Building Your Skills in Self Sufficiency | Part One

I live in the primitive world of HOAs and suburban soccer moms that yell that our fireworks are too loud at 8pm on the Fourth of July. I have all of my veggies struggling along in pots that rabbits continuously crunch on, and I am at the mercy of my parents who just aren’t too sure about my jar hoarding “problem”. That said, I’m doing my best with what I’ve got and the rules I have to follow. A lot of what I want to do just isn’t possible for one reason or another, but I have found several things that I can do to here and now to prep for a more self-sustaining future, and to lessen my wastefulness along the way.

When I started this whole thing, I first did a pseudo-audit of what I would ideally change in the future. For me, it included trying to be more zero waste and also learning to create more of what I needed. Here are some of the skills I have identified that I think any pre-homestead or current waste-reducing person could benefit from learning.

Community Building

A daunting part of homesteading or self-sufficiency is just how much you need to “do” or learn. I’m guilty of forgetting that self-sufficient doesn’t mean you do it all alone. To get things done and spread out work among other nearby homesteaders and yourself, you should learn to trade, barter, and sell within a community of like minded people. For example, I make soap, and I love to do it. I can trade some of my soap for other necessities like mittens or some food from another person. Not only do I get to make all the soap my little heart desires, I get to share and trade it for what I need but may not have the time or ability to create. There are many groups online and in-person that you can join. Some great ones that are found all over the US include Buy Nothing groups, where you give and receive items that aren’t being used, as well as the many facebook groups set up for local zero waste swap meets, clothing swaps, etc. This is one of the most important parts of being more self-reliant (as opposed to grocery store- or fashion chain, etc-reliant). Find communities and swap tips, tricks, and products. There are usually more people nearby that think like you than you’d expect! You can also head out to your local farmers market or artisan market and make friends there. Learn from others and share what you know!

Container Gardening

I have several small plants growing on my patio, despite the rabbits dining in every once in a while. I’m learning how to grow a variety of things now, and how to deal with furry buddies wanting in on the yumminess. By learning this now, I won’t be utterly lost when I decide to grow a large garden to feed myself and anyone living with me. I’m currently working through soil, water, nutrient, and light needs, as well as troubleshooting when things look off. Even if I don’t get much this year, I’m happy to be learning and growing food of my own. There are many great places to gain useful information, including the above recommended communities of fellow homesteaders! I’d also like to add that my veggies finally seem to be doing well, and that feels really good (especially when I stop to consider how many seeds I’ve planted, nurtured, overwatered, and lost).

Upcycling

I’ve always loved upcycling, so this comes naturally for me! Giving old, unusable things new life is a great skill to have. Another part of this is learning to think outside of the box, take a step back, and come up with a creative solution. You can do things like spin yarn out of plastic bags or newspapers, make produce bags from lace valences, and even upcycle old oatmilk containers into soap molds. Practice this sort of thinking when you want to buy something new or you are throwing something out. Can this be melted and used later (HDPE Plastic for example is a great material to add to your stockpile)? Can I replace what I need with something I already have (ex: a flower pot can be substituted with an old yogurt container)? Even if you don’t actively pursue upcycling for your own reasons, it’s good to start thinking critically. Break everything down to its bare bones and the raw material it can provide.

Mending/patching/darning

Mending is something everyone can use, no matter where you’re at. Sure, your family might be confused and ask why you’re darning those socks instead of buying new ones, but the skill is useful and practice makes perfect. Learn this skill before you need it. You can have a lot of fun with this, too, by adding aesthetically pleasing techniques to your work. I say all this assuming you can sew, at least by hand. That’s a skill that will serve you now (seams always split open when you can’t afford to buy a new pair of jeans, trust me) and later. If you can get your hands on a reliable machine, that’s even better! But if this skill does not come easily for you, learn the basics and turn to your community if you need help.

Canning

You don’t need to can enough to get through the entire winter if your fridge and pantry are packed as it is. In my situation, not only would no one eat anything I canned (it’s foreign to them, so I can’t blame them), but I would run out of room very quickly. To combat this, I’ll be trying something simple every few weeks to get the skill going. I’m going to have fun and learn all the tips and tricks along the way, and heed the many rules and safety protocols of canning as I do so. I’ll have a head start for when I go to harvest a bunch of tomatoes and find I have too many to eat! I can’t wait to can up some delicious apple butter in the fall, and ripe strawberry jam any day now. Mmm.

Simple Skincare Knowledge

Speaking as someone heavily invested in and pursuing the skincare industry, trust me when I say there’s a lot to learn. So many bloggers recommend things that make me cringe, and skincare experts like Dr. Dray, Cassandra Bankson, the Golden Rx (link is to a video I definitely recommend if you’re looking in to skincare DIYs) and Lab Muffin Beauty have all added their own informed opinions on this topic. Learn what to avoid by watching these amazing women and others who offer their advice and knowledge to us. They provide so many great scientific viewpoints, and it’s important to consult the realities of science when making your own skincare.

That said, there are ways to make your own great skincare essentials. I’ll be posting my recipes and those I have tried and truly believe in! I’ve recently posted a few in my last post, 7 things to make instead of buying! Until then, be very wary of posts using lemon essential oil in after-sun lotion, or apple cider vinegar as a toner.

Soapmaking

Oh man, I do love making soap. It’s a really fun way to customize your showering routine, not to mention you get to add delicious scents and beautiful colours! Learning how to make your own soap is quite the journey, but a very rewarding one if you find the perfect recipe.

Even if you never make it yourself, knowing how it’s made and how it works is a great benefit to anyone wanting to be more self sufficient. There are three basic ways to create bar soap: cold process, hot process, and melt and pour.

Melt and pour is by far the easiest in terms of finding recipes and starter kits, and involves simply melting a brick, adding things like colour and scent, and pouring it into a mold of your choice. That said, there is little room for customization or additions to melt and pour, as the soap bricks you get are already prepared.

After melt and pour, we have hot process. Hot process requires a lot less attention than cold process, but shares more similarities to it than to melt and pour but is kind of ugly in my humble opinion. I just made a shave soap using the hot process method and am waiting impatiently for it to cure. I didn’t have to give it nearly as much focus or attention as I usually do with my cold process soaps, and it seems much more forgiving if you forget about it for a few extra minutes. It does use lye, whether that be KOH (Potassium Hydroxide) or the more commonly used NaOH (Sodium Hydroxide). Lye can be dangerous to use and handle, so I recommend getting the proper protective gear in advance and learning about all the potential dangers, even if you only soap once or twice a year. And please, I speak from experience when I say this, get a tarp or a thick towel to use on your counters. Any drips of lye water onto a laminate counter top will stain them (sorry Mom) and by stain I mean eat away at. Permanently. Oof.

Cold process is the most nuanced of the bunch, and also uses lye in either of its common forms. It can be a pain due to its finnickiness when you add fragrances, soap at too high or too low of a temperature, or leave it in too cold or warm of an environment. However, this is the best method to use if you want to add aesthetically pleasing aspects to your soap! I have used ethically sourced mica for all of my soaps, but you can also use natural colorants like turmeric or rose clay, which each come with benefits of their own! Here are some of the beautiful bars I’ve come up with, each one made with a very nourishing recipe to soothe and moisturize skin!

It feels great to cut down on one more thing I would have to be buying at the store, and my skin likes this soap better, anyways.

How self-sufficient are you? What skills do you think are the most important to learn in today’s world? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to share this post with your friends! I’ll be back later with more skills to hone. Bye!

7 Things to Make Instead of Buy | Skin and Hygiene Essentials

I’ve been slowly creating some hygiene and skincare essentials that are both simple to create and easy to customize. From body soap to lip balm, there are many great recipes online to choose from. Here are some ideas for things to swap when you run out along with a recipe or guide I found useful!

Bar Soap

I’m a huge fan of cold process soap making, and this is my favourite recipe! You can add colorants and fragrance to it if you desire, or additives such as ground oats, kaolin clay, and goats milk for custom benefits. I’ve had so much fun learning to create beautiful soap bars, and I’ve gotten the cost down to about $2 per bar, or $24 ish for a 2 lb. loaf of soap. That’s about 11-12 bars when I cut it, which lasts a long while for a single person (about 6-8 months for me). Something I love about this soap is how nourishing it is. My personal favourite way to make it includes adding one tbsp. of ground rolled oats for gentle exfoliation and the skin-soothing power oats hold. I don’t use any fragrance or dye when I make it this way, but it smells great and is so pure! To avoid gelling and having a slightly off-white colour, place it in the fridge for 24 hours after placing your batter in the mold. Let it sit another 24 hours outside of the fridge, demold it, and cut into bars! Let it cure for 28 days and then enjoy!

Hand Soap

I’m not a fan of DIY soaps that don’t lather or the ones that feel like water. So after I found a good dish soap recipe to start off with (and it lathered like a dream) I was ecstatic! The original recipe is calls for baking soda, castile soap, and water. I cut out the baking soda and added 1 1/4 tbsp sweet almond oil (conditioning agent), 1 1/14 tbsp castor oil (which added a lot to the foaming action), a few drops of fragrance oil, replaced the water with green tea (as an antioxidant preservative), and added 12 drops of vitamin e oil (antioxidant preservative). So, the recipe now looks like this:

  • 1/3 Cup castile soap
  • 1 1/2 Cup green tea (cooled)
  • 1 1/4 tbsp. sweet almond oil
  • 1 1/4 tbsp. castor oil
  • 12 drops vitamin e oil
  • 3-5 drops concentrated fragrance oil (optional)

Stir well and voila! Lovely handsoap.

One of my favourite parts of making things for myself is being able to customize them. Identify your needs and modify recipes to fit your needs! My hands were dry from washing them so often, and this was a really easy way to remedy that!

Lip Balm

Lip balm is pretty pricey if you want the good stuff. My personal favourite commercial brand is Burt’s Bees, but I found that the one I like the best is their mango flavour. Working off of that as inspiration, I came up with a couple ideas and accidentally found my new favourite when trying to create a lotion bar in a jar! Using the ingredients I had chosen for the lipbalm and this super simple lotion bar recipe, I experimented until my bar idea became my dream lip balm. Here’s the recipe, which yields about 75 tubes in total, or 37 tubes and two overfilled 2 oz. jars (if you run out of tubes like I did haha):

  • 1/2 cup shea butter
  • 1/2 cup beeswax
  • 1/3 cup mango butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3tbsp. of a lavender infusion made with sweet almond oil and jojoba oil (2/3 sweet almond, 1/3 jojoba)
  • 1/3 cup sweet almond oil (omit or use much less of this for a firm lip balm. I like mine super soft)
  • 1/6-1/4 tbsp. vitamin e oil

You can use this as a skin salve as well. It is very nourishing and great for healing up small abrasions that aren’t infected. Sunburns, too, if they aren’t super blistered! I love it so much, and I’m really proud of how it feels, heals, and acts like butter on my lips. I originally planned to use some oil I infused with hibiscus for a subtle flavour, but it wasn’t ready at the time. I’ll have it at the ready next time I make this though and report back!

Lotion Bars

On the note of lotion bars (which are usually just slightly harder versions of lip balm), I found that my recipe above makes for a great bar if you subtract the 2/3 cup of sweet almond oil. As I stated before, it was originally a lotion bar recipe, and I did enjoy it as such before adding that sweet almond oil! I put mine in a jar because I didn’t have any tins, but I had plenty of those jars, haha. However, it’s getting warmer here and I don’t have as much of a use for lotion bars in the Summertime, so I opted for the lip balm formulation. That said, I’ll be getting some small containers ready to store nourishing, occlusive lotion bars all over the place come cooler weather. I used this recipe for my jumping off point, but there are so many others to choose from! It’s all about finding a balance of hard and soft oils, and if you use it, beeswax, too! Define your skincare needs and find infusions and oils customized just for you! I always recommend a healthy dose of vitamin e oil for antioxidative preservation, but there are many great hard and soft oils that have thermal and antioxidative properties! I enjoy searching through pinterest for recipe ideas, but another great way to find tride and tested formulas is to ask your friends and family that may enjoy making their own bars, too!

Toothpaste

I’m not a dentist, and I’ve always been wary of the DIYs I see for toothpaste and mouthwash. However, I’ve recently begun exploring recipes that dentists have approved of, and they’re not as hard to create as I anticipated.

One thing I’m okay with omitting is any kind of peppermint flavouring. I’ve never really loved my toothpaste giving me that cold spearmint taste anyway. But, if you’d like to keep it in your routine, you totally can. I’ve found some awesome remineralizing toothpaste powder recipes that include everything your teeth need for a healthy smile.

In terms of the form I have found most often, toothpaste powder seems to be the most popular. The dry ingredients prevent mold or mildew growth, and inhibit bacteria from building up inside a jar. It also makes it last longer and activate when used instead of instantly deactivating when the water hits the ingredients.

If you have concerns, I’d ask your dentist what they think a good toothpaste recipe needs for your teeth to be happy. Here are two great powder recipes I’ll be using when my toothpaste runs out! This one claims to have helped in curing minor tooth decay through the remineralization. And this blogger includes her dental results after 6 months of use.

Mouthwash

Along the same thread of toothpaste, I bring you mouthwash. It isn’t just a way to feel fresh in the morning after a good tooth scrubbing, but can also impact your oral health and hygiene, according to the American Dental Association. Depending on your very custom, very personal oral hygiene needs, you can create a great mouthwash to have on hand. “There are therapeutic mouthwashes that help reduce or control plaque, gingivitis, bad breath, and tooth decay,” the ADA says on their “mouthwashes” page. Following those particular reasons for using a mouthwash, I’ve found some potential recipes. Remember, I’m not a dentist, and if you have any concerns about the efficacy or safety of your recipe or one you find online, you should go to a trusted healthcare provider, preferably one with a background in oral hygiene.

If you just want a rinse to brighten up your morning and leave you feeling fresh, then this mouthwash recipe by one of the aforementioned toothpaste powder creators is an excellent choice! Otherwise, I found these 15 recipes approved and compiled by a dentist!

Deodorant

There are a few things I’m hesitant to make for myself, deodorant being one of them. That’s not say I’m afraid of getting hurt or using ingredients that could be potentially harmful; I just don’t want to stink! That said, I switched from dove antiperspirant to native several months ago, and while it definitely isn’t as strong as dove, it does work. I didn’t have to reapply dove at all, which was convenient, but the idea that the product was still there despite scrubbing in the shower was a little weird to me. I have to reapply native once in the afternoon on hot days or when I am running around, but I don’t mind like I thought I would. Deodorant should wear off, you know? I also found that less is more with it. I’m enjoying it for now, but I’d like to make my own since becoming more comfortable with the thought of natural/non-antiperspirants deodorant. Buying it helped me get a sense of what it should be like, and I’m excited to try it out!

That said, everyone’s bodies are different. What works for one person may be a complete flop for another. Some people hate native, but like lume. Others can’t stand dove and love their own creation. I do think this will be one of the hardest things to create for yourself simply because everyone’s needs are different. I recommend looking into the science of deodorant and antiperspirants before deciding what you need. Another thing I really hope people take into consideration is the sensitivity of their skin, especially over time. I never ever recommend using citrus or mint on sensitive areas of the body, especially not under the arms, which are prone to chafe. A common ingredient I see in DIYs for deodorant is baking soda, which can be irritating for some people. Coconut oil can be comodogenic in some formulations, but not always, so just watch out for clogged pores if you go with a recipe including it. All in all, I urge you to listen to your skin and body when testing new deodorants!

Since I’m still learning what you need in a deodorant, and all the DIY ones I’ve seen have been full of irritating ingredients and knocks to science, I don’t have any recommendations for you yet. I hope to update you soon!

I hope these ideas have inspired you to create some of your own products! Let me know what you make, and what works for you, personally! I’ll see you around with some more fun creating. Bye!