Making liquid soap, in this case a body wash, is a simple way to keep your shower well-stocked. With a relatively small amount of ingredients, you can create a beautiful and effective cleanser! I created this recipe for my fiancé who is sensitive to bar soap, and even added a custom fragrance that we both enjoy! It uses calendula infused olive oil to reduce irritation and inflammation on the surface of the skin, and a blend of conditioning oils to prevent dryness.
If you make your own soap or other skincare products, you probably have most of these ingredients on hand! However, while bar soap is made using NaOH (sodium hydroxide) lye, liquid soaps require KOH lye (potassium hydroxide) to stay diluted in water. This recipe uses a dual lye base to create a thick paste that dilutes well (without losing too much of that lovely gel feeling). I used SaponiCalc to create it, and went with 70% KOH lye and 30% NaOH lye.
As a side note, I added a very small amount of a preservative to keep it fresh in the warm bathroom environment, opting for Germaben II E at a ratio of 1 quart diluted soap to 1/2 tsp preservative. While many people don’t use preservatives in their liquid soaps, I would rather avoid potential mold contamination in the steamy environment it will live in.
On to the recipe!
5.6 oz distilled water
Sodium hydroxide lye 0.59 oz
Potassium hydroxide lye 2.16 oz
Castor oil – 2.4 oz
Coconut oil (76°F) – 4 oz
Olive oil infused with Calendula – 5.6 oz
Shea butter – 2.4 oz
Sunflower seed oil – 1.6 oz
Sweet almond oil carrying helichrysum essential oil, rosemary essential oil, and peppermint essential oil (for fragrance; these essential oils can be omitted or replaced based on other safe fragrance options) – 2 oz
Total weight before dilution and added oils: 24.86 oz
Begin by turning on your crock pot to a medium-high setting (mine only has a high and low, so I started on high and adjusted throughout to avoid burning the soap). Add the coconut oil and shea butter to the crock pot. While that melts, add in your castor oil, calendula-infused olive oil, and sunflower seed oil.
Mix together your lye and water slowly, stirring well to disintegrate all of the flakes. Slowly add this to your oil mixture and emulsify with a stick blender. This step can take anywhere from 5-20 minutes depending on your emulsifier. You will know when it is okay to stop when it reaches a thick mashed potato consistency. If your blender starts to overheat switch to another or leave the mixture on a low heat setting and come back to it once your blender has cooled. Make sure to wear protective clothing, including chemical resistant gloves, goggles, and long sleeves to avoid being splashed by the mixture; not only is it hot enough to burn you, it also contains unsaponified lye, which can cause chemical burns on its own. Use a small crockpot to avoid splashback or emulsify the mixture in a separate container before moving to your crockpot.
Stir every 30-40 minutes until you are left with a paste that is transparent before you disturb it by stirring. Keep on medium-high heat while you wait. Once it reaches the transparent paste stage, remove from heat, carefully transfer to a jar, and allow to cool. Once cool, you can add your distilled water and sweet almond oil. Depending on how thick you want your soap, you can add different amounts of water. Start with small amounts and stir or use a stick blender to dilute the paste into a liquid. In the end you should end up with a golden-brown soap that is translucent! If you use a stick blender to dilute the soap, don’t be surprised to see that it is opaque for the first week or so. It will settle over time into that beautiful golden-brown colour! At this point, you can also add a preservative of your choice and any colourants or additives you like. I prefer to keep it simple and don’t use any mica or other suspensions, but you can customize your finished soap as much as you like! To thicken it to your preference, you can also add a gum such as xanthan gum, or leave it as is. I prefer a thicker soap, but it lathers well and works as is, too!
It’s officially October, and even here in South Florida, I have begun craving the many foods of the season: sweet potato casserole, apple pie, warm apple cider, and of course, hot soup. I’ve already made chicken noodle soup and pasta fagioli, and currently have some French onion soup cooking in a crockpot right now! Even without the crisp air and changing leaves I used to see when I lived in the midwest, I still feel a pull towards warm, soothing suppers as the year slowly inches to an end.
Soups are not only delicious antidotes for chilly hands, though; they also go a long way in terms of meal prep and cost. I make a large pot of soup and save the leftovers for about a week, typically spending between $30-40 on all of the ingredients (if I don’t have them on hand). However, I find the more I make soups, the more ready my pantry is to create them on a whim. Many ingredients can be bought in bulk and used in several different batches or kinds of soup, too, such as garlic, celery, onions, and carrots. Not to mention how simple it is to make your own vegetable broth if you find your veggies are about to go bad!
Soups also keep well in the fridge for about a week, often tasting even better after letting them sit for a day or two. There are also hundreds of canning recipes to test out and store, making them a perfect choice for anyone looking to reduce time spent in the kitchen.
Hearty, filling, delicious, and (usually) healthy, soup is a soul-soothing way to treat yourself to a little bit of warmth this fall and winter season. I’ve compiled a list of soup recipes to try this year, from chicken noodle to miso ramen. Oh, and whatever fills your bowl, be sure to enjoy it with a delicious piece of French bread! I tried out this recipe from Living on a Dime this morning, and I really love how it came out!
Pasta Fagioli – Natasha’s Kitchen *Important Tip: do not add the tomatoes or tomato-based ingredients in till the veggies are cooked. If you do, the veggies will not finish cooking and will stay hard due to the acidic environment. I speak from experience*
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!
I was looking around the internet, searching for how rooting hormones work in willow cutting solutions, and I stumbled onto a videoby 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.
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!
Today I compiled a list of links to beautiful DIYS and tutorials that use wild and cultivated plants. Take a look and get inspired by the fresh ingredients you have all around you! Let me know what you make and if you have any other ideas! Have a great one, everybody!
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.
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!
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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!