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How I Built My Healthy Gut

I have experienced a tremendous difference in my overall health since I learned how to build a healthy gut.  I do this through a number of intentional changes in my diet.  Yes, I did have to make some dietary changes, but I still eat pretty much what I want and have those yummy desserts occasionally…just not every day.

How do you know if you might have an unhealthy gut?  Some of the Signs of an Unhealthy Gut might cause you to experience consistent indigestion, reflux, cravings for sweets and sugary items, unintentional weight changes, sleep loss and fatigue, skin issues, autoimmune disease, and food intolerance (gluten, milk, etc).  According to WebMD, “Research suggests Your gut bacteria are tied to your probability of things like diabetes, obesity, depression and colon cancer.”

Speaking of digestion issues, years ago I had IBS (Irritable Bowel System) and it was often debilitating.  My primary care doctor wanted to prescribe medication to treat it, but I did not want to go that route unless absolutely necessary, so he suggested more fiber with diet and some over the counter fiber supplements.  I tried to do it through an increase in my natural fiber intake with more salads, fruit, etc, and although the symptoms would improve, I would still have episodes, especially during times of high stress.  Then, I found the key to building a Healthy Gut which eradicated the symptoms and greatly increased my immunity system.

You may have heard a lot of the following ideas before, but it never hurts to repeat great information…  Here are Tips that I follow (at least most of the time) that give me an improved immune system and a Healthy Gut:

  • Tip #1 – Eat more vegetables, legumes, beans and fruits to increase the fiber and diversity in my meals.  
    No, a potato is not really the vegetable I am talking about.  Potatoes are starchy and turn into sugar in your system, but they are full of fiber, so I eat them occasionally.  I try to eat a salad at night with some protein to help with digestion, fiber intake and to prevent acid reflux at night.  As I have aged, my diet definitely affects indigestion, especially at night, so I don’t eat large meals with fried foods for dinner.   Some great high fiber foods that I love are artichokes, broccoli, chickpeas, pinto and white beans, lentils and whole grains.
    Juicing is a great way to provide more prebiotic foods into your diet that feed the good bacteria in your gut, but not all vegetables and fruits go together, so it’s important to understand how to Juice properly for maximum benefit.
  • Tip #2 – Add fermented foods to my diet daily to increase probiotics in my gut
    I am a huge believer in Dairy Kefir and Kombucha for increasing the good bacteria and beneficial yeast in my Gut.  I make my own for pennies on the dollar and flavor it myself, instead of buying it at the store.  Store bought drinks often have a LOT of added sugar, whereas my homemade beverages are flavored with fruit for the antioxidants and some naturally sweet options.  Also sauerkraut, kimchi and non-pasteurized fermented vegetables provide lots of probiotics for your diet, but my husband is not a fan of those, so he drinks Kombucha and eats Kefir yogurt and frozen desserts to improve his gut health.
  • Tip #3 – Avoid processed food whenever possible
    I remember a time when boxed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and sugary cereals were part of my diet, but not anymore.  Processed foods have a much higher sugar and sodium content than most home cooked meals from scratch.  It is often difficult to prepare thoughtful, healthy meals when your time is used up with work and kids activities.  More than not, we are forced to take the family through the drive thru for their nightly meal.  Fortunately now, many fast food restaurants are offering some healthy choices, but overall, most of the meals are packed with fat, sodium and sugar.  Chick-Fil-A has a good alternative sandwich called a Cool Wrap with grilled chicken and veggies in a tortilla which I buy when we are forced to eat fast food.

These tips are what I do to improve my gut health, but there are lots of others.  Some people advocate a completely plant based diet with no animal protein, while others feel that there is no problem with animal protein as long as the majority of your diet is filled with vegetables, fruits and whole grains.  Whatever way you decide to build a healthier gut, you will not regret doing so.  A healthy gut improves your immune system, and may eliminate symptoms of underlying health issues.

I found that it was easier for me to make changes a little at a time…it takes 7 – 10 days for your taste buds to acclimate to new foods and flavors.  Cutting sugar intake was the most difficult, but now I don’t have cravings for the sweet stuff and enjoy natural fruit flavor much more.  As I said before, I still have those wonderful decadent desserts from time to time, but just not every day.  A hamburger and French fries is also good occasionally, but I have to admit that it will cause some digestion issues which my healthy gut does not like.

If you want to learn more about getting a healthier gut, come to our Healthy Juicing Class this Saturday, September 22nd from10-1130 am.  The class is much more than Juicing…it will give you the information you need to develop a baseline for your health and education on a achieving a healthy gut.  For more information click the link below:

Juicing for Health, Saturday, Sept 22nd

This Cargo Trailer can be so much more!
Check out our Repurpose Project!

Olin and I love to camp and have used a Jumping Jack Tent Trailer for years. It’s basically a large tent on a trailer and can be setup in about 5 minutes…really! It has two full size beds, a table and we had a portable toilet in it for emergencies. It was very comfortable and we have been all over the Southeast camping in it. We could even pull it with my Honda CRV, because it was very lightweight.  But since we have aged a bit, we decided to invest in a larger camper with more amenities. We visited RV lots and got an idea of the size and type of camper we wanted, but didn’t want to spend a ton of money on something we would only use 6-7 times a year.  Olin woke up early one morning and decided to check out enclosed trailers as an option, because it could be used for a dual purpose  (sounds like repurpose project!).

We found a 2 year old cargo trailer that had been wired for electricity and had wood walls, a sealed wood floor, and an insulated ceiling. Since it was a reasonable price, we knew it could be converted into a dual purpose trailer for camping and hauling cargo. They were Kentucky fans, so it was painted blue and white.


First Steps:
Frame out a bathroom and kitchen area and paint over the KY blue!
Then install a small sink for the tiny kitchen area and wall in the shower with corrugated metal walls. Still needed a hot water heater and trim.

After the instant hot water tank and plumbing fixtures were installed, we felt over halfway through the project. He also installed a window on the door, a window on the other side and a vent fan on the roof for ventilation.

Finally, the camper is finished! It is complete with converting couch/bed, refrigerator, air conditioner, TV, storage, bathroom, and small kitchen. The front of the trailer (near the nose) has a permanent bathroom and kitchen, while the bed, dining and storage in the back is moveable for use as a cargo trailer. Check out our pictures below…

Here is the small kitchen, complete with microwave, two burner stove, sink, toaster oven with the air conditioner on the floor. The bathroom is directly to the left and includes a portable toilet (50 flush) and a fairly large shower.


The back of the camper has all move-able items that can be stored elsewhere when we need to use it as a cargo trailer. Instead of hanging pictures or attaching posters to the walls, we put in wall decals that peal and stick…easy to remove if we change our design. Most of the items we used to furnish or finish the camper were recycled or re-purposed items, so we were able to complete our sustainable camper project at a very low cost. We would love to hear your feedback and if you are interested in learning more about this project, just contact us at stoneycreekfarmtennessee@gmail.com.

We really appreciate your support this year during the U-Pick Garden! We are sad this will be our last week, but we will still have tomatoes, blackberries, okra and cucumbers available after our last Saturday. You can call/text 615-591-0015 to order any of these items after this Saturday.

This week we will be open Wednesday 7 am – 7 pm and our last day open will be Saturday, 7 am – 7 pm. The following items are available this week:
Slicer Tomatoes
San Marzano Roma Tomatoes
Sweetheart Grape Tomatoes
Dill Seeds
Fever Few
Sourdough Bread (Saturday only)
Mama’s Candy Pickles
Dill Pickles
Zesty Squash Pickles
Local Raw Honey (available year round)
Creamed Honey (available year round)
Dirt Rich Books
Dirt Rich Kids Coloring Books
Dirt Rich hats

All kids who visit the farm have the opportunity to visit the TOY BOX, our playground, and receive a free ice pop and temporary farm tattoo!

    Pesticide-Free Canning Tomatoes, Green Beans, Squash, Cucumbers
    are now available for sale


    Discounts for Canning Vegetables in Quantity!
    We are open Wednesday/Saturday 7am-7pm and Sunday 1-7 pm for our U-Pick Garden, but if you are buying or ordering pre-picked canning vegetables, just call/text 615-591-0015 for a pickup date and time. Available now: squash, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers.

    We have plenty of blackberries, but very few blueberries due to the late frost in the Spring. Most of the other items on the price list are now available.

    Be sure and ask for a sample of our local honey and creamed honey!

    Want to learn how to preserve your own healthy food?  Take our Canning 101 Class on July 28th.

    Canning 101: Preserve Your Own Healthy Food
    Final Canning Class this Season

    Saturday, July 28th
    10am-12 noon
    Cost $35

    Always wanted to learn how to preserve your fresh fruits and vegetables? The Stoney Creek Farm Canning Class includes the following topics on preserving foods: Water Bath Canning (tomatoes, jellies, etc) Pressure Canning (green beans, soups, etc) Drying Herbs/Fruits Blanching for the Freezer Jams/Jellies/Pickling Learn a sustainable skill for a lifetime that you can share for generations to come…

    To register for Canning 101, click the link below:




    The U-Pick Garden
    at Stoney Creek Farm in Franklin opens
    Sunday, June 17th from 1 – 7 pm. 

    Because of late frost this year, the garden is running about 2 weeks behind normal, so the variety of produce/fruit will be small at first.
    Here is a list of what we will have available to pick and buy:

    Green Beans
    Green Tomatoes (for frying)
    Yellow Squash
    Basil (4 varieties)
    Fever Few (herb for migraines)
    Chocolate Mint
    Onions (some)
    Raw Local Honey
    Creamed Honey
    Dirt Rich Book
    Dirt Rich Kids Coloring and Activity Book
    Dirt Rich ball caps
    Fried Green Tomato Breading Mix
    Sourdough Bread
    Sourdough Rolls
    Banana Nut Loaves

    Hours for the Farm the rest of the Summer Season are:
    Wednesdays 7 am – 7 pm
    Saturdays 7 am – 7 pm
    Sundays 1 – 7 pm

    A Sustainable Tour will be offered from 2-3 pm for anyone interested in Sustainable Living/Farming.  The family friendly tour covers different methods of rainwater capture, composting, beneficial insects, all natural gardening (no pesticides), chickens and goats.
    Cost is only $5 per person.

      5 Reasons to Preserve Your Own Healthy Food

      Nutritional Facts are on canned goods for a reason…to help shoppers make healthy choices! Although there are tons of healthier choices in the grocery store now than in the past, we still have ‘a long way to go’ when it comes to choosing the food that will benefit our bodies the most. For instance, if I buy low-fat salad dressing, most of the time it has more salt and sugar than regular salad dressing to make it taste better (without the fat). Your body needs some fat, so I just use the regular dressing and measure it, so I control the calories (or I try to).

      I also strive to make my own broth for soups from chicken, beef or vegetables, but occasionally I will buy broth from the store. The ‘fat-free’ vegetable broth from the store that I purchased recently has 570 mg of sodium and 2 grams of sugar per cup…yes, per cup! Our daily allowance for salt should be 2300 mg per day or 1 tsp of salt. I’ll eat at least 2 cups of broth in a soup bowl at one sitting and that would make 1140 mg or 1/2 of my daily intake…eye opener for sure! I am particularly concerned with salt intake, because it causes my blood pressure to rise and retention of fluid. My family has a history of high blood pressure/heart disease and my sweet mother passed away in 1984 at only 47 years of age with an unexpected heart attack. So you can see the reason for my concern in this area.

      Many years ago, I chose to preserve a lot of my own food from our garden, in order to control the sodium and sugar, and eliminate the preservatives. I’ve always made pickles and jellies (with water bath canning), but had not ventured into pressure canning for green beans, soups, meat, and broth. Once I got the hang of pressure canning, the whole world seemed to open up on my options to preserve my own healthy food. I also freeze a lot of items that don’t seem to do as well with canning like squash, zucchini, peas and corn.

      So here are Five of the Reasons that I Preserve Food, but you may think of more:

      1. Flavor – the taste is tremendously better when you preserve it yourself
      2. No metal cans – I am concerned specifically about tomatoes or other acidic items in a metal can and the possibility of it leaching into the ingredients
      3. Controlling sodium and sugar – when you preserve it, you control the ingredients
      4. Eliminating preservatives and pesticides – msg, sulfites and nitrates – if I don’t grow it myself, I make sure the grower doesn’t use pesticides
      5. Controlling the serving size and calories – I control what size and amount I preserve

      Do you wonder which foods need to be processed through a water bath canner and which ones through a pressure canner? The easy way to remember is:
      food with acid, sugar, or vinegar can be water bath canned
      all other food must be pressure canned or frozen

      Examples for water bath canning: tomatoes, pickles, jams, jellies, fruit, and hot peppers with vinegar
      Examples for pressure canning: green beans, peas, corn, cabbage, potatoes, soups, meats, and broth

      If you have any questions about canning or preserving your own healthy food, please send me an e-mail at stoneycreekfarmtennessee@gmail.com.

      Check out our two Canning 101 Classes, June 2 and 30th, on this link:  http://stoneycreekfarmtennessee.com/events/996/

      How to Plant Tomatoes for the Best Results

      Have you always wondered why some people can grow the most beautiful tomato plants with loads of fruit, but yours do not make the grade? Although there are a LOT of factors that play into growing superb tomatoes, one sure bet is developing a great root system when you first transplant them into the ground. So how do you do that?

      1. One method is to plant the tomato as deep as possible, so that the root system will develop all over the stem that’s planted underground.
      2. Another method is to plant them in a trench, where the plant actually lays down in a valley in the soil, but the top of the plant protrudes on top of the soil.

      See pictures below. Both of these methods will allow the plant to grow a root system over the entire stem area that is underground. This extended root system will help the plant be much stronger and healthier, than with a small root system planted near the surface.

      Other Factors to Consider when Growing Tomatoes

      Another critical factor is soil health. To grow lots of tomatoes, it is important to have enough nutrients in the soil, so that the plant will get nourished properly. Yellowing leaves will occur if the soil is not nutrient rich. Too many green leaves and not enough fruit will occur if you over fertilize the soil….so it’s a delicate balance. Test your soil by following the UT Ag Extension publication which can be found on this link: https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/PB1061.pdf  After your results are in, Ag Extension can help you figure out the easiest way to amend your soil for tomatoes or any other veggies in your garden.

      Tomatoes need a lot of air space around them, so they don’t develop fungus, so plant them with a 24″ box of air space around them. We use wooden stakes instead of wire cages to support the plants, because we feel the wood does a better job of keeping the plant erect and growing the most fruit. We do sanitize the stakes each year, in case any left over fungus from the previous year might be present.

      It is also good to plant flowers (like buckwheat and cosmos) that attract beneficial insects to eliminate the most common insect problem…evil Aphids. Aphids suck the juices out of the stem of tomatoes and pass diseases to the plant. Green Lacewings are a beneficial insect that will lay eggs with hatch into larvae that eats the evil Aphids. Tiny parasitic wasps will lay eggs inside the other insect monster, tomato horn worms, and the larvae hatch to eat the worm from the inside out. Because we grow SO MANY tomato plants for our U-Pick Summer Garden, we actually buy Green Lacewing Eggs from Arbico Organics http://arbico-organics.com. Lady Beetles are also great Aphid eaters, but they like to hibernate and overwinter in our home…so I don’t order those. By attracting beneficial insects, you don’t need pesticides!

      We hope these tips have been helpful and feel free to e-mail us with any further questions on Tomatoes or Gardening:

      Companion Planting Improves
      Garden Success!

      Early in my gardening adventure, I planted tomatoes and cabbage in rows next to each other and watched my tomatoes turn yellow with blight and disease. I had no idea that tomatoes and the Brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussel sprouts) pass diseases to each other. What a learning experience. I felt like such a failure…especially after all that work.

      As luck would have it, I came across a gardening article in the local paper about companion planting and found out why my plants didn’t thrive. Here are some common vegetables that are not friends:
      Corn Tomatoes
      Bush beans Onion
      Pole Beans Beets/Cabbage/Tomatoes
      Cabbage Tomatoes
      Celery Carrots
      Potatoes Cucumbers
      Eggplant Corn/Lettuce/Onions

      There is a plethora of information on the web concerning companion planting and often the information is contradictory. The list that I like the best is found here: http://mysquarefootgarden.net/companion-planting/ and it was verified by a friend in Ag Extension. You can download the file and keep it electronically or print out in hard copy.

      The list is color coded with red, green and yellow. Red is stop (not friends), Yellow (ok, but not best friends), and green is great (best friends). I use this list with our garden renters to help them plan out ‘friendly gardens’ that will thrive.

      Many herbs will deter pests and help their friend veggies to thrive. A great example of an herb/veggie marriage is tomatoes and basil. Most knowledgeable gardeners will plant basil in the same area as their tomatoes, because the herb will confuse the pest with smell and the tomatoes will be more flavorful. Garlic is also a friend of the tomato plant and will help to deter deer and other varmints because the wildlife does not like the smell of garlic. I’m not sure if the garlic will help the flavor of your tomatoes, but you could definitely plant a border with it.

      I hope these tips help you to have a more successful garden this year! If you have more questions about companion planting or any gardening topic, send me an email: stoneycreekfarmtennessee@gmail.com

      The 3 Most Important Tips for a
      Successful Vegetable Garden

      You may have heard these tips before, but it never hurts to repeat them…especially when we are just getting started into Gardening Season! Here are the three things that I emphasize every year in our Gardening 101 Class, because you will be able to grow lots of vegetables when you follow these rules:

      1. Proper soil content is a must.
        If you are gardening directly in the soil, then you must do a soil test. Soil tests are easy and will help you amend it with nutrients if it’s lacking. Also, if the soil is too alkaline or too acidic, it will definitely affect your veggie production. Here is the link with instructions on how to do a soil test in TN and where to carry your sample for evaluation. https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/PB1061.pdf

        If you are gardening in a new raised bed, it is important to start out with an balanced mixture of soil that will drain well. We use a mixture of 50% composted cow manure and 50% topsoil in our beds. We are careful not to overwater, since there is not a lot of drainage materials in it like sand or vermiculite. Another great mixture is Mel’s mix from the Square Foot Garden Book. The average mixture is approximately 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost (different types of compost should be used). Mel’s soil mixture claims that you can’t overwater it (which is the number one issue with beginning gardeners). Of course there are numerous other soil mixtures that you can use and easily research over the internet, but the most important point is nutrient content with a PH around 6.1 – 6.3. Proper PH will allow the nutrients to feed the vegetable plants and thrive.

      2. Planting seed and transplanting plants in your garden must occur at the correct time and temperature.
        The easiest way to find out when to plant certain vegetables is to follow the USDA hardiness map: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/

        A good rule of thumb is to plant your vegetable garden after the last frost date for your area, which is April 15th for Middle Tennessee. Of course each state and area will have different frost dates…so be sure to look. Some vegetables, like corn and okra, need a warmer soil temperature to germinate, if they are being planted by seed directly into the soil. Seed packets will tell you the proper soil temperature required. Almost any thermometer can be put in the soil to check out the temperature.

      3. Successful gardens must have 8 hours or more of sunlight per day and one inch of water a week.
        Sunlight is important for most vegetable to grow well. Some gardeners have gotten away with only 6 hours of sunlight, but it’s always hit or miss….depending on the particular variety. One inch of rainwater per week is a must for the plants, which roughly equates to a quart mason jar of water in the week. That does not mean to water each plant only once per week with a quart of water…it means that over a week’s period of time, it should receive about a quart. The easiest way to determine how much water it is getting, is to keep a rain gauge and monitor how much rain you are getting and then supplement whenever needed. The most common mistake of beginning gardeners is overwatering their plants!

      I hope these tips have been helpful and feel free to contact us with any questions or comments at stoneycreekfarmtennessee@gmail.com

      Want to learn about gardening, but don’t know where to start? Our Gardening 101 Class will give you all the tools and resources to begin a garden and be successful. Plus you have the option to buy a 4’x4′ raised bed for only $20 by attending the class.

      You will learn about the following topics:
      • Planting from seed
      • Transplanting plants to your garden
      • Overview of raised bed gardening
      • Compost and soil mixtures for healthy plants
      • Watering methods and rainwater capture
      • Temporary Greenhouse production
      and companion planting, best web resources and more….

      Gardening 101 Class
      April 7th, Saturday, 10:00 am – 11:30 am
      Cost $35, plus the option of purchasing a 4’x4′ raised bed for only $20

      This class is free to anyone renting a garden plot at Stoney Creek Farm for 2018.
      To register: