New Thoughts on Old Age

We’ve been at this about a decade now, learning by trial and error. Because of a major health crisis in the family, I’ve been introspecting even more than usual these days. That’s why I haven’t been posting much lately.

I thought it high time to deeply consider what our own health futures might hold, Hubby and I, while we are not under the immediate duress of old age and poor health. Health is one of the main reasons why we committed to this homesteading lifestyle. Other reasons are political, esthetic, quality of life and, for me at least, a sense of urgency to hold on to something precious for future generations—nature—before it slips completely from our lives.

Tumeric flowering, didn’t know they do that!

Watching the impact of the Scamdemic not only on the economy, but also on our ‘health care’ system has demonstrated unequivocally that, despite the challenges and hardships, we’ve made the right choice.

Our ‘health care’ system, which is actually a disease promoting system, is beyond hope, in my estimation. (This one’s surely gone viral by now, but in case you haven’t seen it yet, it’s brilliant!)
The DEVOLUTION of covid vaccine efficacy

I truly believe the only way out of the mess this country has become is by reclaiming our natural rights back from the government.

However, that first means reclaiming our natural responsibilities—those ‘unpleasant’ aspects of life we’ve come to outsource to the government (and their corporate partners in crime) in the first place, which has made it ridiculously powerful, as all governments (and their co-conspirators) are wont to be.

We are trying to accomplish that by first demonstrating to ourselves, and then hopefully to others, that such a thing is possible, and also desirable.

But what if, due to our increasing age, we had to choose?
Limited strength, mobility issues, cognitive decline, all are serious potential threats to our continued lifestyle here.

Considering this I’ve made a few lists, ranking our current activities against future realities based on: Required inputs, health impact, pleasure principle, and bang for the buck.

It isn’t pleasant. I don’t want to give up any of it, ever! Bees, chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, veggie garden, fruit orchard . . . .
But, here goes.

  1. Kombucha, no caveats, it stands alone. If you can make tea you can make kombucha. It’s healthy, it’s fun, it’s delicious. Hubby no longer drinks beer or soda thanks to this amazing beverage, better for health and finances for us, and far better for the environment too, with almost no waste.
  2. Sourdough bread, and already we have caveats. I know loads of folks think they are gluten intolerant; I used to think I was too. Grains properly prepared are nothing like most store-bought breads, for health and taste. Around these parts you can’t even find good bread. In other locales you may be able to find it, but I’d guess the prices are scary. Making your own sourdough bread is time consuming, but it’s not difficult. Same goes for sourdough cookies, brownies, pizza crusts, etc. And, let’s face it, gluten-free products are not tasty, so there’s some extra incentive.
  3. Raised garden beds, and more caveats. Starting to garden at an advanced age is probably not going to be too successful. Of all we do here it claims the prize of Most: most expensive, most labor intensive, most greatest learning curve, most unreliable results. Still, I love it! So, continuing to garden with some foresight and adjustments is perfectly doable. I insist!

That short list makes me sad. It’s the bare bones and I hope such sacrifices will never be required of us—no more chickens, goats, big dogs, great big garden?!

I don’t even want to consider it, but there it is.

Tori surveying the gopher damage. Bad rodents!

There are also many projects still on my list to successfully accomplish, which are in trial and error mode now. Like making all our own body care and household cleaning products and herbal medicines. Hubby has future hopes of making furniture, if his current to-do list will ever allow it. No time for poor health here!

So, another short list is in order. The three things, in addition to those above, that I hope and pray we never get too old for:
1. Bees — not even for the honey necessarily
2. Chickens — they are easy enough to manage, but they attract predators
3. Goats — mostly for the cheese making, but they’re pretty good company too

And the three things we would most likely not be able to continue into old age:
1. Slaughtering — tough work, no doubt about it
2. Orchard — even established ones are a lot of work
3. Pigs — high maintenance, yes, but so delicious

We have no intention of ever rejoining urban life. And as far as intentions go, avoiding nursing homes and hospitals is right at the top of that list as well.

Thanks, Decker https://dispatchesfromtheasylum.com/ for sharing this good one!

I’d love to read any comments on how you’ll be avoiding the hospitals and nursing homes too! And, are you sick of ‘civilization’ yet?!

Food Matters

Can you tell who your ancestors were from the sorts of foods you like?

Folks say you develop a taste for the foods you grew up with and keep a sort of inner-scent nostalgia from childhood, like when Proust describes his semi-conscious love affair with Madeleines.

I’d say that’s only the surface layer of the story. The first time I smelled beans cooking from scratch, as in not coming from a can, I felt I was wafting on scented dreams that could not possibly have come from my own limited lifetime.

We didn’t eat sourdough or sauerkraut either growing up. We ate Oreos, McDonalds, KFC, TV dinners, mac & cheese, and we loved them. All the way through university I lived on mostly fast food and had little clue what cooking from scratch actually meant.

So, considering I was well-adapted to such convenience foods growing up and had developed such a taste for them that I craved them after moving to areas where they were not available, what gives?

Hubby had a much more traditional outlook from his childhood than I did. More than any other single influence in my move toward better nutrition, he was my inspiration. He introduced our household to fermented foods, and now I’m primarily the one who nurtures those crafts. His folks had already been gardening in his youth and still had a ‘subsistence’ mindset, and by that I mean they still ‘put up’ food, something that was unheard of to me growing up.

Do you eat to live or live to eat?

Breaking bread together still means something in our country, I think, but barely. Somehow even the traditional ‘pot luck’ is hardly lucky anymore when food sensitivities reign and diet dictocrats menace and folks’ general health is so poor who knows what will set them off the deep end.

New film: Like Beans for Beef? I don’t think so!

Sensual, comforting, beautiful, sublime, simple, food is far more than sustenance, just as depicted in a popular and a most favorite film of mine, Like Water for Chocolate. Can your mood affect your meal? Can your meal affect your mood? Any true cook or gourmand knows, indeed, it can, and often does. That is ‘the weather’ both inside and out, tempers the dish, for better or worse, and that’s a fact I’ll swear by.

Which came first: the cheese, the beer, the wine, the bread, the kraut or the Kombucha?

In Czech they say their beer is liquid bread. Fermentation is a key miracle of life that I had no idea existed until I was nearly 40. I’d visited caves in France where Champagne is aged and others where Roquefort is crafted and been to festivals where the ‘new wine’ and liters of beer were copiously enjoyed and obviously had eaten pickles in my lifetime, but none of these experiences cemented the notion of fermentation in my mind.

“In all raw whole foods, the food plays host to beneficial bacteria that are particularly suited to devouring it. These native cultures also help to transform the basic foodstuff into traditionally fermented foods: Cabbage contains all the bacteria it needs to become sauerkraut, wheat has all the bacteria and yeasts it needs to become bread (or beer), and grapes have all the culture they need to become wine. Milk is no exception: The native biodiversity of raw milk provides microorganisms that help infants digest their mothers’ milk (and cause the milk to decay if it is spilt); these microorganisms are all that the milk needs to become the many different styles of cheese.” The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World’s Best Cheeses by David Asher

The first time I tasted Camembert with onions was in Germany, partnered with great beer, and it was instantly a favorite meal. At home I bought an American-imported version of both, but they were not the same. Once I started to make cheese myself I realized why, and also realized, I’d become a bonafide cheese snob. A freeze-dried culture is very different from a ‘territoire’ cultivated culture—as different as Velveeta is from the homemade ‘Mexican queso’ it’s supposed to imitate.

Generations upon generations of traditional cheese makers evolved the diverse methods of making cheese while carefully practicing their art. All classes of cheese were discovered by cheese makers long before they had a scientific understanding of the microbiological and chemical forces at play in its creation. Industry and science hijacked cheers making from the artisans and farmers some 150 years ago, and since then new new styles of cheese have been created; yet during that time hundreds, possibly thousands, of unique cheeses have been lost.” (Asher)

These cheeses were made from my own fungal cultures and have a far superior taste compared to the cheeses made with the typical freeze-dried cultures:
brevibacterium linens, geotrichum candidum, penicillin roqueforti

I know how bizarre this will sound to many, because that’s how it sounds to me, now. I didn’t even know vegetables had seasons and I’d never tasted cheese that wasn’t processed and wrapped in plastic, but I assure you, for a girl raised in the American suburbs this was/is typical.

I remember the first time a visiting Czech friend tasted an American beer, he remarked, “That’s an interesting beverage, not bad, but it’s not beer.” It was Budweiser, the ‘beer’ that was originally from Plzen, called Budvar. Even then, already as a ‘worldly’ adult, I didn’t fully grasp his meaning.

Now I understand he was noticing the obvious lack of real fermentation. Like breads made from instant yeast instead of natural yeast, or cheese made from freeze-dried cultures instead of natural cultures, there is most definitely a difference and once you are sensitized to it you cannot even refer to this difference as subtle. It’s glaringly elementary, yet it’s pitifully difficult to describe.

We grew up with artificial sodas like Coke, but we don’t drink them now, because once you master your own favorite Kombucha flavors, artificial flavors become unpalatable. Ditto on the artificial condiments—ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, Tabasco—these all fared from real and healthy foods that once kept our ancestors thriving for centuries before science learned how to mimic them, but not in nutrition, only in taste, and even then, only sort of.

It’s similar to the modern rose that is hardly a rose but in looks alone. And even then, only sort of. Do modern cultivars creating the equivalent of fake boobs recall that roses, like boobs, once had a nutritive purpose that surpassed mere vulgar voluptuousness?

It would appear that no, they do not, because even here in the ‘rose capital’ of Tyler, Texas, boasting a very popular annual festival with a Queen and everything, I’d never have fathomed roses were once cultivated primarily for their hips.

Selective breeding and shortcuts require compromises that are most often not worth it once you develop refinement and can truly appreciate how unsurpassed is the luxury of time. Two days for decent bread, two days prep plus six months aging for a great Alpine cheese, a year for a drinkable wine, a century of painstakingly crafted cultivation for a beautiful yet still nutritious rose—when you nurture the sensitivity of your palate and your gut, you realize there really is a hierarchy of taste and fake is never going to be an adequate substitute.

I’ve set goals all my life, many of them I’ve achieved and many more I’ve not and many more still I decided were not worthy of achieving once within the goal posts. But there is always remaining this matter of food, and it always fits. Not the short-term convenience foods I grew up with, but a much wider tradition that settled into our lives rather organically and that reflects the ancestral wisdom I believe my own ancestors were mistaken to leave behind, which I feel very fortunate to have the time and inclination to revive and cultivate.

With Handy Hubby perfecting another lost art—growing, slaughtering and butchering all on-site—perhaps we should up our game goals? ‘Luddite Power Couple’ is that a thing? 😉

Homestead Happy Snaps

It’s time again for some fun snaps. Apparently my ‘extremist’ opinions are not nearly as popular as far as posts go. What a mystery! 🙂

As usual, not suitable viewing for vegetarians.

But, our veggie of the year has definitely been the turnip. Not too sexy, I know. Personally I think the turnip is way under-rated. Lucky for us, they were so prolific this year we’ve been giving them away, feeding them to the pigs and eating them ourselves pretty much daily. Raw, baked, stewed, roasted, fermented—don’t knock ‘em ‘til you try ‘em! (And if you have any yummy suggestions for preparation, please do share.).

Hakurei F1 Turnip from Johnny’s Seeds—fantastic producer, delicious and nutritious

Our small asparagus bed was so over-packed we created 2 huge beds for them, had to go outside the garden fence and cut down a few trees to do it, and still had enough to give a big box away to a sister homesteader.

I also dug up the ‘naked lady’ lilies, day lilies and iris, replanted a bunch of them and still had loads to give away. I love to spread the wealth! It was A LOT of work, but hopefully worth it. Time will tell.

(Note to new gardeners: DO NOT crowd your asparagus, those crowns are a nightmare to separate once they get over-clumped. Lesson learned the hard way.)

Fava beans and lovely greens and my favorite herb, chervil.

Mama Chop, ready to pop! Papa Chop must be very proud, he got Virginia preggers too, her first time. Loads of piglets coming any day now.

We had to borrow another ram, apparently the last one was sleeping on the job. He’s been keeping very busy.

Handy Hubby’s Grand TajMa-Coop post coming up soon, it’s a beauty, so stay tuned!

Dare I say, it’s the classiest coop in the county?
Have a Great Dane of a day!

True Sustainability

As the United Nations, Club of Rome, World Health Organization and various other international ‘public-private’ partnerships try to propagandize the world into their vision of “Global Sustainability” there are a number of crucial variables they’ve left out, which localities could capitalize on, if they were made aware of this potential.

For example, did you know there are salt mines all over place in this country? Salt was the basis of our first ‘trade markets’ — long before exotic spices of the Orient — salt was King of the World.

Salt was, well, worth its weight in gold, as the saying goes. Why do we import tea, the ‘native Americans’ might have queried of the mostly British expats settling here? There’s perfectly good tea all around you, can’t you see? And they might have made a few good jokes about that.

But salt? You’re going to import salt, too? What the bleep for?! That’s not even joke-worthy, that’s just a dumb-ass death sentence! You know it’s everywhere around here, right? And the gold y’all so covet, what’s that for, exactly? Y’all are really so very attached to your adornments, eh? Good choices there, give over your salt, so you starve, for gold, so you can pay your taxes. Brilliant system!

Here on the wee homestead we came inspired to see how long and far a road it is to self and community sustainability. We were thinking like most homesteaders, survivalists, etc., are thinking—food, water, energy. Obvious, these are crucial.

But what about the salt? That, along with the water, was the very first thing either robbed, buried, or tainted by the industrialist-minded settlers. Not the ones who came for a better life more aligned with their God and purpose, the ones who came expressly to profiteer for the pay-masters back home.

Long before our water and air were compromised, our people enslaved to the State and our ranges overrun with slave labor, our salt was “buried” by the Global Regulators. There are salt mines and primal (renewable, sub-surface geysers, essentially) water available all over this country.

That was known centuries ago! But go ahead and demonstrate your loyalty to the State, that tricked and enslaved your Great, Great Grandparents and before, by wearing that muzzle of submission and voting for your next tyrant.

Don’t care where your salt comes from? Next you don’t care where your water comes from, or your food comes from, or your energy, or anything else.

Line up, bend over, take your shot.

https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/texas/salt-mine-tx/

Homestead Happenings ++

++ Why this is the greatest Apocalypse ever!

This is so hard, because it is so good.  Kinda like when Elon Musk says, “It must be real, because it looks so fake.”  OK, never mind, hopefully the opposite of that.

It’s just, well, here on the wee homestead things are really good.  But, it’s hard to talk about that when I know so many are really suffering.  I don’t want to boast, or say I told you so, or wag a shaming finger, because it’s not like that.  It’s really not.  I don’t want, like, intend, wish, prefer, or otherwise conspire to see others suffer. 

Well, maybe once that happened.  But he totally deserved it.

But, it’s not hard at all to talk about how good things are with many of those in our local community, because they get it. 

(Or with the crew on James True’s livestream, whoever and wherever they are.) Lord, or God, that is the question.

We still greet with hugs and hand shakes.  We’re not wearing, or home-making, masks, for the most part.  Few noticed the restaurant closings or curb-side only service, because most of us can cook.  Folks miss their churches, sure.  Some miss the libraries.  Some get annoyed at the grocery stores. 

But otherwise, those I know mostly think this is all much ado about nothing.

And just as I refuse to pretend it’s good when it’s bad, I also can’t abide saying it’s bad when it’s good.  That would be like pathological empathy.  Been there, don’t intend to go back.  It’s a road to nowhere.

Hubby’s employer has delivered their second round of layoffs, so he’s probably next to lose his job. (Note to self: Be careful what you wish for.)

Our nearest neighbors finally started a garden of their own, and even got St. Croix sheep, like ours.  And livestock guard dogs.  On our one little dirt road there’s now about 12 dogs, that’s about four per household.  How fun is that?!

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One local friend just gifted me three high-quality top-bar hives, since she’s decided to go full Langstroph after an overload of frustration. Lucky me!  She has the cutest kids I’ve ever had the honor of knowing, homeschooled, unvaxxed, growing their own gardens and whipping through the fields on 4-wheelers at 5 years old.  Beat that, Gates of techno-hell!

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She also lent us her prize, papered, top-notch breeding ram, for free.  He’s just been introduced to his latest harem, ours, and he was ON like Donkey Kong.  We’ll have a meadow full of little lambs in no time.

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Ladies, check out my Fruitful package! (her girls named him Kiwi, hmmm)

Another nearby friend sold us her little old stock trailer for a good price and gave me seeds of a squash she loves that I’ve never tried before, Trombetta.  Can’t wait to taste them.

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I gave a SCOBY to another nearby friend, and now she’s as totally into Kombucha as I am, and along with the ram-lending friend, we are trading tips and recipes as excited as girls of the old Matrix trading Charlie’s Angels cards.

Sunday here is same as it ever was. 

A walk in the woods.  A gander into what’s coming out good this year (berries are abounding!)  A dip in the creek.  A tour through the gardens.  

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Got some great heat-loving greens going: Arugula, Oak-leaf lettuce, Malabar spinach

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What else is growing on? Tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, peppers, herbs, okra, eggplant, etc.

A lounge in the hammocks.  A full scale effort to exhaust the dogs.

Mission accomplished.

  

For the LOVE of BEES

If you plan to join the growing number of hobby beekeepers the very first step should be to define your goals.  I learned that the hard way.

It’s a wonderful thing to see the popularity of beekeeping keeps increasing.  I love beekeeping for many reasons, but when I was first starting out the learning curve was very intimidating.  And that’s coming from someone who usually adores learning.  

Not only was there loads to learn about the bees themselves, but also about how to manage their colonies, which changes depending on your hive type, which is dependent on what your goals are as a beekeeper.

The first question to answer for yourself as a newbie is if you are interested in beekeeping as livestock or as habitat provider, or maybe both.

I had several mishaps in my first years because I hadn’t asked myself this most fundamental question.  I hadn’t asked myself this because in all the books, forums, courses and club meetings I’d attended, no one asked this question.  The general assumption is always that the beekeeper is interested in bees as livestock, because that’s what most want.

In this case, follow the commercial standards, using their Langstroth hives and peripheral equipment, their treatment schedules for pests and diseases, and their feeding programs and supplies, and you should be good to go.  You can buy nucs (nucleus colonies) in the spring, and if all goes well you’ll have some honey before winter.  This is by far the most popular route to take in beekeeping.

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Our only Langstroth hive on the homestead, bedazzled with old jewelry.

But it’s not for everyone, including me, which took me a few years to figure out.  Honey, pollen, wax, propolis, royal jelly, queen rearing, and other processes and products from beekeeping are the main goals of this style of beekeeping and there’s lots to learn from the commercial operators who have mastered many of these skills for maximum efficiency and profit.

However, if you are interested more in providing habitat and learning from the bees, and creating truly sustainable, long-term, self-sufficient colonies in your space, following commercial practices is really not the way to go, and can lead to a lot of expense, confusion and frustration.

In the hopes of encouraging more beekeepers to become honeybee habitat providers rather than livestock managers only, here are a few tips and resources.

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The bee yard of Dennis Kenney of Jackson-area Beekeepers Club, with his preferred horizontal hive style.  Horizontal hives differ from Top-bar hives in that they have full frames with foundation.  Benefits of full frames is ease of management and stability of comb.  Drawbacks would be the added expense and the artificial, manufactured foundation and its potential contaminants.

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  • The conventional practice is to keep all your hives in a ‘bee yard’ for reasons of convenience and space.  This is antithetical to bee colonies’ natural proclivity to nest far from one another.  It creates problems of diseases and pests that spread rapidly in conditions of overpopulation, which is why so many treatments are needed, and then feeding when nectar/pollen flow is scarce, as well as being hyper-vigilant in your regular hive inspections to find issues immediately before they spread.  Now that I have spaced my 6 hives out around a very large area I’m having far more success.  But, only time will tell!

What else I’ve learned:

  • The typical Langstroth hive is made for easy transport and standardization purposes for the industry mainly, but they are not ideal for the honeybee habitat provider, because they are made with thin walls in order to be lightweight. This means they are poorly insulated and so not suitable for the long-term stability of the hive—getting too hot in summer in southern climates and too cold in winter in northern climates.  Our top-bar hives and nucs have thick walls and insulated roofs. 

  • If you want your bees adapted to your area and climate you don’t want to do the conventional practice of buying new queens every couple of years.  Ideally, you’ll want your colonies to produce their own queens.  Queen-rearing will remain an essential skill for a more advanced beekeeper, because occassionally you may still want to make splits to increase your numbers or to replace weak colonies, or to re-queen another hive displaying poor genetic traits. 
  • When the colonies are weak, depending on the issue, they may need to be culled. This is rarely suggested by professional beekeepers who promote regular treatments on which the weak colonies then become dependent, while still spreading their weak genes on to subsequent generations and their diseases and pests to other colonies.

Just like the faulty logic of ‘herd immunityin the vaccine debate among human populations, many commercial beekeepers use the same complaint about those of us who want go au naturel, that is, treatment-free, with our bees.

Many scientists and researchers are trying to raise public awareness that this is not how herd-immunity works, not in livestock or in humans, and I applaud their efforts.  I personally find referring to populations of people as a herd to be insulting.  I think it actually trains individuals through neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) to think of themselves and each other not as unique and separate individuals, but rather as cattle to be managed.

  • You’ll also want to mostly forgo the conventional practice of swarm prevention.  The goal is for the bees to become self-sufficient, as in the wild, where colonies can live for decades with no hand from man to aid or to disturb.  Some of these colonies are enormous, like one we found in an old oil barrel, there for over 15 years and thriving with multiple queens in the same colony, which most likely swarmed annually.

Swarming is a natural, bio-dynamic process performing many different functions for the colony, hygiene being an essential one. Everything the beekeeper takes away from their natural processes is a stress on them which must then be alleviated by other, most likely artificial, means.

  • Plant perennial and annual crops the bees like for your area and climate.  Here in the south there are plenty of plants that bloom at different times most of the year, giving free bee buffets from early spring to late fall, like: bluebonnet, white clover, hairy vetch, wild mustard, vitek, morning glory, trumpet vine, yaupon, and lots of garden herbs and crops, too.  It is my greatest pleasure to harvest cucumbers, peas, beans and arugula surrounded by forging bees—they love them as much as we do!

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Experimenting and observing is the most fabulous feature of the honeybee habitat provider! 

I know a homeschooling homesteader with an observation hive in their house that the children treasure.  Not only do they learn from these fascinating creatures about how they operate in the hive, but how they are connected to the seasons and to their environment.  They’re learning constantly from the colonies’ successes as much as from their failures.

I practice slightly different techniques with each hive to discover which methods work best here on the wee homestead: one hive has a screened bottom board, one I keep with a reduced entrance all year, one’s in full-sun and another partial shade, and so on.  Not that this will necessarily solve the mystery of colony failure, but every bit of data helps!

Some unconventional resources:

Books

The Shamanic Way of the Bee: Ancient Wisdom and Healing Practices of the Bee Masters by Simon Buxton (2004)

The Dancing Bees: An Account of the Life and Senses of the Honey Bee by Karl von Frisch (1953)

Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health by Les Crowder & Heather Harrell (2012)

Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture by Ross Conrad (2013)

Sites

Treatment-free Beekeeping YouTube Channel

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC_Yb2d_9M09hcaWlghVZDg

The Bee-Master of Warrilow by Tigkner Edwardes (1921)

https://archive.org/stream/cu31924003203175/cu31924003203175_djvu.txt

Biobees

http://biobees.com/library/general_beekeeping/beekeeping_books_articles/BroAdam_Search_for_Best_strains2.htm

Dr. Leo Sharashkin

horizontalhive.com