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Showing posts from April, 2011

Homemade Skin Care

Yeah, I might have chicken poop on my pants and dirt in my hair from working in the garden, but I still want to have lovely, glowing skin!

In the United States, women spend an average of $100 a month on beauty products.  The fact is, there are simple, just as effective products that can be made at home for a fraction of the cost.  As long as the skin is properly cared for on a daily basis, most of us need not look further than our own kitchen pantries and gardens for skin care.  Today, I would like to share three of my favorite homemade skin recipes.

Daily Skin Routine

Before I get into the recipes, I'd like to explain my skin care routine.  There are three important steps to keeping clear and healthy skin:  cleansing, toning, and moisturizing.  The purpose of cleansing the skin is to remove makeup and the dirt, oils, and dead skin that accumulates during the day.  After cleansing, a toner applied to the skin will remove anything that the cleanser missed, tighten pores, and correc…

Greenhouse Update: Starting Seeds & Controlling Greenhouse Temperatures

Seed starting is underway on our little urban homestead!

We had a year's worth of toilet paper and paper towel tubes to work with.  We cut the toilet paper tubes in half, and the paper towel tubes into quarters.  Then, we lined them up in trays and filled each with dirt (we made our own soil this year by blending some topsoil with our compost).  Finally, we planted one seed in each tube, and watered.


We also had some seed starting trays and inserts left over from previous years that we used.  We hope to stick with using toilet paper tubes in the future, rather than the plastic inserts.  The toilet paper tubes can be planted right in the ground and will decay with time; whereas the plastic inserts will end up in the landfill.

In other news, my husband is still working on a solar method of heating the greenhouse during these cold spring nights.  For now, we are using a kerosene heater:



He is hoping to have another, cleaner, heating method in place soon.  Once he's got it togethe…

Grow Some Birdhouse Gourds This Year!

When you are starting seeds this year, consider planting some birdhouse gourds (Lagenaria siceraria).    This viney plant is fast growing and very easy to care for.  Once the gourds have matured, they can be harvested for use as a birdhouse or bird feeder, or even more creatively as bottles or bowls.

Growing Birdhouse Gourds

Birdhouse gourds can be grown as an annual in any zone.  In cooler climates, you will want to start your seeds indoors about a month before the last frost.  These gourds will need approximately three months to mature.

Plant your birdhouse gourds in a sunny location, four to six feet apart, and be sure that they have plenty of room to grow!  These plants love to climb, so I would recommend using a trellis if you have limited space.  The vines are strong, and will support the large fruits even if they are growing vertically.  My husband is such a handy guy, he built us some trellises, and they worked beautifully:



The only type of fertilizer we used was compost.  Be…

Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner

It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.



The toilet isn't going to clean itself (especially when you've got sons).  Cleaning the toilet is a weekend chore at our house, and up until recently, we have been using commercial toilet cleaner.  But most commerical toilet cleaners contain some pretty harsh ingredients, such as sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and hydrochloric acid; and some contain ingredients that you'd have to be a chemist to understand, like 3-(3-Hydroxypropoxy)Propan-1-ol.  Don't ask me what that is, I have no idea.

Once our store-bought toilet cleaner ran out, I decided I would craft my own toilet bowl cleaner, using safe ingredients that I can understand.  I saved and cleaned out the container from the store-bought cleaner to put my homemade stuff in, but I'm sure that any type of squeeze bottle would work alright for this.

Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner Ingredients:

1 2/3 Cups baking soda
1/2 Cup liquid soap
1/2 Cup water (more can be added …

Making Tinctures and Extracts

If you look into my craft room, you will see shelves lined with small, cobalt-blue bottles that have mysterious liquids floating in them.  My husband likes to tease that it looks like a witch's apothecary.  Really, those bottles are filled with my own herbal preparations, and there is nothing witchy about having bottles of tinctures and extracts.  In fact, these products are very useful for everyday things, and easy to make yourself.  I like tinctures and extracts for many reasons, but the thing I enjoy most about them is their long shelf life.  A tincture will last you virtually forever as long as it is stored properly.

Before I get down to describing the actual process of making a tincture or extract, an explanation is in order.  What exactly is a tincture?  What is it used for?

What Are Tinctures and Extracts?

Usually, tinctures and extracts are made by the same process.  The medicinal qualities of a particular herb are extracted by placing the plant matter in a drinkable alcoh…

5 Ways Our Backyard Chickens Help Us "Make Stuff"

I'd like to introduce Chicken, Big Mama, and Girlfriend:


We have had these three hens for about two years now on our little city lot.  While raising chickens is relatively simple, it has been quite an investment in time and money.  There are costs associated with feeding, housing, and caring for them properly, along with the time all of that will take from your day.  The reason we are willing to spend this time and money on our girls is simple though:  we get so much back in return!

Top 5 Things Our Chickens Help Us Make or Do:

1.  Compost

A backyard compost pile is an easy way to improve any garden, and helps keep some of the more than 29 million tons of food waste a year out of our landfills.  Compost is decomposed organic matter that is used to fertilize gardens and improve soil structure, and a compost pile is easy to make and maintain.  We have found that our compost improved greatly with the addition of chicken manure.  When we clean out the coop, all the manure and dirty bed…

The Greenhouse Gets a Floor

Joseph has been working hard all week preparing our greenhouse for spring planting.  He has made a lot of progress on the floor, and is also replacing the poly sheeting with corrugated plastic.  This sturdy plastic makes much better walls than the poly.  One or two storms is all it takes to put holes in your greenhouse when you use poly sheeting, so it is definately a good investment in our eyes.

Last year's storm damage:



We are going to have a "Planting Party" this weekend.  We invited friends and family over for a Saturday afternoon of planting.  Everyone brings some containers and dirt to share with us in return for using our greenhouse to start their plants.  We're going to cook a big meal for when we are finished planting and make a party out of it!

Our new floor:

Homemade Deodorant

My goal is to some day be making all of my own personal hygiene products.  So, I began this mission with deodorant. 
I had some failures when I first started, but now I think I have a recipe that I am satisfied with.  It is actually a paste that you rub in with your fingers.  I experimented with making a solid deodorant, using a push-up container I had saved from my store-bought deodorant.  My first batch somehow turned from a solid to a liquid on me, and my second batch would crumble all over the place when I tried to apply it.  At that point, I decided to ditch the applicator, and just go with a simple plastic container.
I also concocted a couple new recipes: a spray on deodorant and a simple coconut oil deodorant.  I prefer to use the spray on for lazier days where I am not doing much work, the coconut oil deodorant for average days, and the more heavy-duty cream for my sweaty, labor intensive days--like if I'll be gardening or moving furniture.  Everyone's body is differ…

Making Infused Vinegars

I love apple cider vinegar! And, yes, I am going to marry it.

Made from the juice and odd pieces of apples, it is a healthy alternative to use in cleaners, beauty products, home remedies, and cooking. But, to get even more out of vinegar, try making a vinegar infusion. Herbs, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and even tree bark can be made into an infusion.

First, I will outline how I make my own vinegar infusions. Then I will share how I use different types of infusions, and include some recipes.

The Ingredients and Equipment I Use to Make Infused Vinegars:

Vinegar

This is obviously the most important ingredient, so make sure that a good-quality vinegar is used. Some vinegars being sold as Apple Cider are merely white, distilled vinegars with apple flavoring and coloring added. Make sure to read the label!

One Cup of Herb (or fruit, veggie, etc...) Of Your Choice

For simplicity, I will just use the term "herb" to describe what I am infusing, but remember that you can infuse a wide…

Our Little Greenhouse

Spring has finally arrived, which means gardening season will soon be here for us Northerners! To get a head-start on our plants, my husband built us a small greenhouse last year.

This year, he will be making some improvements to it, including adding a floor (we had a muddy mess last year) and replacing the flimsy poly plastic with more durable material. He also has some interesting ideas on heating our greenhouse. It is still cold and snowy right now, so our plants would surely die without some extra heat. I will post further updates on his progress in the next couple weeks. Hopefully, we can give others some useful ideas so that those living in colder climates can garden more successfully!

Spring 2010

Late Summer 2010