Tag Archive | healthy living

Save Money (and a Long Drive to Town!) with Homemade Cleaning Product

Where we live, it's a long trip to the grocery store – when we run out of something, it simply goes on a list. When the list is long enough or the need outweighs the waiting – you go buy the stuff on the “list”. So, partly because of this and partly because I am a do-it-yourself'er, I am always on the alert for simple ways to skip a few aisles at the grocery store. I had so many comments on the window washing solution in my last post, I thought I would share a few of the other cleaning products that I make and use. Be on the watch for future posts – there are a lot that I will post at a later date.

 

Ever used the product that you drop into your garbage disposal to clean it up and make it smell better? I have – it works great. One type makes this blue foam that swells up into the sink – when it disappears down the drain, your disposal is clean. But if you have a lemon, some white vinegar and an ice cube tray, you can make your own cleaner for mere pennies. Simply slice the lemon into small pieces (including the rind), and drop them into an ice cube tray. Fill with vinegar and freeze. When your disposal needs a cleaning, use a couple cubes with the water running.

 

Counter cleaner is another favorite. This homemade product smells great, costs very little and kills germs! We use one gallon of distilled water, 2 teaspoons of washing soda (this is not baking soda – look for washing soda!) 1 teaspoon liquid soap, and 1/4 teaspoon of essential oil. For years I have used a combination of tea tree oil, lavender oil, thyme oil and lemon oil. The antibacterial qualities of these essential oils will help keep your counters clean and germ free. You end up with a gallon of wonderful spray cleaner that will last a long time!

This laundry soap recipe has been shared by many – but just in case you missed it – this one works great! There are two ways to make the detergent – and I prefer the “dry” version because of the amount of storage space the “wet” version requires. Figured I didn't need to store “water”! I simply combine one and a half cups of washing soda with a half cup of borax. Then add one bar of either Fels Naptha soap (grated) or one bar of Ivory to the washing soda/borax mixture. Use 1 tablespoon for regular loads and 2 tablespoons for heavy loads. Note: I soak the majority of my grease-laden clothes for 8 hours or so and also add a couple of teaspoons of lemon or orange essential oils to help cut the grease. Depending on how fine you grate the soap, this extra soaking time also allows the soap to melt.

Besides saving you money at the grocery store, these products keep you away from harmful toxins that are in many household products. Consider this – essential oils are an economical way to disinfect, clean, and deodorize. Thyme oil kills strep and staff on surfaces, lavender and rosemary are antibacterial, anti-infectious and anti-viral. Lemon oil kills strep and staff in the air and is great for cutting grease. Use equal parts eucalyptus, tea tree and lavender oils for air fresheners. Simple products, natural products. Simple!

 

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Save Money (and a Long Drive to Town) With Home Made Cleaning Products

Where we live, it's a long trip to the grocery store – when we run out of something, it simply goes on a list. When the list is long enough or the need outweighs the waiting – you go buy the stuff on the “list”. So, partly because of this and partly because I am a do-it-yourself'er, I am always on the alert for simple ways to skip a few aisles at the grocery store. I had so many comments on the window washing solution in my last post, I thought I would share a few of the other cleaning products that I make and use. Be on the watch for future posts – there are a lot that I will post at a later date.

 

Ever used the product that you drop into your garbage disposal to clean it up and make it smell better? I have – it works great. One type makes this blue foam that swells up into the sink – when it disappears down the drain, your disposal is clean. But if you have a lemon, some white vinegar and an ice cube tray, you can make your own cleaner for mere pennies. Simply slice the lemon into small pieces (including the rind), and drop them into an ice cube tray. Fill with vinegar and freeze. When your disposal needs a cleaning, use a couple cubes with the water running.

 

Counter cleaner is another favorite. This homemade product smells great, costs very little and kills germs! We use one gallon of distilled water, 2 teaspoons of washing soda (this is not baking soda – look for washing soda!) 1 teaspoon liquid soap, and 1/4 teaspoon of essential oil. For years I have used a combination of tea tree oil, lavender oil, thyme oil and lemon oil. The antibacterial qualities of these essential oils will help keep your counters clean and germ free. You end up with a gallon of wonderful spray cleaner that will last a long time!

This laundry soap recipe has been shared by many – but just in case you missed it – this one works great! There are two ways to make the detergent – and I prefer the “dry” version because of the amount of storage space the “wet” version requires. Figured I didn't need to store “water”! I simply combine one and a half cups of washing soda with a half cup of borax. Then add one bar of either Fels Naptha soap (grated) or one bar of Ivory to the washing soda/borax mixture. Use 1 tablespoon for regular loads and 2 tablespoons for heavy loads. Note: I soak the majority of my grease-laden clothes for 8 hours or so and also add a couple of teaspoons of lemon or orange essential oils to help cut the grease. Depending on how fine you grate the soap, this extra soaking time also allows the soap to melt.

Besides saving you money at the grocery store, these products keep you away from harmful toxins that are in many household products. Consider this – essential oils are an economical way to disinfect, clean, and deodorize. Thyme oil kills strep and staff on surfaces, lavender and rosemary are anti-bacterial, anti-infectious and anti-viral. Lemon oil kills strep and staff in the air and is great for cutting grease. Use equal parts eucalyptus, tea tree and lavender oils for air fresheners. Simple products, natural products. Simple!

 

The Best Weeding Tools

There's surely no doubt that the market is flooded with weeding products. One trip down the aisle of any hardware store will score dozens of products to apply. Here at our house, we try to avoid the “quick fix” of the chemical and rather go by some simpler approaches.

 

Our farmstead came with lots of implements when we bought it. The smaller ones were hanging on this old shed – seriously, all these things were hanging here on the day we came here.

 

The building appeared to be a blacksmithing/tool shed, and evidently – it was easier to find “just the right part” from the walls than rummaging through a bunch of shelves. There was a forge and a can of coal, there were old leather belts fashioned into tool holders. Old sardine cans hung as trays. Traps, pitchforks, and sand points for a water well. More than not, I had no idea what a lot of the things were – but there are a few that have become my favorites in the garden!


This old hoe looks ancient and I don't know that you would readily find another like it. (Believe me, if you do see a hoe for sale like this – buy it!) It has a slightly angled blade at the bottom of it that you can slide under a weed and slice it right off! Normally in my garden, a whole slurry of baby weeds seem to pop up, all at once, a week or so after putting in the corn, for example . This hoe is fantastic for slicing the top off the invaders without having to work up the soil again and I am able to work a section of the garden plot quickly and efficiently. You can also turn it on end and open a new row to plant your seeds in. Because it is not the typical “V” shape, the trench doesn't get too deep for many of the smaller variety of seeds in your garden.

 

I found this next gem at an auction last week. So much of my gardening is in a raised bed where soil compaction is at a minimum. By designing your raised beds to be narrow enough to reach 1/2 way across them, you will never find yourself standing inside the bed reaching for that carrot! Soil prep is a snap with this hoe!

 

So before you reach for a bottle of weed killer, take a look around for some simple tools that will protect our environment, your health, and your children's health. Not only are the best weeding tools in your hands, they are your hands!

 

No Matter How Small Your Growing Space – You Can Still Grow Potatoes

Everywhere you look these days, people are looking for an opportunity to grow their own vegetables. In Minnesota, as a child, my Mom and Dad had a big veggie garden – and about 50% of the space held potatoes. It was always a big day when we dug up the potatoes in the fall – lots of digging, lots of work.

Today, even if you have a small yard or even an apartment patio, you can grow potatoes. This isn't an extremely new idea, but so, so many people do not know about it that I thought I would share it.

Begin with a bag of potato sets. You can purchase them online, at your local hardware or big box store, or you can use the small potatoes that you have saved from your garden last year. I hesitate to tell you to use the potatoes that you have in your pantry for eating because they are usually sprayed with some sort of a sprout “inhibitor” – so you may not get them to grow.

When you purchase your sets, they look just like small little potatoes – and that is exactly what they are…but you need to do a couple of things to them before you plant them.

1. Look at each of the little spuds. You will see “eyes” – or small sprouts that look like they could grow. Your potato will have numerous eyes – locate all of them. Once you have figured out where they all are, cut the potato in pieces making sure that each section of potato has an eye. You may have big pieces along side small pieces – it doesn't matter. If there is an eye in the piece, you have the possibility that it will grow.

2. Lay the sections on newspaper and allow them to dry for 2-4 days before planting. This is very important as the potato pieces need for harden and form a bit of a “skin” on the cut sides.

Next, check your soil temperature – we all get excited in the springtime to “get those crops in the ground” – but this is a very important step that should not be missed. Your potato sets need a 50 degree soil temperature at 8:00 am (with the temperature taken at 4″ deep) to germinate….meaning – if it is too cold, those little eyes are just going to sit there and rot!

Here is where the small growing space comes into play…..we live on a farm and have numerous old water troughs that have gotten a hole in them for one reason or another. But, if you have a small back yard or apartment building (and no old water troughs!) – then get yourself a large trash container. Drill some drainage holes in the trash can on both the bottom and on the sides towards the lower end. The reason for the side holes is that if you get a really huge rain, like I did once, the bottom holes clogged with debris and the potatoes were swimming in their container. I have put a few “safety” side holes in the cans ever since!

Put about 10-12″ of dirt in the bottom of container, and plant your potato sets 12″ apart 4-6″ deep.

Sit back and wait for the sets to send up a shoot.

Here's the fun part! As a child, I always remember my Dad “hilling” the potatoes. I never could figure out why??? The potato plant comes out of the ground and we hurry to cover it up? Hmmmm! It wasn't until years later that I came upon this diagram:

 

As you can see, the potato that you have planted is at the bottom of the picture. It sends up a shoot and all the new potatoes grow above the planted potato set! To shield the growing tubers from sunlight (which turns them green and makes them mildly poisonous), the soil is hilled around the base of the plant. (A thank you and credit to my Colorado State University Extension for this diagram).

We have found that if you mulch your potato plants with straw (instead of hilling them with dirt), you will find it easy to harvest your potatoes in the fall. Simply scoop the straw away and your harvest is right there in front of you. If you grow your potatoes in a trash can, you can simply turn the can on it's side to get at your bounty! Plan on about 125 days after germination before you will be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

 

Gardening – for a “Less Stress Life”

No secret around my family …. I am most happy when I am digging in the dirt! So I am very excited to undertake a new project this summer.

In keeping with our old homestead, I hope to make a beautiful garden using our old windmill as the “center piece”. When we moved to the property in 2004, I was totally enamored with this windmill. Didn't matter if it had any water pumping from it or not. For me, it was just what I wanted to look out onto from the bedroom as I arose in the morning. It seems to just stand there, year after year, watching over the old farm.

I have spent hours snapping pictures of the windmill – in the early morning or as the sun sets in the evening. Through winter months and summer. We have some lovely yellow rose bushes planted nearby that were supposedly hand-carried here by the original Scott family. Their blossoms, with the windmill in the background, are amazing,

 

In December, the windmill doubled as our Christmas tree.

 

Now that the holiday season is over, we have spotlights that come on at dusk just to say “hello” in the cool, dark air.

 

So, why not make a garden around something I enjoy so much?

There were numerous old pieces of farm equipment left on the place when we bought it. I guess many people find relics of some sort on a lot of old abandoned farms. One was a Minneapolis-Moline tractor. Kevin figured he could fix it up one day, so this one was spared a trip to the steel recycler. It still has the old “crank” on the front of it!

 

We also kept the old “planter” from the 1920s era.

 

My first order of business was talking Kevin into dragging this heavy old tractor, with the flat front tires, through the field to rest happily by my windmill. His first response was, “Well, I am going to fix that up someday” – to which I promptly replied, “you can have it back when you get ready to do that.” (I lied – I think I am keeping it).

It looked so cute in it's new parking spot, that Kevin suggested moving the planter over next to the tractor.

Next came a birdhouse that had been 'specially made to look like our old barn. I liked that! I will need more birdhouses and lots of flowers. A friend suggested pampas grass, sunflowers, and a couple of pumpkin plants. I have all those plants started and will plant them as the weather warms.

 

 

I have oodles of flowers started in little peat pots to brighten a wood bark walkway to the windmill from the house….or perhaps maybe a “dry river bed” look with stones leading you down the path. At any rate, lots of flowers and lots of cheery birdhouses. These two birdhouses were a special Christmas present from Aspen and Blake, my two grandchildren. They are going in the garden for sure!

 

I probably won't know for sure what it will look like until I actually start digging, but, with the help of a little computer software, this is the look I will be searching for.

Bright, cheerful, inviting. Something to sit on the deck and admire….raise a glass of wine. Cheers!!

 

Grassfed Soap

When I would pass someone a bar of soap that I had made, their smile used to turn to wonderment as they looked at the label. Sure, it's a hefty bar – big enough to be comfortable in Kevin's large hands. And sure, it has a fabulous fragrance. It's even a pretty color. But, oh…..it's made from beef tallow? Really???

 

Yup. I have been making soap for a few years now. I love the joy of giving someone a gift that I have made with my own two hands. I enjoy including a soap shaped like a duck or cow in my grandkid's Christmas stocking, or adding a few bars of soap made especially for an infant to a baby shower gift.

I had always purchased the soap oils online and had accumulated lots of great recipes. It was fun to try new fragrances like sandalwood and pine – and had totally fallen in love with a cinnamon-orange scent. So it seemed like a perfectly natural progression (to me, anyway) to render down the fat from our beef and use it in a soap recipe. After all, our pioneers did it…..

The search began for a recipe using our tallow. Kevin and I wondered whether it would smell funny (who knew?) I figured that some people might be put off by the whole idea even though tallow is actually turned into a different substance through saponification when it is combined with lye. They fear they are spreading animal grease all over them! Actually, some of the characteristics of using tallow in your soap are a creamy lather, mild cleansing, and a fairly hard soap.

Before I get into trouble with anyone, let me first clarify by saying that we raise grass-fed/grass finished beef and our ranch is certified with the Animal Welfare Approved Association. Our cattle are humanely raised without feedlots, antibiotics or hormones, In the interest of trying never to waste, the use of tallow seemed a natural progression.

The recipe I have been using is a blend of coconut oil, olive oil and beef tallow. The amounts I use are as follow:

44 ounces beef tallow

20 ounces olive oil

20 ounces coconut oil

12 ounces of lye

32 ounces cold water

The coconut oil adds a wonderful sudsing quality to your bar, and the olive oil gives it it's mildness.

Well, the soap has been a hit. One friend called to tell me that she had had a patch of skin on her face that she just couldn't get rid of, and it was going away since she started using this soap. She wondered if her old commercially-made soap had been giving her the irritation. We will never know.

I do believe, though, that the less chemicals and preservatives we use, the better we live. The soap makes it just one step closer to healthy living .

 

 

 

How ’bout Planting an Extra Row?

Spring is springing!! The strawberries in my high tunnel are blooming with the great promise of nummy goodness in the near future. The broccoli that we planted last fall made it through the winter and is making heads as we speak. The recently planted lettuce, spinach, beets, green onions, broccoli and radishes are peeking through the soil, the carrots and cauliflower have yet to show their faces. My high tunnel is reaching some crazy warm temperatures – over 120 degrees and we have just finished the month of March. Special care has to be taken daily to roll the sides up on the structure to provide cross ventilation or the fledgling plants will wilt.

We have been checking soil temperatures in our fields and outside gardening areas. Besides the soil temperatures being a concern, our farm needs to also grow the supplemental forages for our grass-fed beef. Colorado has been coming up short in the moisture department for the last couple years which seriously decreases the time the cattle can graze a pasture. We have had to rotate the cattle through the fields quickly to protect the grass from over grazing. Most of our crops withered in the field in 2012, so careful thought has been given to a great forage that we could get to maturity!!!

With the hope that we could take advantage of our spring moisture, we began to plant an oat/pea mixture that will germinate at 40 degree soil temperature. The weatherman says we could get some precipitation in the next couple of days – so with 53 degree soil temps, the tractor and planter went into action last night. C'mon rain!

My outside raised beds have really warmed since our big snow about ten days ago. It's time to plant the onions, kale, and lettuce out there. We are going to put the onions in a block planting – every 4-6″ every direction. Onions are sensitive to photoperiod, so the earlier the planting, the larger the bulbs. Our raised beds will provide uncompacted soil and great drainage.

Gardeners across the country (even the world) have such a power to provide. A few extra seeds here and there – and with love, sunshine and water we can share our surplus with food banks. Our little town has a wonderful community outreach program. Many times, as I drop off my extra produce (course I have to look through the second-hand stuff to see if there is something I just have to have!) my fruits and veggies are already gone from the shelf. Something that seems trivial and extra to me means so much to others. There are many programs out there – Plant a Row for the Hungry supplies food banks with your farm fresh goodies. Many times food banks are only able to keep canned veggies on hand – merely because of the time it takes to store and distribute them. Produce for Pantries connects youth growing produce in school gardens, residents growing in community gardens, and citizens growing vegetables in home gardens to help nourish their neighbors in need. You can participate with a formal program or just gather your goodies and head for a local drop-off place.

So when you start tucking those seeds in the ground, add just a few extra to share with the food banks. Such a simple thing can really make a difference!