazy. :)

~ If you can't buy the book but buy anything else on Amazon, click through one of Paul's links so he gets a commission and support him that way.

~ Share social media posts about the book.  If you're on Twitter, Facebook, and especially FB groups about related topics, post about it.  Also forward posts/ads about it.

Here's where a good social media post can really help.  You can make them for free on Canva.  There are templates and graphics to make it easy.  Here's an example of a social media post that I made last week for a children's nature poetry book I just published with one of my children (she did the art).

Then ask people to share it, and share it yourself anywhere like-minded folks hang out.  Be sure the post has relevant information and a call to action ("please share!" or "Ask your library to carry it!" and so on), with a link to buy the book (make it an affiliate link and say so, to increase profits).  (Here's the post and what I wrote to accompany it on my author page).

You may also want to look into offering your book for review at NetGalley, where librarians, bloggers, booksellers and other reviewers access ARCs (advanced reader copies) for free in exchange for reviewing them on the site and on sites like book blogs, Goodreads and Amazon.  That's also how many librarians and booksellers find out about new titles to order.  NetGalley has become a rather important way of promoting books in today's market.  It costs more money than I'm willing to pay ($400 or $500 maybe?) but at the scale you're looking to sell at, it could be a good move.  That's probably one of the routes your publicist is planning on going.

I have never paid for advertising, but that could also be helpful for the numbers you want.  Sponsored books on Amazon seem to do well and start at a very low cost.  The way it works is that it suggests it to people who search for similar books or search words.  

I have never used a publicist or agent and have only used word of mouth and this sort of thing but I have sold quite a few books (my elderberry book is by far the best seller, though my acorn foraging book and nature study books also do fairly well).  Part of that also is because I do a lot to help people online for free with my free nature magazine, foraging help, blogs, etc. and so people tend to want to support me.  You have that going in spades, which can really help.  I realize you are looking for much bigger numbers of sales than my little books, but I hope that's some help.  I would be happy to create a social media post like mine for you at no charge if you want to email me and give me a basic outline of what you'd want on it.  I believe strongly in helping others for free, which is probably why I am not the type to hire a publicist and balk at anybody charging you that much.  :)  It may be a smart move, but I wouldn't count out word of mouth and karma in helping to bring good sales your way at much less cost.

Good luck either way!

2 months ago
My husband uses Google maps to map foraging spots too, and he has it color coded and by season, too.  He wrote a blog post about his system on our family foraging and green living blog here.

He has a pretty easy system that works really well and has added a lot more wild edibles since then that might be hard to keep track of otherwise, so we know where there's a great site for wild asparagus in May or where to find wild grapes in late summer, etc.

I personally try to stay away from Google these days, but I'm a cranky old thing.  ;)

3 months ago
I don't think I've ever posted this here and I'm not sure why, but I wanted to pass this on in case anybody found it helpful.  

Starting in January of 2019 I've been putting out an ad-free nature magazine online for kids.  

It's in PDF form and can be read online or printed out.  It's usually about 16 pages and has information for kids (and their grown ups) about foraging, fun things to do outside, ways to help the environment, etc.  Each month has two botanical coloring pages from Elizabeth Blackwell, a fantastic artist who created some of the best botanical illustrations ever done as a way to free her husband from debtor's prison a couple of hundred+ years ago (I teach about her in the first issue).  There are also seasonal nature poems, weather trees (color in a leaf for each day to keep track of the day's weather), foraging record keeping pages, nature study records and more.

I have tried to include information for folks in the Southern hemisphere but I must admit there is a slant towards foraging and nature study in the Northern hemisphere as I live in Minnesota and I'm just not as familiar with foraging in places like Australia as the U.S.    I have included some and have tried to make it useful for all though.

Here are a few of the covers from past magazines.

And here is this month's magazine.

You can view them all on the Wild Kids website and download them or read them there.  You don't have to sign up for anything or do anything at all to download it.  It's just a project I do to try to do some good in the world.  

I have not decided if I'm going to continue into 2020.  I originally committed to doing one year and said I'd take it from there.  My family is encouraging me to stop as it's a lot of time every month and we have a busy life with 4 kids still at home, and it costs money as so many people download it that our little website charges us an overage fee.  But I believe strongly in this subject and it's a bit of a "Miss Rumphius" project of mine (in the picture book Miss Rumphius, an elderly lady spreads lupines all through the countryside because her grandfather has taught her that we all must find something to do to make the world more beautiful).  

In any case, I'm strongly leaning towards continuing it into the new year and thought folks here might like the magazine or know a child in their lives who might.  Feel free to pass it on to anyone you think might benefit, and if you'd ever like to contribute any content (or know a child who would -- my kids have written some of the content) feel free to do that too!

6 months ago
Here's another tip for boosting the book via Goodreads if you have an account there.  I haven't read it yet but I clicked on "want to read" and so that was posted in the update feed of all 160 or so of my friends.  Just like you have a feed on Facebook or Twitter, you have a news feed on your home page as a Goodreads member that says X just reviewed X book, X rated X book, X wants to read X book and so on.  That's a really great way to get books noticed, just asking folks to click on it to say they want to read it, because others see the book title and will very frequently click on it to see what it's about and then add it to their own "want to read list" -- which then sends an an announcement to all of their friends and so on.  It's basically free advertising.

Also, if anybody else is a member there I'd love to connect as friends.  This is my profile: but it is showing my author profile and I'm not sure how to just click to add me as a friend instead of following me as an author.  If you'd like to be friends, please post your profile link.  I would love more Permies friends.  :)
7 months ago
Great idea!  I do something similar to de-stem herbs and foraged greens like lambs quarters for smaller plants -- I use a colander and just pull them through.  :)
8 months ago

Jane Reed wrote:Alicia, when you harvest elderberries, do you pick out the green berries?  I do, and I wonder if I’m going to too much trouble.  

It depends on what I'm using them for.  If I'm using elderberries for medicinal purposes or baking, yes (if you have enough of them you can even pickle them as capers).  If I'm using them for jellies or jams where the pectin in the occasional green berries will help them set and there aren't many, then I dump them in.  You may be harvesting too early if you have green berries though.  There are generally different stages of ripeness on a cluster, but you want most of them to be a nice deep purplish-black and by that stage then even the less ripe ones should be nice and purple.  If you're harvesting early because you only have access to a few and are fighting the birds for them, that might be the best bet.  I'd look for bigger patches where you can afford to wait until they're really ripe though for maximum medicinal value (and best taste).  :)
9 months ago
It should be noted that you hear a lot about how toxic other parts of elder are, but there is only one official case of food poisoning by elderberry in US history and that was with a group of people who gathered large amounts of elderberries, stems, branches and leaves and crushed them into a juice that they then served raw during a multi-day religious gathering in the California mountains many years ago.  Even in that case (where some folks were hospitalized) everybody fully recovered very quickly.

The reports that I've read of stomach aches and diarrhea have dealt with the berries, not other parts.  You absolutely can get stomach aches and diarrhea from eating raw elderberries.  You also may not, but I personally wouldn't chance it since raw elderberries don't taste that great anyway and the best ways to use them are other ways.  There are also anecdotal stories of children who got sick making pea shooters out of hollowed elderberry sticks, though they have also been used traditionally for flutes for many years after they were dried. I've never found a confirmed case of anybody being sickened by using elder branches in this way but stories from "the old days" are plentiful.

You also hear a lot about the toxicity of red elderberries.  The USDA warns not to eat *raw* red elderberries, but they were traditionally used as both food and medicine for some Native American tribes.  There are some folks online who have experimented with making things like red elderberry fruit leather but the main drawback of red elderberry is that it just doesn't taste good.  But yes, even more caution should be taken not to eat those raw.

You do not need to worry about tiny bits of stem that are in your elderberries if you'll be cooking them or using them in tinctures.  It is nearly impossible to get every tiny bit and it's not necessary.  People have been cooking elderberry pies and making elderberry syrup, tincture, wine, etc. for centuries and it is generally accepted that there will be some tiny bits of stem in elderberries you use for cooking, wine making, medicine or other uses.  Even dried elderberries from respected herbal companies like Mountain Rose Herbs will contain small bits of stem.  This is fine.

You hear a lot that the best way to de-stem elderberries is to freeze them and then knock off the berries.  We've found that this results in more stems (and mess) in your berries.  We have the best results simply raking them with a fork or even wide mouthed comb (see the photo below of our youngest daughter, Fiona, using a fork to destem elderberries a few years ago).  We then spread them on a cookie sheet and give it a little shake to spread them evenly, and press a finger onto the bits of stem on the cookie sheet to lift them up and get them out.  Tiny bits of stem are left unless we're making pies of muffins, in which case I work at it a bit longer just for aesthetic reasons (nobody wants a chunk of elderberry stem in their pie).  Flash freeze on cookie sheets for a few hours and then bag them up if you're using them for baking, so you have single frozen elderberries that are easy to scoop out.  When you bag them up, you can do another little shake and more stems will have stuck to the pan.  When making juice (covered in water and simmered and strained), you can worry less about bits of stem.  There are many ways to dry them (too many to list right now) but again, just remove the larger bits of stem.

I got into more detail about elderberry toxicity and ways of preserving (freezing, drying, dehydrating, canning, juicing, etc.) and de-stemming them in my elderberry book (affiliate link), along with 70+ recipes for medicinal remedies, baked goods, wine and liqueurs, jellies, desserts, etc. for elderberries and elder flowers.  But the bottom line is that you don't have to overly worry about tiny bits of stem.  :)
9 months ago

Victor Skaggs wrote:I found a large patch of elderberries in the Sierras in Tulare Co., and would pick them, but also eat them right off the bushes, and I ate a lot of them! Now I've read that they should not be consumed raw. They never bothered me, and I mean I ate a LOT of them while picking.

You're one of the lucky ones!  There are a large number of people who can consume elderberries raw without adverse effects (maybe as many as 1/3 of the population?).  Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing whether you're one of the lucky ones without trying it.  For most folks, raw elderberries cause pretty significant discomfort -- stomach cramping, diarrhea and misery that can last for days.  Some native tribes used elderberry carefully as a remedy for constipation for this reason.  The rest of the shrub is more toxic (stems, leaves, etc.) but you're best off not eating them raw in any case.

Also, raw elderberries just don't taste nearly as good as cooked or as good as other wild berries that you can eat raw.  Elderberries are absolutely delicious in lots of cooked recipe (especially with the presence of lemon, which not only makes their flavor pop in a wonderful way but also makes whatever you're cooking turn red, magenta or hot pink since elderberries are also pH indicators).  

Here's my recipe for elderberry lemonade concentrate and an example of a naturally carbonated elderberry lemon soda I made last year of some that I lightly fermented with some wild elderflower yeast to show how fun these little beauties are for recipes besides health remedies, too.  

I highly recommend using them for your medicinal remedies, baked goods, drinks, etc. instead of taking any chances on eating them raw.  :)
9 months ago