Category Archives: DIY

Do It Yourself. Making things that are not food.

Our New Place in Space (and other Updates)

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned.  It has been over one year since I have posted.

Here’s what’s going on in my world:

We recently purchased a new property.  It is lovely.

  • 4 acres
  • Flat (oh, I don’t have to contend with a hill when making design plans!)
  • Beautiful View
  • Cute, small, simple house

Did I mention the view?

Okay, I guess you have to see it!

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You can see three miles into the distance.  And when fireworks go off in the valley, you can see those!

I know in a past post, I declared that I was D-O-N-E with all this DIY.  Well, in order to sell the house, we needed to rip out the garden.  I also went all-in on work.

Well, all work and no play makes Julia a dull girl.

I missed getting my hands dirty.  I missed growing my own food.  One full season away from anything agricultural showed me that.

And now, I’m working on cultivating this piece of flat land.  And I’m doing it more simply, and I’m not trying to do it all.  All at once. or All by myself.

I am doing this one step at a time.  I’m using some more conventional methods.  And my husband is walking arm and arm with me.

I’m sharing this journey so that I have an online record of where the property and our family has been, I want to see where we end up.  And I’d like you to join me!

I’m also intending to keep track of yields and what, when and where we’ve planted things, along the the results.

A Hankie-Panky Post

Have you ever had to blow your nose and you either had to use a hard scratchy paper towel or you had nothing so you had to sniffle continuously?  Or maybe all of your tissues have been turned to scraps from you using them one too many times?

Whether you call it a hankie, a handkerchief, or snot rag, it’s a great way to make your life more simple, and reduce your waste.

Here are the reasons I primarily use a hankie:

  • It’s soft – So it may not be as soft as the super lubricated tissues you can buy, but they are sure softer than a paper towel.  As long as I don’t have a major case of the sniffles, my hankie keep my nose happy.  When I do have a major congestion or runny  nose, even those super soft tissue still hurt.  If you get a cold and you want to use lotion tissue, then do so! There is no exclusivity contract you sign with your hankie.
  • They are strong – how may times have you had a limited supply of tissues, and you use one until it’s thin, and all wet.  Yuck.  You will not have your hankie fall apart from use.
  • No messes in the washing machine – How many times have you or a family member forgotten a tissue in your pocket to only find it later all over your freshly washed clothes in you washing machine.  This won’t happen.
  • No extra work – To clean them, simply wash and dry with your clothes.
  • Costs less and better for the environment than Tissues – A reusable item versus a one-time use item.  The reusable items wins this one every time.  And even if your tissues are from recycled material, a reusable item always wins.  Plus you will never run out, your hankies will always be there.
  • Multiple uses – You can use it to dry your brow, as a head band, or a blindfold.  I have even used my handkerchief as a dust mask when cleaning out the chicken coop, or spreading straw.
  • Can be attractive or MANLY – We have hankies in camo, purple, pink and black.  This is clearly much more fun than plain old white tissues.

Making this change isn’t a big deal, and you won’t be able to retire from the cost savings, but it is one piece of the puzzle toward living a more simple and whole life.

How to Make a Cheap Brooder

Our 15 chicks are here!! And we’re ready for them.

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We had our brooder all set up and ready to go.  We only bought a few special chicken things.  The majority of what we used to build the brooder was things that we hadd around the house.

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The base of our brooder was a kiddie pool.  We found this along the side of the road.  Yay for free things!! Your base should not have any corners.  The baby chicks could get crowded in a corner and be smooshed to death.  As most prefer their chicks alive and unsmooshed, please use a brooder with rounded sides.

Our live birds will want to be warm.  After all, at the beginning of their lives, they are designed to live in the warm protection of a mother hen.  That’s why a good source of heat is super important.  We used old heat lamps my husband had for his snake.  We hung two up as we had so many chicks to keep warm.  The older the babies get, the less they need a heat source.  Therefore as the chicks age, we are slowly lifting the heat lamps higher.  This is essentially the same as turning the heat down.  A rule of thumb: if the chicks are all huddled together under the heat source, they are cold and need more heat.  If they are spread out away from the heat source, you have too much heat.

Being that the chicks are living beings, they need food and water.  I purchased the waterer and feeder.  No creative solutions here, but plenty exist.  I bought regular chick feed and use water from our faucet.  When you first get the chicks out of the box they come in, make sure you show them where their water is by gently dipping their beaks.

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Finally, we bought pine shavings for their bedding.  Pine shavings are slightly acidic which helps keep the stinkiness factor to a minimum.  You can use almost any sort of bedding, but being that the chicks are living in my basement, I spring for the good stuff.  DO NOT lay newspaper down flat, it is too slippery and the babies will hurt their legs.  DO NOT use cedar shavings, this will hurt their lungs.  Make sure you change their bedding on a fairly regular basis.

As they get older, they start to get a bit flighty.  At that point, the sides of our baby pool are not high enough to keep the girls in.  We take some old fencing and place it around the perimeter of the pool.

This whole set up took us less than 15 minutes.  And the best part is that everything is reusable with the exception of the pine shavings.

Making Your Own Watering Bulb

This is another post borrowed from my old blog, but I really like it and I wanted to make sure that this was part of this site.  So if you’ve seen it before, my apologies.  If not, enjoy!!

Recently, my mom bought me several plants for my birthday.  Two of these plants are Stevia, the natural herbal sweetener.  Stevia
is hardy until 10 degrees F.  Temperatures any lower than that will kill the plant.  So I potted it.  My two stevia plants are living on my front porch.  I will bring them in when the weather becomes cold. 


Chances are, as Spring turns to Summer, I may forget to water these awesome herbs.  So I thought a watering bulb would be a good idea.  You fill it with water, turn it upside down and it provides your potted plants a continuous amount of water.  The set it and forget it of plant care.

Aqua Globes AG011706 Glass Plant Watering Bulbs, 2-Pack


While I appreciate the ingenuity of this product, I don’t spend money on things like that.  I will, however, steal their general idea.  I used something we happened to have around the house: a beer bottle.  I filled the beer bottle up with water, and sunk the neck into the dirt of the Stevia’s pot.

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If you have bigger pots, a wine bottle would also work for this.  I’m sure you could set these up in the garden, but that seems like a lot of work and maintenance and not really worth it.

 

Composting Made Easy – Three Simple Methods

It breaks my heart a little when I see food being dumping in the trash can.  Especially when it’s excellent worm food.

I think people chose to contribute their leftovers to a landfill instead of using it to feed earthworms and help heal their land because composting seems complicated, difficult or even stinky.  When you do an internet search about composting, there are an overwhelming number of ways to do this.  You need so much green material to so much brown.  You need to turn it every x days.  Build this or buy that.  It’s enough to make you give up and just throw your food to the landfill.

Well, I’m here to beg you to STOP!  Composting is so easy.  To prove it to yourself, drop a banana peel outside and watch it disappear in a week.  Or, leave some lettuce in your crisper drawer in your fridge.  That lettuce will start composting even though you haven’t added the proper “brown” Material.

Here are three (simple) ways to compost:

1.  On my parent’s small parcel of land, they used four straw bales to create sides, then they dump their compostable waste to the center.  This includes any yard waste and kitchen waste.
2.  When I lived in a townhouse, I had a micro sized backyard with neighbors all around and no privacy.  So it was important that whatever I did, didn’t smell and wasn’t incredibly ugly.  So I took an old tote and drilled holes around the sides, in the bottom and through the lid.  These totes are inexpensive at about $5 to $10 depending on size.  I had to replace it every two years, as the sun would make the plastic brittle and break.

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When I didn’t have a drill handy one year, I used a sharp kitchen knife to cut holes.  These holes allow airflow, water flow and for the beautiful earthworms to get in there and turn your waste into black gold.

I also talked to a man who lived where keeping a compost pile was strongly frowned upon.  He used garbage can that had some hole drilled in.  His neighbors thought he had a bin with waste to go to a landfill (which was more acceptable than the actual earth saving compost he had brewing inside).

I would stir this every once in awhile (but I don’t really think i needed to).  When I planted anything, I would use some of the beautiful black gold to supplement my soil.  If it ever started to stink, I would add some grass clippings, tree trimmings, or if you are desperate, buy some straw.

This method worked so well, I used to put some old meat scraps in there (sparingly).  I would put them in the bottom of the pile, and what do you know!? They decomposed away.  I would not do this often, but I just wanted to illustrate that all those rules declared are more like guidelines for you to play with.  Things rot (compost) and you will figure it out.

3.  Now, most of my kitchen scraps go out to my chickens.  But there are a few things that they are not interested in, such as banana peels and coffee grounds.

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I use a sheet composting method for that.  I simply pick up some straw that is covering my plants (if you don’t have mulch on your plants, dig a little hole to throw your scraps in or just put it on the surface), and throw my scraps down, always in a different spot.  And I’m done.  The earthworms and bacteria do their job and I am left with beautiful, happy plants with out any headaches.

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Sometimes, I will even get compost that decides to sprout instead of rot down.  That is where my garlic plantings came from this year.

Garlic

Garlic

I have parsnips (that I though was celery) that sprouted, too.

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Parsnip

While my way of composting is probably not best by any means, it is better than not composting at all.  So please compost.  It will help your garden and your environment.

 

Let Your Eco Flag Fly! (and save money at the same time)

How can you harness solar power, save money AND have great smelling clothes?  Hang your clothes outside to dry!

20140527_095745 It is estimated that running your dryer for an hour on medium will cost you approximately $0.70.  For us, that’s one load.  We have about three loads of clothing, one load of sheets, one load of towels and two loads of diapers a week.  That’s 7 loads or $4.90 a week.  I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up overtime.  Over a year, that’s about $250 annually.

An anecdotal story: years ago, my parents went from exclusively using their dryer to hanging all their clothes to line dry.  The electric bill for the two of them, who do much less laundry than our household, decreased by $10/month.  Not too shabby.

What about during the winter? During the winter, we hang our clothes inside.  We bought folding racks (which you can use for your undies if you are embarrassed to hang them outside).

I liked the lighting best outside, we usually have this inside.

I liked the lighting best outside, we usually have this inside.

We also hang them from a line we strung from the ceiling in our basement.  We very rarely use the dryer.

In college, I saved in more money per load by hanging my clothing to dry.  I would wash it at the laundromat, and dry it in my apartment.  I used the a drying rack and the  furniture.  I saved over $1 a load.

Now, it does take some more time, but it is worth it. This is an affordable and easy way to harness the power of the sun.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Laundry Detergent is so expensive.  Especially when you have cloth diapers to do.  Daily.  Thankfully, it is super easy to make your own.  It took me about 45 minutes to make 5 gallons of Laundry Detergent.  I think it cost me less than $7. Pretty amazing savings.

Here are the ingredients you need:

Rules of 2:

2 cups of Borax

2 cups of Washing Soda

2 bars of Ivory soap (you can also use Fels Naptha, only use one bar)

You also need a bucket (of the 5 gallon variety):

First, grate the soap.  You can use your food processor.  I did this while Jaxson was sleeping, so I grated this by hand:

I grated it directly into a pot. This saves a step and a dish.  It’s all about keeping it simple.

Cover the soap with water and bring to a gentle boil over low to medium heat.  Continue heat until the soap dissolves in the water.  Keep stirring so you don’t burn the soap.  Another helpful hint: make sure you are using a large enough pot. I speak from experience: too small a pot and  it will boil over leaving an icky mess to clean up.  This is not simple.

In your bucket, dump in the 2 cups of borax

And two cups of the Super Washing Soda:

Dump in your liquefied soap.  Continue to add hot water to the bucket, using a whisk to stir as you go.  My sink has water that is hot enough to make this work.  Some may need to boil water.  You need it hot enough so that it is uncomfortable to put your hand in, but it won’t burn you.

Fill this to the top.  Another helpful tip: Since you need to rinse out that pot, and you need to fill up your bucket, why not fill up the pot with hot water and dump that in your bucket? That’s what I did, at least. A little two-for-one action.

Once that is filled and whisked you have your finished product:

Now we have a problem.  This is one heavy bucket.  Enter attractive man (AKA my husband, Chris) to carry it down to the washer.

We store it using Aluminum foil as a lid.  I’m sure that there are more elegant solutions, but this is solution works for us.  When using it, you can fill up a regular detergent cup.  I would think it’s about half a cup.  Less works too.

You may need to play with the amounts of ingredients depending on the hardness of your water.  You may also find that more or less detergent is necessary for your laundering needs.