It’s a rainy summer day. I’m sitting on the sofa with my kids watching a movie while the piles of laundry cycle through the washer. The rose outside my window is gently swaying and releasing the sweetest scent. Perfect time to reflect on the last few months…
I started this blog about 8 months ago when I was very early into my homesteading journey. And if this seems foreign to you, let me explain….
(man, do I fit this definition!) I also like to include ‘clean, less toxic living’ in my homesteading definition which is kind of implied since it’s DIY so of course I pick safe ingredients, but I like to show that I do this SPECIFICALLY because I care about those ingredients.
Most people think homesteading means you have to live on a full sized farm, milk cows, ride horses and wear a bonnet – all or nothing. But homesteading is actually about sustainability, not churning your own butter (although I would love to try this!). This is the 21st century and there is a whole new insurgence of people seeking a simpler lifestyle with less plastic, less technology, less chemicals and less waste. Can you blame us? Things have really gotten out of hand (I should know, I am a child of the over-the-top 80’s).
During the 4 years of being with my health and wellness company, I have eagerly absorbed tons of information about the ingredients we put in our household products, the chemicals in our foods and how deeply they affect our well-being. Health is not just about diet and exercise.
The problem is that the chemicals and toxins we are affected by are EVERYWHERE. They are in the sofa I am sitting on, the soap I washed my hands with, the cereal my kids ate for breakfast, and so on and so on. It can be overwhelming. I know how easy it is to give up and throw in the towel when you find out you are completely surrounded.
In the past, I did.
My health and wellness company taught me that we can all start with small changes. Those small steps mean you are moving in a positive direction. Making lifestyle changes is NEVER easy – the change always seems so big which is why most people give up on their dreams. I follow the small steps mantra with my homesteading as well as with my health and wellness needs. I don’t have my own goats to make cheese or a field of corn or pigs to make bacon (wahhhh!)….but I HAVE started a small garden, begun the canning process, have a flock of egg laying hens, mix my own shampoo and detergent, and even create my own household items and art. Yep, I AM a homesteader.
This year so far of blogging and building and mixing and creating has taught me so much and yet I still feel like a newbie with tons more to learn. I have connected with other farmers and homesteaders to absorb what I can and continue to ask questions, try new things, document them and share. The journey to make such a huge lifestyle change takes time and patience. I have made mistakes, been lazy and felt defeated many times already.
The health and happiness of my family are my biggest priority. Through organic living, DIY household items, health and wellness supplements from my company, canning and preserving as much as possible, building/creating more and purchasing/wasting less, I know I am on the way to get my family where I want us to be – living a more sustainable life that shows respect to our planet, to others and most of all, to ourselves.
Some of the goals I have reached and continue to learn in this modern homesteading life are:
So, in reflection, I KNOW I am on the right path and hopefully I can encourage more of you to do the same. Whatever you need help with – send me a message. The more sustainable we all are, the better.
I didn’t grow up with a disposal, so having one as an adult means I am learning everything about them now. I honestly had no idea why someone would want one unless they were in a horror movie. They just didn’t seem that necessary.
But, then I got one…..and now I can’t live without it and wonder how others do. My kids are taught to scrape their plates into the trash can and put compostable materials in the compost bin, and yet…..there are still chunks in the bottom of my sink.
Ya know those pet peeves that drive you crazy, but just aren’t worth creating a stink about? Mine is a dirty sink. We are a busy family and dishes stack up sometimes. I don’t expect perfection (not even close). But I will admit that it drives me nuts when I find an oatmeal bowl next to the sink that was actually rinsed but the oatmeal has now created a cement like substance all over my sink basin. Grrrrr.
My poor sink. But, it’s a sturdy one.
What I have discovered is when you have chunks of food in your sink, you have them in your disposal too. There is nothing worse than walking into your house and smelling that nasty, moldy, stinky, rotten smell and not knowing where it comes from (and hoping your best friend can’t smell it when she comes over to visit). Masking smells with candles and scents is just not healthy, so I need to find a way to keep that disposal clean without using chemicals or toxins.
In the past, I have taken the citrus rinds from oranges, lemons and limes I have eaten or used in a recipe and frozen them. I just throw the frozen rinds in the disposal when I think it needs a refresh and the citrus smell is lovely while the frozen pieces helps to scrub away grime.
But, lately, I am in need of a little more and as you know, I prefer to make my own CLEAN products.
So, let’s do this! I found recipes to make little tabs to drop in your disposal, but let’s be real here, a couple sprinkles of a powder is just as effective, just as easy to use and MUCH easier to make. So, here are both recipes that I found from Living Well Mom.
Mix baking soda and salt in a bowl. Mix water and castile soap in another bowl. Add liquid mix to dry mix slowly while stirring. You want to get the best consistency in order to be able to hold it’s shape, so not too liquidy. If you add too much liquid, just put a bit more baking soda in the mix. Add your oils! Now, take a spoon and make flatish spoonfuls and place them on a sheet of parchment paper to dry. They take 1-2 days to air dry or you can pop in 175° oven for 1-2 hours.
But, this is waaaaay easier so this is what I made…
Mix the powders and then add the oils and mix! I mixed everything right in the glass jar (repurposed jelly jar) I was using to store it – use glass as the citric acid can mess with plastic – and then put the cap on and shook it up to mix. Easy.
I tried it right away…..and yes, I totally cleaned my sink of the dishes and stuck on food before taking these pics….I think.
To use the tabs or powder, just run some hot water for a little in your sink and then add your tab or 2 Tbsp of powder. Check out that citric acid bubbling. Let the disposal rip!
Ahhhh enjoy the clean, citrusy smell of your sink and repeat again next month (or week depending on how good your family it as cleaning out your sink).
After I graduated from college, I spent 2 months backpacking around England, Scotland and Ireland. That time is so precious because it is the only time you have between school and a career and other responsibilities that are never ending. It was one of those experiences in life that I NEVER forget or regret. In fact, I suggest to all graduating students to take a few months off to explore. You will never have this moment ever again…
I have so many incredible memories from this adventure. The history, the landscape, the people, the experiences and even the food. I fully believe in immersing yourself in the local flavor of each town you visit. I love a good challenge and am very curious about other cultures. I even ate haggis.
I stayed in a few bed and breakfasts, during my travels, and with some lovely families and friends I came to know. I have so many fond memories. I tell stories from my travels all the time….I am sure my kids are sooooo tired of it. Out of all my different stories from the female mason working on restoring an old stone church, the buildings that got wider as they got taller, the hostels and the rail trail pass, the Cavern Club where the Beatles played, trying to make phone calls to the US from those bright red boxes, birds stealing my scones from Lands End, riding a bike through the purple heather in western Ireland, castles, castles, castles and even the Loch Ness monster – I think my favorite is talking about the food.
I never expected the food to be as different as it was. It was very eye opening to how processed and cheap our American food habits are. I tried the haggis, ate lots of “take-away” fish and chips, had some shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash and lived on “toasties” (grilled cheese sandwiches) with tomato and onion. The trip changed many of my eating patterns for the rest of my life. The most fascinating to me was breakfast. A typical English breakfast almost always included eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, toast, mushrooms and grilled tomatoes (and sometimes black pudding – look it up). As an American, beans were what I ate at a picnic with a hotdog and mushrooms were served with a steak, so seeing them on my breakfast plate was so odd. But, I have always been a brave eater and love my food to mingle on the plate.
The breakfast is usually called a “Full English” or “Fry Up” and can be found pretty much in any restaurant or pub you stumble into while abroad. But, it’s also extremely simple and you can make it at home too! I highly recommend giving it a try. Here is a simple and delicious recipe from The Culinary Ginger.
It’s a big meal! So, sometimes, I like to mix up a smaller lighter version of the beans to eat with just toast and an egg. But, best of all, I can freeze it in small portions to grab in a pinch. It’s super easy, perfect for freezing and gives you some good protein for your busy day.
I learned this from a lovely British Instagram friend – just take a couple cans of cannellini beans or butter beans, a can of crushed tomatoes with italian herbs and some sliced red onions. Start with the onion and than add the tomatoes and beans. Cook it all together in a frying pan until it’s heated through and saucy delicious. You can add crumbled bacon, different herbs or some mushrooms too! Play with it so it fits your needs. Portion out and freeze if you want or serve with toast and a fried egg for breakfast – add an avocado too! MMmmm….
Our family has been tackling the plastic reducing with much frustration. Plastic is everywhere and in so many unnecessary places. Some stores that brag about their fresh and organic foods tend to have more plastic than others. Very frustrating!
At least with paper, I have actions in MY OWN control for reducing our use. Reducing paper use may not seem like it would make a huge impact, but consider this:
When 40% of the world’s industrial logging goes to paper, (and that percentage is rising) you have to take a deeper look. Producing paper is the third most energy-intensive of all manufacturing industries and the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The production uses chemicals and toxins that can cause major and persistent health issues. It uses up natural resources and ruins habitats. Paper plantations aren’t offering any wildlife habitats at all with their perfect rows of pesticide ridden trees. It’s so sad.
Time to rethink your daily paper use. Is ease of use really worth the price we are ultimately paying?
I highly suggest doing another trash audit on your household (and also at work!) just to get a good picture of what you are using daily. Paper products include plates, napkins, towels, tissues, notepads, writing/printing paper, mail, receipts, anything that comes in boxes at the store, etc, etc, etc. It can be overwhelming.
The best ways to reduce your paper:
Recycling is excellent, but it is not the ultimate answer. REDUCE and REUSE FIRST!
If we all try to use less, we can reduce the impact we have on our forests, cut down on energy use and toxic emissions, lessen pollution and ultimately produce less waste – and let’s not forget the human rights abuses that go hand in hand with this industry.
I’m no tree hugger (well, maybe I am) and I am definitely not much of an activist leader, but I do know when things need to change and right now, we ALL need to make some changes. If it all seems like too much, just start with one idea and see where it takes you.
Today, my family started using cloth napkins for everyday meals. I purchased a pile of old, unmatching linens at an antique store for a tiny cost just for this purpose (reuse and repurpose!) They were all a bit confused about the funny old napkins with cross stitching, lace and scalloped edges, but hopped right onboard my crazy train because they know that what I am doing at our dinner table is good for our world and their future.
It’s Sunday night and I am reflecting on a weekend full of sunshine, warm weather and lots of outdoor activity. We spent many hours both days tackling a very adventurous backyard project that we have been working on for weeks.
Exhausted from yesterday’s grueling work, we both fell asleep on the sofa. So, when my husband woke this morning and said he was going to go fishing, my first thought was that I would sleep in while he was gone. But instead, I got dressed.
Nature is grounding……refreshing……connecting.
Even though we were outside in the yard for maybe 10 hours working the day before, when your yard is a fenced in box and you are shovelling never-ending piles of clay, it isn’t exactly calming. That real peaceful connection with nature is what you get from being in the woods, on the top of a mountain or near a babbling brook. So, I am going fishing too.
Fishing is a tranquil hobby (for me). You have to be quiet so as not to scare away the fish especially when standing on the bank of a river. But, something magical happens when you whisper, move intentionally and watch that lure flit across the river. A connection occurs between you and your surroundings which can actually HEAL you:
“Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.” ~ How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing
The outdoors have such an impact on us that they can actually reduce our stress which impacts your physical health! It makes so much sense to me because I understand my need to be outdoors, but not everyone may recognize it. Maybe for others they recognize that a view of the park out your window instead of a busy highway is stress reducing. Or maybe it’s the houseplants you have scattered around the home.
Whether it be pictures of mountain ranges or actually being barefoot in the park, find what heals, restores and refreshes you. Reducing stress is something we all need to manage for our mental and physical health.
Having that hour of being outdoors fishing meant that we were refreshed, focused and ready to tackle the next day of grueling work in the backyard. Progress and success.
Find your nature connection. It’s important to your health.
Mmmmm cheese. I LOVE cheese…all kinds – extra sharp cheddars, nutty bries, soft goat, slices of provolone, bleu, smoky, dilly, stinky, fruity, crumbly, moldy, give it all to me. There are so many amazing cheeses and so many different ways to enjoy them. I cannot imagine life without cheese. Nope.
Not too long ago, I thought brownies only came from a box. The idea of making anything from scratch was such a foreign concept, I didn’t even try to figure it out. I would just buy the brownie mix, buy the pancake mix, buy the macaroni and cheese box, buy the pizza dough, buy the cake mix, buy the soup can, etc etc etc. But recently, I have been venturing out of my comfort zone and baking my own bread, making my own shampoo, melting my own candles and so much more. Knowing EXACTLY what is going into the foods you eat and products you use on your skin and in your home is rewarding. It’s time to combine my newly found confidence with my love for cheese.
Let’s try making it….I am starting with the easiest cheese first: mozzarella. From what I have read in several recipes, I should be able to make a ball of mozzarella in less than 1 hour, including cleanup. Then I can enjoy with my well stored fresh bread from yesterday.
Making mozzarella isn’t a ton of ingredients, but requires some special ones. First of all, you need whole milk that is not ultra pasteurized. The organic whole milk I buy for my family to eat the 28,000 boxes of cereal we go through each month is not gonna cut it. Good for cereal, but not for cheese. I just ran over to our local dairy farm and bought what I needed there.
The next special ingredient is called rennet. Rennet is an enzyme specifically for making cheese and comes in a tablet form (isn’t that odd?). According to Wikipedia, “rennet is a complex set of enzymes produced in the stomachs of ruminant mammals. Chymosin, its key component, is a protease enzyme that curdles the casein in milk. This helps young mammals digest their mothers’ milk. Rennet can be used to separate milk into solid curds for cheesemaking and liquid whey.“
Say Whaaaaaat? Alright – this is wildly interesting. Check out this super odd video about how to extract rennet from a calf’s stomach….I have no idea why she is wearing old timey clothes….. but it’s fascinating. Just take a peek.
You also need citric acid (powder that makes sour candies taste sour) and salt and water, but those are all things I had in my pantry already. Rubber gloves and a candy thermometer are handy as hitting the right temperature is very specific.
<<This cheesemaking post contains affiliate links so you can get some supplies and make cheese too! No extra cost to you and a kickback to me so I can keep making fun stuff to share with you all. Cheers!>>
Alright, let’s just do this:
I followed this recipe video from Felicia at the Starving Chef blog which is very simple once you do it one time. Yes, it is simple. As long as you have the proper ingredients and proper tools and understand why you are doing what you are doing, it will be easily repeated. The mess I made to get this tiny little, maybe 1 pound ball of cheese is astronomical but I made flipping cheese, y’all! CHEESE. I. MADE. CHEESE. In an hour, nonetheless. I told my son that I was gonna make cheese and he asked me why and then walked away laughing. But, once I started squealing with delight from the kitchen when my curds and whey started to separate, he was all in with me.
Making this cheese was easy. I am not saying all cheese is easy to make, because it definitely is NOT. But if you want to give cheesemaking a try, this is a great video to watch and follow. When the tomatoes start to ripen from the garden, I will be making lots of this cheese because nothing is better than fresh tomato, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and a drizzle of fig balsamic vinegar…..NOTHING.
Give it a try. I promise you will feel damn good about yourself and want to tell all your friends….maybe even write a blog about it. Hmmmm
I have always bought my bread from the store. Occasionally a loaf gets baked and eaten within an hour by my ravenous family but it was never a weekly event. I have never been much of a baker, but bread is something I am interested in getting more experience with. Give me warm fresh bread and some creamy butter and I am just as ravenous as my family. Mmmm…
My kids love toast and sandwiches (and just warm bread with butter, surprise!) and we can easily go through a loaf of bread in just a few days. All those plastic bread bags don’t work with my less plastic lifestyle now and paper bags turn my bread rock hard. The cost of the bread and the “extra” ingredients and the constant trips to the store make me cringe too.
I need a better way.
To solve my issues, I started to bake my own bread more often (as you may have read about in a previous blog post), but am still in the process of perfecting that easy ‘cut and come again dough in the fridge’ option. So far, I have made a bunch of artisan loaves which are very easy to do, but I am working towards a slicing loaf too. It has to fit the family’s needs or else what is the point? I am confident that I will get there soon enough…
When you bake a loaf of bread or two and want to keep it for sandwiches and toast for the week, what do you store it in? In the past, we would just eat the whole loaf while it was still warm, but I need an option that is good for keeping the bread fresh. I want the center to stay soft while keeping the crust crisp as well. No stale bread allowed.
Apparently, linen bags seem to be my answer as the Europeans have known forever. Why don’t we listen? Linen is:
I ordered some heavy linen to make some bags from scratch, but the easiest thing that ANYONE can do is upcycle some linen tea towels or napkins. Just ask grandma…. I have tons of tea towels – you can never have too many! I chose a 50% linen check towel to make my bag (because it is what I have on hand right now) and made sure it was washed and ironed inside out. If you need help figuring out if something is actually linen, check out this post….
So many options!
<<This post may have affiliate links at no extra cost to you – thank you!>>
I pulled out the sewing machine and set up my thread to match (sorta…..the stitches won’t be seen). Fold the tea towel in half length wise and inside out,then a quick pin around the 2 edges being sewn and we are ready to roll. Zip zip. Done.
You can make it more complicated by adding a drawstring top for some twine, string or roping, but I just went ahead and made it the easiest way of all…..
Look how cute this is gonna be on my countertop! A simple twine ribbon. See you at breakfast! Sitting pretty.
Saving money is pretty much on all of our minds these days. Life is expensive, kids aren’t cheap and retirement planning is nothing to be taken lightly.
When my kids were babies, I tried to use coupons on so many occasions, but they just aren’t for me. I had a coupon wallet and it was always forgotten or never had what I needed. The coupons that were available never coincided with my needs. Purchasing products that I don’t normally use just because they have a coupon just seems wasteful to me. I also hate deadlines. #procrastinator
I tried just not going anywhere in hopes that I would simply spend less. Sure, that works for awhile…but then you find yourself on Amazon dreaming of all the things you want to do while at home and the supplies you need to do them. Oh, and isn’t that wrap skirt adorable? #Imasucker
I tried making more money, but let’s face it, I am a mama and the amount of time needed to turn a profit in my home sewing business was taking away from my family, making me depressed and stressed and wasn’t producing enough money to make any difference. #dowhatmakesyouhappy
It wasn’t until I started making my own products and focusing on less waste that I realized that being eco-conscious was also frugal! Many people associate clean living with expense. But there is so much more to clean and simple living that is helpful to our planet AND to your wallet. I am not saying we should all strive to be on an episode of Extreme Cheapskates, but there are quite a few ways to live frugally, environmentally and with less waste and they are available to everyone…
Some other small items that can save you money and save our planet:
<<This life-changing post contains affiliate links at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!>>
It’s eye opening what you will figure out when you decide to live a cleaner, simpler, less waste life. I am definitely buying less, saving more and making less waste. And that is what it’s all about, right? Do what you can.
Pallets are a great source of weathered wood slats for rustic DIY projects. Thankfully, most pallets are free if you just ask (behind strip malls is a great place to check – but always ask, because some stores reuse their pallets). I will warn you, however, that taking them apart is not always easy, so do your research. I spent hours breaking my back to tear them apart so it’s time to get something in return for all my labor.
I have a habit of taking walks around my garden in the evenings to say hello to the plants and I inevitably pick some veggies. Cherry tomatoes and herb bundles drop from my arms all the way back to the house because I always forget to bring a basket out with me. So I figured it would be perfect if I had a container that could withstand the elements so I can leave it outside indefinitely.
A wooden crate is super easy and a laid back rustic style to fit perfectly in the garden. It can’t be difficult, right? I mean, I can figure out how to build it just by looking at one. I seriously thought it would take me 30 minutes to get one cranked out…..so I dropped off the boys at soccer practice and drove home to start cutting and building.
I had no plans – no measurements – no specifics. All I wanted was something capable of holding some squash, lettuce and tomatoes – not asking for much. So, I started by cutting my 4 corner posts. I picked those up at Home Depot for 87¢ each and cut them in half….there is my height for the crate.
My plan was to build two sides and then attach the other two sides and then, the bottom and some handes. BOOM! Seems simple, right?
Sure. In theory.
The first problem I came across was that not all pallet wood is equal. Some of them are thicker and some of them are thinner. Some of them are soft and some of them are hard. I couldn’t even drill through one board it was such hard wood. I bent 5 nails trying to hammer through it. I was flabbergasted. I yelled at the board and at myself and then I had to go get the boys at soccer practice. I am not going to finish this tonight. Dangit.
Continued later… I picked a different board and a different drill bit. FYI: my crate was made with a hammer and nails because I got impatient. But, I honestly suggest the screws and will be doing that for the next one. Moving on. This is how you make a crate:
TOOLS AND SUPPLIES:
In the end, I have a functioning crate and it’s pretty damn adorable. Did I learn something? Absolutely: Never try to get projects done while your kids are at soccer practice. Now bring on the veggies!
It’s been a couple weeks since we brought home our baby chicks and I wanted to give you an update and share what I have learned so far as a new “suburban chicken lady”. I would definitely call the chicks ‘toddlers’ now since they are clumsy, knock stuff over, get into things they shouldn’t and poop everywhere…
Chickens grow fast. Holy cow….it does not seem possible that it’s only been a couple weeks since they came to our home (or actually, I giddily brought them home without talking to my family about it). Chicks are shipped to stores when they are only 1 day old because that is the only safe time to ship a chick because they have enough energy from the egg they just hatched from. After that, they may not survive the journey. So, it is safe to say that when my chicks arrived at the supply store that morning, they were probably just 1-2 days old. We will certainly celebrate that…..cuz, who wouldn’t want to see a chicken in a birthday hat?
Chickens are fascinating to watch. OK, so it’s not a binge-worthy Netflix series, but it’s easy to spend an hour just watching them peck around and peep. I started to take them outside this week since they have some actual feathers now and the weather has gotten warmer. Man, they love to peck and scratch and flit about.
Chickens aren’t that messy. I’m not a neat freak….I have 3 kids and have succumbed to the chaos. Since I can’t really put the chickens outside permanently until nighttime temps are over 70°F, they are living in our home inside a large wired dog crate. (we have 2 instinctive cats) I am not bothered by the chickens poop and that is pretty much the messiest part about having chickens (because they let it rip anywhere….even on your shoulder). Of course, when they are moved outdoors, that same poop will be a great fertilizer for my yard and coop cleanup doesn’t scare me. A well maintained coop will be low to no-odor – especially when compared to our indoor kitty litter box….ugh (that’s my daughter’s chore).
Chickens have personalities. I specifically chose the Plymouth Barred Rock breed because of these few traits – they are good egg layers, do well in cold climates, are a heritage breed, fairly quiet and make good pets. But, let’s be honest….I didn’t just get these chicks for eggs. This may be my “the kids don’t really need me anymore” phase. I definitely want them as pets. We have already named them all and I can honestly say that I have a couple favorites that are also the bravest ladies in the flock. I talk to them all day long just like I do to my cats. #crazycatANDchickenlady
It’s only been 2 weeks and I have been sucked into the vortex of suburban chicken ladyship. I’m proud to wear this badge! I live in a boxed up neighborhood and dream about owning 10 acres away from all society. (maybe when the kids go to college) Owning chickens does NOT have to be only for farmers.
With the need to feel more in touch with our food and where it comes from and also to create a simpler life, chickens are an easy way to take that step. Teaching and sharing with my children about the herbs and vegetables that we grow in our garden and the eggs that we will be collecting from our ladies will bring more awareness to the impact we have on this world. My hope is that it will create an understanding and desire in my kids to keep their footprint small as they grow to adults.
Today is Mother’s Day (well, when I wrote this) and the amount of love and support that my lady-friends all show to each other today with kind “Happy Mother’s Day” greetings is matched in their love and support in raising kind and thoughtful children. Raising these chickens is for me and for my kids because I take my lifelong “job” as Mama of Kind and Conscious Kids very seriously.
I hope all you Mamas had an amazing day!