4 DIYs to Reduce Waste in the Kitchen

The majority of my family’s waste comes from the kitchen. I compiled this list of DIYs to help reduce waste in my own kitchen, and hopefully inspire someone else to do the same! Let me know what your favourite ways to reduce waste are, and how they have worked for you in the comments!

1. Unpaper towels. I love the idea of using old towels or scraps from rags that have seen better days to piece together a new towel that you can use on the daily. This tutorial by An Apple and a Tree explains how to do just that. If you’re looking for more cut and dry measurements than freehanding, I suggest taking a look at this tutorial by The Happiest Camper. If you have to source terrycloth or whichever fabric you need new, try asking your local buy nothing group for spare towels or a yard or two of terrycloth! If you go with flannel for your unpaper towels, I suggest washing it and throwing in a cup of white vinegar to soften the fibers and get them to absorb spills better.

2. Crocks for used coffee and clean eggshells. (Not quite a DIY but still). Okay so am I the only one that can’t compost where I live? Mom says no, and in this house, that means no sneaky patches of compost, no matter how I plan to hide the smell. However, I do like to save certain things for my plants, including unflavoured coffee grounds and ground eggshells. I tend to salvage these as they come, either by sprinkling them on top of the soil or sticking them nearby into a plant in our landscaping, but it would be so awesome to have a dedicated spot for them in my kitchen. All you need are two crocks or containers and your clean, dry coffee and/or eggshells. I dry out coffee by putting it in a shallow dish and letting it air out for a day or two. For eggshells, I rinse, remove the membrane, and allow to dry before crushing them up with my mortar and pestle. (If you choose not to put a lid on your crock, you may not have to dry out the coffee as thoroughly as I do). How useful would that be? As a gardener, I love it. You can find crocks or other stoneware/glass containers at thrift shops and antique malls! The examples below strikes my fancy, but honestly you can always just use what you’ve got! A tupperware container or well loved bowl will do just as well. Also, can we just collectively fawn over all the cool stuff at Laurel Leaf Farm? Seriously, just take my money already lol.

3. Reusable fabric snack bags. I hate ziploc bags. They are incredibly wasteful and flimsy as all get out, making them hard to reuse in lunches, especially for kids. I’ve thought about using beeswax wraps but I’m just not so sure I’m going to like them, and I don’t want to waste the beeswax or the fabric used to make them. This DIY by Mindful Momma uses velcro to secure the bags closed, making them perfect for on the go. If you don’t have velcro or you’re looking to avoid it, this tutorial by No Trace on YouTube is excellent. I think this will be a project for me once I get my sewing machine sorted.

4. A produce bag. Creating a hassle-free produce bag doesn’t need to be difficult! I’ve found several options for all kinds of crafting styles. This one on Blades and Bush Lore is made from string, and netted to form a perfect bag for apples, oranges, and all kinds of produce. Between the Lines created one using a stained tee shirt. My Poppet used their crochet skills to make these cute netted bags. You can use your old plastic bags to create a new one with brand new life by following My Recycled Bags’ tutorial here. Heck, you can use the pplastic mesh some produce comes in to create a reusable version if you follow Unstuff’s guide. Or, you can glam up your grocery trips by transforming old lace curtains into elegant, weightless bags for your bananas and mangoes! Head over to Patricia Fentie’s tutorial to find out how to do that. Really, no matter how basic your skills are, you can make produce bags to bring along to the grocery store! I know this is technically a shopping DIY, but this post is supposed to be light, so we won’t tell anybody.

I hope you enjoy reading through some of these tutorials and have a blast creating something from here! Let me know if you do, and if you have any other DIYs you’d like to share. I’ll see you all in the next one! Bye!

10 Useful Sewing Projects

I have a very strained relationship with my sewing machine. It’s confusing for me, and I always seem to mess up the simplest of projects. To help inspire my will to keep trying to use it, here are 15 useful sewing projects! Some of these could be done by hand, of course, but for the sake of forcing myself to do better on a machine, we’re just going to pretend they’re not. 😉

1. A simple quilt. While elaborate quilts can be tempting to take on, starting out with a simple design can get you used to how they’re made and offer a great way to use up cotton scraps. Whether you choose to make a block quilt or a simple pattern, finding a tutorial that suits your needs is the first step to success. YouTube is a great place to check for video tutorials like this series by Melanie Ham. If you prefer photos and text, try Pinterest, where you can find pictorials like this one by Diary of a Quilter. How lovely would it be to wrap yourself up in a quilt you made yourself? I can imagine misty mornings made better by such a nice blanket made by hand.

2. Makeup removing cotton rounds. I’ve made a few of these by hand, and while they’re awesome, I feel like it would make more sense to just bust out a few dozen on a sewing machine. Here’s a tutorial by Sustainably Savvy with multiple layers of cotton, which is what I prefer when I make them. I will note that some people make their DIY cotton rounds with old towels, but these can be exfoliators; if you already use an exfoliator, whether that be chemical or physical, be careful with adding in another. I would use 100% cotton for your rounds! I’ve also seen bamboo used as well, but I’m not sure how they fare as exfoliators!

3. Reusable cotton balls. I stumbled on this DIY by Southern Mom Loves and I think it’s a really useful idea! She uses polyfil as a stuffing, but I’d think yarn ends, clean wool, and even scrap cotton fabric could all work similarly if you have it lying around! Be mindful of washing these well before re-using, of course! They look awesome, and just like the disposables, should be kept in a sealed container… like a cute apothecary jar!

4. Drawstring bags. I use these to sort my odds and ends. You can also use them for gifts, bulk grocery shopping, and just to carry around small things! I love how simple they are to make. Check out this tutorial by Free Tutorial. They include labels in their tutorial and how to make fabric ribbons!

5. A potholder or hot pad. Okay but I swear we had a ton of these at one point, and now we have one. Being able to whip them up real quick would be such a useful skill! Here’s a tutorial by Melanie Ham, the same creator who made a video series on quilts!

6. Reusable sandwich wraps. Using a bulky Tupperware container for a small sandwich just ain’t it. Opt to house your sandwich in a wrap instead! I found this tutorial by A Rose Tinted World that looks fairly easy to replicate!

7. Elastic fabric bowl covers. These bowl covers are awesome for picnics, outdoor gatherings, and even indoor ones where the kiddos won’t stop opening the backdoor. This tutorial by Hearth and Vine does a great job in showing us how to make our own! I’m actually curious as to how I could create a drawstring cover instead of using elastic. Maybe I’ll give that a go in the near future!

8. An apron. One of the things we made in my senior FACS class as an apron. This tutorial by A Box of Twine is for a crossback apron which I think I prefer over the typical kind because I’m simply a mess. I really need to make myself one of these with wide pockets for carrying plants and gardening tools!

9. Sweatshirt gardening gloves. You can upcycle an old sweatshirt into custom gardening gloves. I love the idea of taking a favourite sweatshirt that’s torn and old and giving it new life in your gardening routine. This tutorial by Lately Reconstructed does a wonderful job illustrating just that.

10. A reusable Swiffer duster cloth. I do love making reusable things, but I have to say it… we don’t dust our house until it gets really bad. With 8 kids, my parents, and two puppers, it is always neglected. Maybe by making a few fun duster cloths I could get my siblings to want to help out? This tutorial by Sew Much Ado is a great one, and I think I’ll give it a try!

Daylily Cordage & Listening to Your Plants

There are certain DIYs and techniques spread all across the internet that, despite being part of the “use what’s around you” ideology, have become inherently attached to specific plants. It isn’t intentional, it’s just what works and is widely used, and there’s nothing wrong with sticking to these kinds of staples. However, without digging a bit deeper into why a certain plant appears with a certain DIY so often, we tend to make a mental note and move on. Maybe I’m projecting my own bad habits onto everyone else in the nature-loving communities I’m a part of, because this was something I recently noticed myself doing.

When I first started looking into cordage and how its made, I noticed that yucca, brambles, willow, and cedar based cordage was super popular and many tutorials seemed to be focused on these plants individually. And those are all awesome plants to make your cordage from due to their fibrous natures. I didn’t have access to any of those things, at least not in my yard or neighborhood, so I temporarily set the idea of making my own cordage aside. But, as with all of my crafty impulses, it came back. And this time, I called to mind the way I tried to weave different grasses when it was all I had to work with. While my attempts were unsuccessful and very poorly researched, I did find that grasses, especially greener (read: wet) blades were easy enough to work into plaits and simple woven blobs.

Bearing this in mind, I took a look at what I did have in my immediate vicinity. Right outside my back door, I had several lush, some may say overgrown, daylilies sprawled over their little mulched homes and onto my patio. I also have an ornamental grass bush thing that offers massive strands in midsummer and early fall, when I remember to pick them before they get chopped down to tiny tufts. Those are still quite small, so I opted to focus on the daylilies for now, and keep the grass in mind for late summer and fall.

Armed with the idea that daylilies had long, thin leaves that looked fair enough like cordage material to me, I took to the interwebs! I was going to try to make them into cordage either way, but I was seeking some validation and reassurance that this was a good idea, haha.

Well, find validation I did! Turns out that there are many people sharing their experiences with daylily cordage online, including a couple youtubers, like Leighanne Saltsman, for example. Seeing them share their experiences with daylily cordage made me feel a lot better about going “astray” from what I viewed as the traditional cordage plant fibers. However, the more I look into cordage, the more I’ve come to realize traditional cordage doesn’t have a set plant list. Traditional cordage is made with whatever you have in your area. Sure, plants like Yucca and willow offer awesome opportunity for cordage that’s strong and resilient, and they’re great options to use if you have access to them. But part of interacting with nature to fuel your life is listening to the plants and elements around you. I intuitively knew daylilies and the weird grass bush out back are fibrous and good for cordage and fiber arts. I wish I would have listened to that intuition sooner and just gotten started on my first cordage project, but I’m happy to get there in my own time anyways.

This idea of listening to your environment when choosing raw materials applies outside of cordage, too. It comes with the caveat that you need to know what you’re picking, and that it’s safe to handle and process. But if you have some fibrous leaves and you want to give cordage ago, don’t worry about finding it on some masterlist of the perfect plants for cordage. Give it a go. Document your personal experiences. Test it out in a variety of ways and let everyone else know how it worked out for you! That’s my plan, anyways, and I’m happy to be doing similar things with my plants that so many people of the past have done with theirs.

Here’s my cordage, which I’ve been creating after drying out the leaves (slowly, since I left them in a wicker basket in my cool basement) for several days, but letting them stay green so they’re pliable enough to twist. There are many tutorials for how to make cordage, but I used the one with daylilies by Saltsman. Here’s how it’s going!

It’s obviously imperfect, and several leaves are a tad greener than I think I need them to be, but I’m pleased overall with my very first bit of cordage. Have you ever made your own cordage, or used plant fibers in another way? Let me know in the comments, and tell me what you used!

Don’t forget to like, follow, and share if you enjoyed this post. I’ll see you all later! Bye!

Rooting Plants With IBA: Myths, Facts, and the Why it Works

I was looking around the internet, searching for how rooting hormones work in willow cutting solutions, and I stumbled onto a video by Fraser Valley Rose Farms on YouTube. In the video, Jason explains why things like Aloe Vera, Cinnamon, and yes, even willow solutions, don’t work nearly as well as commercial rooting powders. I watched all this with a few willow strips sitting in a jar in my kitchen, and I felt that oh so uncomfortable cognitive dissonance kick in. I wanted him to be wrong. But his reasoning was scientific, and so I went on my own journey in exploring rooting solutions determined to find a way to make my own–even if that means I need to find a recipe that is essentially the same as a commercial powder. Because I can.

Before we dive into hormone powders, I want to talk about safety. Jason touches on the safety of IBA (Indole-3-Butyric Acid), remarking that he has done personal research with it and feels comfortable using it. He even made a video explaining why he feels that it is safe, which was a great starting point for me. He explains that while it could be acutely toxic, this toxicity is dependent on consuming pounds worth of IBA, which would have to be intentional. He remarks that the real danger of rooting hormone powders lies with an inactive ingredient in it: talc. Talc is known to cause issues with breathing, eye irritation, and is often contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen. So, if there’s anything to fear in commercial rooting hormones, it’s not the hormone. Our bodies quickly break IBA down into harmless constituents, and its found in many natural foods. That said, I’m not super comfortable with talc due to its link to cancer, and if at all possible, I’d like to avoid it. I made a note here to come back to what other inactive ingredients could be used in talc’s place, and why talc was preferred.

White willow trees, aka Salix Alba, produce an abundance of Indolebutyric Acid, a natural IBA, which makes them incredibly easy to propagate in either soil or water. It makes sense why so many people swear by and use willow water to speed up propagation. However, cutting up willow whips and sticking them in water isn’t going to produce a good rooting solution. In fact, Garden Myths explains that “IBA is not very soluble in water, with a solubility of 250 ppm (at 20 °C). This is the highest concentration that you can get, assuming perfect extraction” (Pavlis). For reference, Jason says this comes out to be about a quarter of the strength of the very weakest rooting formulations sold commercially. Many plants will root without any rooting hormone at all, and this low of strength rooting solution could be seen as useful for speeding up the rooting process of such plants. However, for more difficult to root cuttings, it’s not nearly enough to stimulate root production in any meaningful way. Jason says that on a hard to root plant, willow water is “about 40 times too weak to do anything”. It’s also unlikely that you’ll even get a solution with that small strength of IBA, and you can’t really measure how much you’ve extracted either.

Additionally, alternatives like honey, aloe, and cinnamon do not contain rooting hormones. Instead, they have been used as a means to prevent rot or mildew growth while a cutting is propagated. Unfortunately, this isn’t an issue you can prevent by coating the outside of your plant with an antifungal material. Rot is caused by an imbalance in heat, light, humidity, and soil, according to Jason. If these things are well-controlled, there will be no need for cinnamon, aloe, or honey. Finding the right growing conditions for your cutting will greatly reduce your chance of rot. Unfortunately, these tricks for rooting plants just don’t cut it, and may even hinder your plant’s success. For example, some people have tried to root plants in bananas, leading to dead cuttings and moldy fruit.

So, how are IBA based rooting hormones made? I took a look at this site for scientific pursuits, Sigma Aldrich, and found out these important things:

  • Indole-3-butyric Acid is best dissolved in ethanol or sodium hydroxide solution 1N *, then diluted with water
  • *1N refers to the fact that 1 gram of solute to one liter of solution is being used
  • IBA was recommended to be stored at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or -0 degrees Celsius in liquid form
  • IBA was recommended to be store at 35.6-46.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 2-8 degrees Celsius in powder form
  • I still had no idea what I could replace talc with if I wanted a powder
  • I still didn’t know why talc was used in the first place; is it only used to evenly distribute the IBA in its powder form? Did it have any preservative effects? Is it acidic/basic/does the pH matter here?

It was at this point that I decided I was thoroughly confuzzled.

I did what every desperate DIYer does; I hopped onto YouTube. I found a few videos, one of which used cornstarch in place of talc, but I wasn’t sold yet. They didn’t really explain how they chose it, only that they had. I later read that Hortus, a brand that sells several forms of IBA, does mention that you can create a gel with cornstarch and water along with their water soluble IBA. IBA is a very stable chemical in powder form, and although heavily debated, has been said to last for ten years or more (Hodgson). It seems like the easiest way to prepare this would be to buy powdered IBA and heavily dilute to no more than 1% IBA to 99% cornstarch. Then you could tap some powder out and dip the ends of your slightly moistened cutting into it. I had a very hard time finding how IBA was synthesized, and without proper information and safety guidelines, I don’t feel comfortable extracting or synthesizing IBA in my kitchen, at least not at this point. So that automatically puts a damper on my plans to just extract a natural IBA and make this powder from scratch.

If I bought IBA in a powdered form, I could dissolve it in ethanol and dilute that solution further in water to use as a rooting hormone for my cuttings. If I chose a water soluble option, I might not even need the ethanol. According to Garden Fundamentals, once you prepare a diluted liquid concentrate, you’ll need to use it immediately. You can’t save dilutions in the fridge or pantry like you can powder. Without any preservatives besides the ethanol, I’m unsure that the IBA, after mixed into its first solution of ethanol, would retain its function over time. It seems that most premade liquid concentrates last anywhere from 1-4 years when stored in a dark, cool area, but I couldn’t really determine why or how. I’m guessing that the stability of IBA paired with a dark, cool location keeps it effective for years, but I’m not a chemist.

So, other than buying IBA and diluting it yourself, there’s not really a way to DIY an auxin powder. I can safely say I did my due diligence in seeking out a way to create one all by myself, but I think I’m invested at this point. I wonder if anyone has placed a ton of willow cuttings in alcohol or ethanol? I couldn’t find anything on it specifically, but several of the solutions contain alcohol which is diluted or the cuttings are quickly dipped into it (alcohol isn’t good for plants, but 5 seconds seems to be okay for the IBA solutions). This topic is definitely something I’m interested in, and while I’m sad my willow water won’t do much good, I’m glad to be learning more.

Before I sign off, I want to mention that IBA is not the only auxin that promotes root growth. I saw NAA mentioned quite a few times, so maybe I’ll have better luck researching that one! And if not, well, I’ll learn some more! I’ve already got some new ideas for better stabilizing the environment of my cuttings, and that’s invaluable knowledge!

How do you ensure your cuttings thrive? Do you have any tips or experience with hard to root plants? Have you successfully cultivated any without the use of a rooting hormone? Let me know in the comments! Don’t forget to share and like this post so more people can see it! I’ll see you in the one. Bye!

Places to Buy IBA and Rooting Hormone

References

Croutch, J. (2020, September 26). Rooting Hormone vs. Homemade DIY Alternatives. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9aPvJIHsYk&ab_channel=FraserValleyRoseFarmFraserValleyRoseFarmVerified.

Croutch, J. (2020). Is Rooting Hormone Safe? YouTube. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFFYKanfudw.

Pavlis, R. (2019, November 24). Willow Water Rooting Hormone – Does It Work? Garden Myths. https://www.gardenmyths.com/willow-water-rooting-hormone/.

Schmidt, L. (1993, May). ROOT SETTING HORMONES. VEGETATIVE PROPAGATION. http://www.fao.org/3/ad224e/AD224E10.htm.

Hodgson, L. (2019, January 10). How Long do Rooting Hormones Last? Laidback Gardener. https://laidbackgardener.blog/2018/12/21/how-long-do-rooting-hormones-last/.

Hortus USA. (n.d.). Hortus USA: IBA methods. http://www.rooting-hormones.com/IBAmethd.htm.

Sigma Aldrich. (n.d.). Growth Regulators – Plant Tissue Culture Protocol. https://www.sigmaaldrich.com/US/en/technical-documents/technical-article/cell-culture-and-cell-culture-analysis/plant-tissue-culture/growth-regulators.

Advice for Beginner Naturalists

While I wouldn’t consider myself an expert by any means, I’ve had a lot of experience interacting with and observing the natural world. With these experiences come lessons–some learned the hard way. Here is some advice I have with anyone unfamiliar with nature or the safety practices associated with it.

Giant Hogweed | DSt24 on Pixabay

Don’t touch anything you aren’t certain is safe to handle. There are some plants, such as giant hogweed (WARNING: Graphic photos linked), that contain photosensitizing elements in their sap, which leads to severe burns after snapping off the stem and handling it. What’s even scarier is how much it looks like a completely safe plant, wild carrot, and even a desirable herbal medicine, yarrow. It’s much larger than these plants, but a beginner herbalist or naturalist interested in finding such plants could easily misidentify it. The best way to avoid this kind of danger is to never touch or harvest anything you can’t positively ID as safe. Leaf shape, stem shape, flower shape, etc. are all great ways to identify plants. I recently purchased a book by Thomas Elpel, called Botany in a Day. It offers expert explanations of the many parts of a plant and how these distinctions differentiate them from one another. You can also use apps like iNaturalist to get a starting point in your IDs, but AI should never be the only factor in determining a plant, animal, or fungi ID. You can take photos of a plant and its characteristics to ID later, which is how I have learned many plant names! Returning to it at a later time offers another look at it, too, sometimes in a different stage in its cycle. I have personally picked and handled two toxic plants because I saw them, thought they were pretty, and picked them without knowing anything about them. Be on the safe side, I promise it’s the right one!

Female Lone Star Tick | Lisa Zins on Flickr

Don’t wear flowing clothing when in fields or among brush. Ticks carrying diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness, make themselves at home in fields and other grassy areas with a lot of cover. Although small and their brief stay in your skin is relatively painless, the diseases they sometimes leave behind can be debilitating. To reduce your risk of tick borne illnesses, wear tight, fitted clothing and tuck your shirt into your pants and cover the cuffs of your pants with your socks. Ticks and other irritating bugs (such as chiggers) look for easy access to skin, along with somewhere to hide (such as shirt sleeves. Tying these sorts of areas down reduces the chance of being bitten. You can also make use of bug deterrents containing Permethrin, DEET, and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (which is not considered safe for children under 3, but is one of the more natural options on the CDC’s list of recommended deterrents). Make sure to shower as soon as possible after being in tick hotspots, and to check your skin and clothing for ticks. If you develop a rash or fever after being bitten by a tick, you should make an appointment with your doctor immediately. Ticks are predicted to be particularly abundant this year due to the mild winter here in the US, so be vigilant when exploring the beauty of nature!

Herbs | Silviarita on Pixabay

Don’t use anything you find to make food or other products if you aren’t certain it is pesticide, insecticide, and disease free. When I was 15, I used a few knockout rose petals from my front yard to create a tea for myself. I ended up with stomach cramps all night, and only then did I ask myself what else could be on or within those petals. I no longer forage anywhere that could have been sprayed with pesticides or insecticides, or have had prolonged exposure to car exhaust. Don’t learn the hard way what ingesting this type of thing feels like! There is also the potential for diseased plants to misbehave and become downright inedible. Yuck. You can harvest these plants for decor or to make an herbarium, but leave it at that.

Soap and Faucet | suju-foto on pixabay

Wash your hands often, and don’t touch your mouth beforehand. Some parasites, including the mostly benign but very uncomfortable pin worm, can be acquired from fecal material or shared surfaces where someone with pin worms has accidentally deposited eggs (most likely from not washing their hands after using the restroom). Other parasites are found in streams, caves, and even puddles. While being infected with a parasite can be fairly inevitable even with diligent safety precautions, simply washing your hands and nails thoroughly can deter many of them, or at least lower your risk of contracting them.

Forest and Road | David Mark on Pixabay

Don’t get lost in the wilderness. I have lost my way in a small grouping of trees with a path in it because I stepped away and forgot where the path was. It was getting dark, and despite knowing I was in a park and I would be just fine, I admit that I started to panic. Now, I will never leave the path without someone watching me from it. Exploring a little deeper isn’t worth getting lost and having to reorient yourself to find your way back to a trail. Bring a map and a compass and a good deal of knowledge on how to use both if you’ll be somewhere more out of the way than a park. Having a good friend with you is another way to stay on track!

These are my tips, all gleaned from experience or the experiences of others! I hope you don’t have to make these same mistakes I did to learn a good lesson. Have a great day! Bye!

Identifying Wild Plants with iNaturalist

As a child, my Nana would share the plants she knew the names of with me. Some of that stuck, and it definitely gave me a desire to know more about the natural world. Now that I’m grown and have a repertoire larger than my Nana’s casual knowledge, I turn to new sources when I want to identify a particular herb, tree, or berry, using the same skills of observing that she shared with me many years ago.

While I have several books with guidance on identifying herbs, sometimes I want an answer without having to spend too much time deciphering leaf patterns and structures. Just today, I spotted some pretty yellow flowers in the grass outside my cousins school, and I wanted an answer without my books handy.

In times like these, I use an app called iNaturalist to quickly decipher what the plant may be. It isn’t always right, but it offers a starting point to work with. Often, it can help me get right down to the species! All I do is upload a few clear images of the plant in question (although bugs, fungi, animals, etc. are also in the database) and see what it comes up with. It’s an amazing tool for anyone starting out with herbs or naturalism of any kind. I love using it to confirm my identifications. It even offers an easy comparing function so you can feel confident in your identification.

It also has a social aspect where other naturalists can offer insight or agree on your match until it reaches research grade, aka three positive species identification from separate sources. This is added to their research grade database for others to use alongside you!

This is my favourite app so far. I’ve tried a few others, but find this is the one that suits me and my needs best! This post isn’t sponsored, I just wanted to share something I love with you all! It’s a tool I use nearly every time I leave my house, even if it’s just to document where I have seen certain herbs. I love the guides it offers in the explore tab, and often find myself browsing nearby observations and learning more about the plants near me. I also appreciate that it saves your observations and the ones you help identify. It makes it easy to go back and see what you’ve spotted!

Let me know what you’re favourite app is, and how it helps you in your journey. I’ll see you soon! Bye!

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!