Greenies Like Us: Homemade Bug Repellent

If you know me, then you know that I am constantly thinking about how to avoid going to the store. I mean, one day I hope to grow my own peppercorns and harvest my own sea salt! Yeah, it's like that. So when a fellow blogger posts a homemade recipe for biting fly and mosquito repellent, you know I MUST try it. The creator uses it for her cows too; helps to keep the biting flies off each day. Very cool. I have most of the ingredients on hand, so let's just go for it.

Simple Fly/Mosquito Repellent

8 ounces warm water
8 ounces apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon peppermint castile soap
75 drops citronella essential oil

greenies don't play

This was originally made in a 32 ounce spray bottle (which I didn't have available) so I halved the recipe and made it in this water bottle. I ran out of empty bottles so this way I can just switch the spray top* from one to the other as I need it.

shake it don't break it

Add all the ingredients to your bottle and shake well. It is very important to use warm water to help the castile soap become well incorporated. The original recipe** called for a combination of essential oils that I don't have right now (Eucalyptus, Rosemary and Grapefruit), only citronella oil. But I remember seeing a recipe from long ago that used only citronella. It's fabulous and reliable and should work just fine.

nifty and simplified

The sprayer tops fit nicely onto the water bottles and I don't feel so bad since I can reuse this over and over before recycling!

I've used the repellent twice now for late afternoon gardening. It seems to working just fine. The real test will be at the end of summer next year, when the river starts to dry and the mosquitoes come out in droves. So as I continue to use it, I'll tell all right here. Check back soon. 馃檪

*Info: If you make a lot of your own recipes like this one, why not support the Safe Spray company and their line of U Mix It products? They sell reusable spray bottles that have homemade cleaning recipes located on the sides of the bottles, to encourage you to stop buying the chemical-laded cleaners. It also takes a load off the landfills; another concern of theirs. This is a terrific company with a good idea.

**Source: Grass Food (Awesome site, snoop around a bit!)

to be fair you have to buy fair

Whenever you can, make sure to buy fair trade products. Learn why.

Greenies Like Us: Say ‘Cheers!’ To Bugs

I want to have a garden party. I'm feeling a little defeated so I need a pick-me-up. You see, something has been munching away at my chard, kale, leaf lettuce, radishes and green beans in the kitchen garden. So having a party will help me get through it all. Now, planning one is half the fun, but this party only needs one thing...

uh, cheers?

When I look at this bottle of beer I see a really nice invitation: "To all the creepy crawlers! Come one, come all! Earwigs, pill bugs, slugs and snails! You are invited!" Yessiree. They want it, they drink, they drown. So let's grab a bottle* along with our least favorite cereal bowl (the slicker the surface the better) and get it started.

bad bugs!

Find a spot where you have the most damage. Guaranteed the little buggers aren't far away.

another use for banished bowls

Bury the bowl so that the rim sits about a 1/4 inch out of the ground. You want to make it easy for the critters to crawl in.

it's for the best, really

Now sacrifice your beer. Pour in enough to fill the bowl only about half-way so that it becomes hard to crawl back out.

how do i love thee...

It's the yeast that attracts the little creepers, they'll start to smell it right away. Do this in the evening and the beer should stay somewhat bubbly most of the night. I've found that putting it out at night spares me the heartbreak of also seeing ladybugs, bees and worms inside too. Just about everything likes beer.

And in no time...


Cheers! Welcome to my party! We're just getting started.

The next morning...


Three earwigs, two crickets, two millipedes and a slug showed up to our fabulous little shindig. Well that was so much fun... how about we party all week? Do this each night until the population dwindles away (a week seems to be the average amount of time around here). Move the bowl around your beds each night or use more than one if you have a large garden. You should be able to get the bug problem under control.

I'll drink to that! 馃檪

got no friends

Info: The damage a field cricket can do is small when alone, but it will usually attract more crickets and together they can wreck a garden good. While you can find a commercial bait that covers larger areas, the beer works just as well in my opinion. You just have to stick it out a bit longer. Put the glass down dude, party's over.

Tip: Pill bugs and earwigs can do a lot of damage because they are quick to set up nearby quarters and make large families. Go on the hunt for the gangs first; turning over rocks and what not. (Give 'em to the chickies.) Then bring out the beer for the ones that got away.

*Tip: Technically, this can be any type of beer. But for some reason Budweiser and Bud Light work the best. I suspect it has more yeast - giving it a more enticing smell and helping bugs to find it quicker. It just works.

Tip: Empty the bowl nightly, and make sure to do it far away from your garden so you don't accidentally attract more buggers to it!


Jerry Baker

Greenies Like Us: Glean To Clean

Okay, so, you all know that we like free stuff. Love. We love free stuff. That's why gleaning came so naturally to us. Free food, what could be better? And we happen to have family members that will take the time to tell us where to get free stuff. And this time the sister-in-law was looking out for us. Her neighbor has two different kinds of grapefruit that were ripe and ready for picking. Bam! There you go. Mo' free stuff. Love, love, love.

And here are the beauties. Two different kinds and I couldn't tell you what kind so I won't even guess. One has a typical pinkish color to it (inside and out) and the other is bright yellow, as yellow as a lemon and only slightly bigger than an orange. Very cool. I think I'll do a bit of research to see if I can find a good variety to plant in our own yard, because we love grapefruit around here. It's one of those forgotten fruits that doesn't get enough exposure if you ask me.

This is one of the pinks. Not bad, though the sections are very small it's still quite delicious and worth the work. The yellow variety is juicier and has bigger sections. (I gotta figure out what they are!) So eating them isn't hard to do, but what do you do with two whole bags of grapefruit before it goes bad? Thatsa lotta fruit to eat in a short period of time, ya think?

Yeah, I know. A marmalade is always nice. That's a given but complicated and time consuming. I want to try something brand new to do with them. And I think I found it. Over at Crunchy Betty, I found the coolest thing to make with the peel of the grapefruit: Scouring powder. Great right? Then we'll do a refreshing iced tea with the rest later. So first, peel several grapefruits and lay them out to dry. I didn't bother with the dehydrator, just stuck them on a plate and waited.

I used the yellow fruits and to my surprise, the peelings turned very dark! I went back each day and tossed them around so they'd dry evenly and it took about 5 days sitting out like this before they were dry enough to grind. But technically, I didn't start this recipe for another 3 days because I was out of borax.

It was very easy to grind and the smell is amazing! It instantly filled the entire house with a lemony-fresh scent. (Is that because of the variety? Is it a lemon-grapefruit hybrid of sorts?) And now for the recipe:

Scouring Scrub

1/4 cup powdered grapefruit peels
1/4 cup borax
1/3 cup baking soda

I ended up with more ground peels than the original recipe so I adjusted it accordingly.

Throw it all into the container of your choice. I like to use a recycled jar (from the days of buying spaghetti sauce, tsk tsk) and a recycled Parmesan cheese lid for dried herbs and what not, and it also works great for a concoction like this one. Now let's put it to the test.

The bathroom we're using in the house (we've only been using one for now) has an old(er) tub in it. Since I hate to use a lot of bleach I use my homemade lemon cleaner on it. Remember, we're using our own septic system and the leach field is right outside the front door! So the old, stained fixtures have continued to look, well... old and stained. So I'm quite curious to see how this scrub will work out.

Again, the smell is FAB! If anything, it's worth the smell it leaves behind. Soooo clean and fresh smelling, and way better than store-bought scrubs.

After scrubbing it, I let it sit for about 10 minutes. And... well...

...uh, okay. So it doesn't really look different in this picture. But in person, I can see a difference, really! I think after using this for a while, it will become noticeably whiter. I'll post an update to let you know if I'm right or not.

After all is said and done, I think I'll keep making this scrub. I really do like it a lot. On a newer fixture I'm sure it'll do wonders. So now, the rest of the grapefruit will be a challenge to use up. The fruit that I peeled for this scrub was made into a pitcher of juice/tea mix. You boil a cup or two of water and shut it off, add 4-5 tea bags and let it steep for a good half hour, pour it into a 1/2 gallon pitcher, add enough water to fill the pitcher halfway, then fill it the rest of the way with a complimentary juice and sweeten to taste. Serve it on ice. This grapefruit juice was mixed with Acai berry green tea and was as good as it sounds. Yum.

So of course, the rest of the fruit we picked can be turned into a marmalade. I know, I know. I'll get to it. 馃檪

Our Own Olive Oil And The Cost Breakdown

Our area is loaded with olive trees. We have a tree on our property too. Just recently, I bought a 33.8 oz bottle of extra virgin olive oil (off-brand) at the grocery store. It cost over $8.00. The more expensive brands were closer to $14.00. Do you see where I'm headed here folks? It's time to try to make our own!

We set up a grinding and pressing station in the empty bedroom of the house. Here's how:

The sink and counter came from Home Depot. (Makes me sad that we didn't have either on hand, especially since the hubby's profession has him tearing these things out all the time. Oh well.) Together they cost a bit over $100.00 and the time spent setting it up took about an hour, plus, the hubby always spends at least an hour in Home Depot regardless of what he went there for! (I'll have totals for ya at the end.)

The grinder we chose is their top-of-the-line, under-the-sink garbage disposal that can rip anything to shreds. It works wonders and though it was a whopping $300.00, it was a really good investment that will last us a very long time. But it doesn't come with a cord... if you don't have an extra one on hand, you'll have to buy it and wire it in. Another $8.00 and 10 minutes gone.

The press was about $120.00 from Harbor Freight and very easy to put together. (But the hubby is kicking himself because he thinks he could have made a better one for less. Oh well again.) It took about a half hour or so. With just these two things... oil is born.

It took us about an hour and a half to pick a full bucket. In "experienced olive picker" laborer time that would probably be more like 30 minutes. If you have an entire grove to pick you'll most likely want to hire help to do it, and that cost is unknown. (I'm sure that if you have to factor labor in, the deficit bulges out by a lot!) When you harvest the olives, immediately wash them and plan to grind them the same day, or up to a few days later. Don't wait much longer than that since they can begin to rot, and/or the flavor of the oil you produce will be compromised. What a waste that would be!

Our olive tree was busting out with olives but we waited too long. This is the last good one. Olives can be darker green to black* and anything in between... but when they get old and shrivel this much, you'll have oil that quite possibly could be rancid. So move quickly. We ended up taking the ladder to a public area/street corner where there are five olive trees just busting at the seams with fat, ripe olives. They were all over the roadside and nobody cared at all. So we picked our hearts out and trucked home to cold press** them. But I hesitate to add the time it took us to get there and back simply because this is a one-time deal. We'll be using our own olives from here on out.

We laid down a big block of wood to make sure the plastic bin would have a flat surface to sit on.

We used a painters' straining bag to add the mash to and then wrapped it with cheese cloth. Minimal cost, stuff we already had (including the buckets) and so I won't add them in this time.

A block of wood was used to press the mash, so to keep it sanitary, it had to be wrapped in something. I thought that plastic wrap would be a good idea however, it tends to make things slide around (because of the oil) and the bag of mash can end up to one side causing breakage. (Two mishaps and we learned to re-align it when that happens.) If we figure out a better way, I'll post it here.

Update: Just received a tip that blew my mind! Glue a plastic cutting board to the wooden block for pressing. It'll be easy to clean and it won't slide around. Done!!


Down the shoot went the olives. The mash immediately begins to smell like olive oil. (But it doesn't look like it at all!) This step takes no time at all, and before you know it, 1/3 of the bucket becomes about a 1/2 gallon of mash.

The next step was a complete surprise to me. I don't know the exact term for it but it seems you have to reverse emulsion (?) by stirring the mash for at least a half hour to 45 minutes. Afterwards, you'll see pools of oil along the sides which means it's ready for pressing. Don't skip this step... the press won't work otherwise.

Wrap up the mash and top it with the block of wood and get 'er under the press. (see update below)

The hubby cut a hole in the side of the bin to let the oil drain out. It just drops into a jar below. The liquid is a mixture of oil, water and bits of pulp. It is not the most pleasant sight. After several trial runs (and a few blow outs as mentioned above) we decided that small batches like this one is the only way to go. And PRESS VERY SLOWLY. Give the bag a nice tight squeeze to start, then wait a minute or two in between pumps. The entire bucket took the two of us (being the novices that we are) around four hours to press. The hubby's wheels are already turning on how to speed things up.

What you end up with is a liquid that will quickly separate; leaving the oil on top! We let it sit for another hour to make sure it separated completely.

I used a turkey baster to drain off the oil and get it ready to be filtered. The consensus from other homesteaders on the web says to use coffee filters, but we don't have any right now. So I filtered it through a thick fold of cheesecloth... twice. That was about another 1/2 hour all together. Maybe.

Oh baby! Is this a proud moment or what? One bucket gave us just over two (16 oz) bottles*** of oil. Hey, that's what I just bought at the grocery store! So let's break it down and see if it will be worth it after time:

  1. Set up cost to make olive oil at home - Just under $540.00.
  2. Continued cost after set up - Minimal. Maybe enough to replace the cheesecloth from time to time.
  3. The time it takes to make 32 oz - 10 hours with setup, up to 7 hours without.

As stated above, the price for olive oil at the grocery store is anywhere between $8.00-14.00 (plus gas to get there and the added temptation to buy more stuff). We figure it'll pay for itself after doing it 50 times (using averages). And then it's savings time! Is the time it takes to make homemade olive oil worth it? Yeah, you know it is. We gave up the better part of the weekend which doesn't phase us homesteaders one bit. Not to mention the process is healthier and cleaner. Here's why:

  1. It's organic.
  2. Because it is made with very ripe olives, is less filtered and is pressed less than commercial oil, it has a distinct "buttery" flavor. Commercial oil is overly processed so it ends up clear (mostly necessary for a longer shelf life). Olive oil connoisseurs from around the world would agree that unfiltered and less processed oil just tastes better. (see this article - Cloudy Olive Oil)
  3. Commercial processing sometimes can't remove every foreign object like twigs and leaves that make it through. Ew. (What else could be in there?)

*Tip: Green olives will make a slightly more bitter oil. Dark purple or black olives will go rancid faster. For the best results, pick them at their peak somewhere in between.

**Info: We plan to try another method using dehydrated olives and a little expeller I found online. Should be interesting!

***Info: These bottles cost $3.00 each at World Market. I probably should have used a mason jar... I know, I know.

Update: A wonderful and experienced olive oil maker gave us the most brilliant tip - stack thin layers of mash instead of adding it all to one bag. DUH!!! The hubby and I just about flipped out at this, are scrambling to try it out, and will post updated pics asap. Thanks a bunch to all the awesome bloggers and fellow homesteaders for your lovely emails! You make our world go round!

Update: Another fab and equally experienced olive oil maker (who is now making a gallon of oil a week) emailed us these mind-blowing tips - Mix (called malaxation) for longer periods of time on very slow speeds; Press when it's warmer... if pressing outside, do it during the warmest part of the day; Pay attention to the olive types because different olives yield different amounts of oil. Great tips, thanks a billion!


Sicha Basadeh (video)
New! Martha Stewart interviews a Northern California Family (video)

Watch the episode *FAT* from the Netflix series "Salt Fat Acid Heat". It opens with a great visual of an olive farmer making oil.

Greenies Like Us: The Lemony Triple Threat

I first wanted the title of this post to be "Lemons: A Triple Treat" but for some reason I hit the 'h' key and typed 'threat' instead. Well, I decided it was quite appropriate and I immediately knew it should be part of the 'Greenies' section. Lemons have had big businesses so scared for decades that they actually claim to add it to certain products just so you'll keep buying it. These little yellow guys are so versatile and do so much it ain't even funny.

So just what can they do? Take a look at what we did with our last bucket of lemons.

First, the hubby juiced them. All of them. 2 cups of the juice made a gallon of lemonade. The remaining lemon juice filled up two 1/2 gallon mason jars for future lemonade or to use for cooking. It's so much better than "ReaLemon Lemon Juice" and at no cost if you have access to a lemon tree or if you're into gleaning like we are. Nice.

Next, I tossed the skins into a stock pot and covered them with water. The goal? Homemade pectin. I cooked them for about 15 minutes (once it started to boil).

I didn't worry about doubling up on cheesecloth since you don't really have to strain the pectin. I just did it because I felt like it.

The color is amazing and it makes the house smell wonderful. Stick this in the fridge if you plan to use it right away, or freeze it for future canning.

Finally, I put the lemon skins back in for a second round of boiling. Yep, I like to get every bit of goodness out of them! I boiled them for another 15 minutes.

The one thing I did different is to strain the liquid well since it needs to be pulp-free. Why? We're using this lemony goodness for cleaning, and it will go into several spray bottles for the many different ways I use it. FAB!

This scrumptious liquid is actually a bit oily since it was cooked for so long; it allowed the oils in the rinds to be released. Perfect for all your cleaning needs, especially for the following:


Mix 1 part lemon (cleaning) juice to 1-2 parts olive or vegetable oil. Mix well and use as you would a regular furniture polish. According to other DIYers, you should spray it onto a cloth first, then your furniture, and then wipe the furniture again with a clean cloth.

Kitchen and bathroom sinks

Mix (a tablespoon at a time) into a 1/2 cup salt to make a thick, scrubbing cleaner for the kitchen and bathroom sinks. For tough stains, sprinkle baking soda over the area and drizzle the juice right on top of it. Let it do its bubbling action for one minute and wipe clean. This works really great on faucets too.


Equal amounts of water and juice make a great cleaner for many types of surfaces. Add to a spray bottle and give it a shake. Works well on shower doors, counter tops and cutting boards. Spray the inside of your microwave and heat for 30 seconds. It'll wipe clean.

Remove stains

Use the juice to take stains out of plastic containers. Mix 1/2 cup with 1 gallon of hot water and soak your stained laundry just prior to washing it. (no silks or delicates) Or to naturally bleach your laundry add 1/2 cup to the rinse cycle and hang clothes out to air dry. (no silks or delicates)

As a stand-alone

Add 1 cup to the toilet bowl and swish (good for the daily cleaning schedule). Use the juice to perk up grout - scrubbing it with a toothbrush.

Banish bugs

Spray wherever ants are getting in and they will stay away.


Drizzle 1 cup down your drain to get rid of odors. Wait an hour then rinse with hot water.


Highlight your hair by wetting your hair with the juice and sitting out in the sun for an hour. Also use it to remove smells from your hands after handling stinky foods like fish and onions.

Tip: A great place to buy your spray bottles is here. They want to sell to you, but only once. What they really want is for everyone to learn to use chemical-free cleaning solutions for the environment. These cool bottles come with recipes printed on the side that use everyday household ingredients. Way cool!

Greenies Like Us: Homemade Aphid Buster

And now for the original homesteader himself, the one, the only, Jerry Baker!

Is there anyone out there that doesn't love his books? I mean, come on. The books are loaded with concoctions that you make with items you already have in your home. It keeps your garden pesticide-free and doesn't cost a bundle. Now that's what I like to hear! So why bring up Jerry Baker? This:

My tomatoes were first being nibbled on by tomato hornworms which I just handpicked (made a nice little treat for the chickens) but now this... aphids. And so late in the season too. Before I knew it, I had a real problem on my hands. The tomatoes were just starting to grow to size and ripen which was a real triumph since the plant survived an enemy attack early on. So I had to try my best to help it survive this one too.

It was clear something was sucking the life right out of it. A few worm holes here and there are one thing, but this had me throwing my arms up and acting a fool. (Wonder what the neighbors were thinking?) And I kicked myself because I should have planted garlic and marigolds right from the beginning. Garlic is especially wonderful for deterring a long list of bad bugs. Too bad.

So to fix the problem, I remembered the fab books above and a few things friends told me from long ago. I didn't have to drive to the hardware store, I didn't have to spend any money, I didn't have to look under the kitchen sink. I simply grabbed the less-than-perfect, past-their-prime peppers, onions and garlic and brewed up a smelly bug buster spray. It's partly based on Jerry Baker's concoctions, partly based on what I've heard from other gardeners in the past, and partly based on what I know will work. And it does! Here's the recipe:

Dee Dee's Aphid Buster

4-5 large garlic cloves (or double that for smaller cloves), smashed
1-2 small hot peppers (seeds and all), cut open
about 1/4 of a small onion (separate the layers)
1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid

Smashing the garlic with the flat side of a knife and a quick slice to open the peppers is all you have to do - no chopping. You just want to help infuse the water. Put the garlic, peppers and onion into a pint-sized mason jar and fill it with water. Let it steep overnight. (Letting it steep two nights is even better.) Stir it once or twice. The next day, strain it and add the dishwashing liquid.

Tip: Save (used) cheesecloth or use a coffee filter on a mason jar for a quick and easy way to filter the water.

Pull a sprayer out of the recycle and fill 'er up. Look out now! You're armed and dangerous so go out and let them aphids have it! (Sorry, bad imitation of Jerry.) This will spot-treat one large or two small tomato plants. Treat the plant every other day until you think you've licked 'em. (It shouldn't take more than a week.) The plant should be just fine but watch it carefully just in case it's too weak to handle aphids and the buster. Add more water to the mix if so.

The plant looks like it's bouncing back. It has a few leaves that turned dark (due to the peppers) but the overall health of the plant is up. You'll be surprised at how well this works. I see a few spots where the aphids were able to hide from me, but they can't hide forever. Yep, they'll get busted all right!

Greenies Like Us: No Mo’ Foil

As you know, I have really struggled with the next issue at hand. Giving up foil and plastic wrap. They are so convenient that I must confess I haven't yet made the switch to being completely off the stuff. I already know that plastic wrap is bad for your health and the environment. (Made from PVC, does not break down in landfills, leaches toxins into your food, etc.) So you'd think I would at least be off that. The only step I've made so far is to not use plastic containers in the microwave and switch over to (mostly) using glass storage containers in the fridge. I still have two rolls of the stuff and use it when I'm in a hurry or because I have yet to buy enough containers for all our needs. As far as foil goes, I didn't know much about it so I did some research to help me make a decision, once and for all, about getting rid of both vices. So what did I find? A lot! Oh my, if this doesn't do it, nothing will. See for yourself:

Foil facts - Did you know that minuscule amounts of aluminum collects in our brains and in a worst case scenario (aka, a lot of aluminum in the brain) it can cause seizures and reduced mental alertness? The aluminum count is even higher still in Alzheimer鈥檚 patients. Wow. Osteoporosis, colic, rickets, gastrointestinal problems, interference with the metabolism of calcium, extreme nervousness, anemia, headaches, decreased liver and kidney function, memory loss, speech problems, softening of the bones, and aching muscles can all be caused by aluminum toxicity. Seriously.

Now, aluminum isn't necessarily evil... it's found naturally in our air, water and soil. The problem is that we overload our bodies with it due to the way we live. We use it for cooking and storing food. And it doesn't end there. It is found in many over-the-counter pain killers, anti-inflammatory products, antacids and douche products. I'm not kidding. (I can hear the thud from y'all falling off your chairs.) Aluminum is also an additive in most baking powders, is used in food processing, and is present in antiperspirants, toothpaste, dental amalgams, bleached flour, grated cheese, table salt, and beer, (especially when the beer is in aluminum cans). The biggest source of aluminum, however, comes from our municipal water supplies. Gosh. Enough is enough already. Is there anything out there that is safe for us poor souls?

Yep. But you have to change the way you live. And we all knew that right? So I will take the steps necessary to protecting my family as much as one little soul can do alone. Finding safe alternatives to the list items above is easy enough. Some seem costly, but worth it. The hard part will be, you guessed it, replacing foil. (Did I mention how convenient the stuff is?) So here's what I'll do:

I'll buy a few more baking dishes: Pyrex or other glass, stainless steel, stoneware and/or ceramic. I might get a dutch oven to see if I like it or not. I heard that silicone mats have many uses so I'll try that too. I know there are many choices out there, all with lids and of all sizes. A quality roasting pan, for instance, usually comes with a lid that will cover large meats like a turkey. No need for foil here!

When we barbecue veggies or shrimp, I'll test out using a cookie sheet on the grill instead of lining it with foil, and let you know how it works. (I saw this suggestion on a message board - sounds good enough.) I've also seen BBQ tools for grilling - a stainless steel fish and vegetable basket comes to mind.

And of course, I will have to get more containers for all our needs. I already have a drawer full, but I can see that I need more. The containers above have plastic lids, which is okay for refrigerator use, but not for the microwave. Live and learn. And maybe a few silicone splatter guards for the microwave. Yeah, now I'm thinking. And, duh! I have two covered cake plates and a cookie jar that will store anything - not just cakes and cookies. Boy, I'm on a roll. It shouldn't be hard at all.

Well, you should stay tuned. In the mean time, here are a few tips for aluminum poisoning prevention:

  1. Eat foods that are high in fiber. Just flush it right out.
  2. Reading the labels is not just for food - if the product contains aluminum or dihydroxyaluminum, then don't walk - run away from it.
  3. You can ask your doctor about doing a hair analysis to determine how much aluminum is in your body. Until you get the test results back, stay clear of any nuclear reactors.
  4. If all you have is aluminum pots to cook with, just know that it is a bit safer than using straight foil. For now. But the longer you keep them and the more they corrode, the more they leach aluminum directly into the food as it cooks. Acid dissolves aluminum which forms as a salt on the pans. Got salt? Scrub the pans very well prior to use. Try to avoid cooking high acid foods in them like rhubarb, sauerkraut, cheese, meat, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, turnips, spinach and radishes. Keep wine, coffee, black and green tea out of aluminum containers. Skip going to the movie theater just 10 times and you'll have enough money for a new set of pots!

So, should we all take the pledge? Invest in a lifestyle change once and it benefits you forever. Done!

Research, Research, Research

We have lost our minds. There is not one day that goes by that my husband and I aren't researching something concerning homesteading. He is on the fuel research warpath and trying to gather up some of the things we'll need for running the farm. I am busy taking care of business (literally) and gearing up for gardening this summer (with my sis) and planning the homestead layout. All we need now it to sell our home and get outta here!

Here is a list of who's doing what:


路 Researching bio diesel production
路 Researching which vehicles run best on bio diesel
路 Researching which generators run best on bio diesel
路 Researching rocket mass heating
路 Researching solar and steam production as forms of energy
路 Seeking out abandoned propane, feed storage and cyclone tanks
路 Making a list of restaurants that throw out old cooking oil
路 Learning about soap making with the glycerin byproduct
路 Learning about composting with the glycerin byproduct

Dee Dee

路 Researching which animals are best for us to raise
路 Researching which foods are best for us to grow
路 Researching how to earn income with what we raise and grow
路 Cataloging all our personal belongings
路 Cataloging all leftover building materials
路 Designing/planning the property layout (buildings, fencing, driveways)
路 Rough-drafting plans for our home
路 Learning new ways to live in a sustainable way
路 Beginning a "practice year" of gardening, in anticipation of when the real farming starts!

The problem is that nothing else matters right now. We still have the 'to do' list for the house from months ago, bills to consolidate, and we haven't been out to lunch together in ages. Sure, the hubby has to go to work. And yes, I have to clean the house, cook and what not. But it really seems as if our lives are completely on hold until we sell this house and turn our research into real action. Thanks to my sister (who rented a garden plot that I can help her with) I now have something else to focus on. And my other sister has suggested we take another all-girl trip in the RV again, which has me thinking about things OTHER than the homestead. Good. Now I feel myself coming back down to earth. Okay so, garden plot, garden plot, garden plot. Big Momma, Big Momma, Big Momma. Nope. I still can't take my mind off building the homestead. So the research continues...

Big Momma, by the way, is my RV. She is a real good girl and is very easy for me to drive and I can take a quickie vacation alone if necessary. (And sometimes it is necessary!) We bought her after toying with the idea of renting an RV for a trip to Washington many years ago. The hubby didn't like the huge "rent me" ads and the fees had him running out the door. So he suggested buying one. I thought it would be a huge mistake because how often do you really use an RV and would the cost be worth it in the end? It reminds me of time shares - money down the drain in my eyes.

So here's the deal: We would have to take several trips in her every year for the rest of our lives just to break even on how much we paid for her. (We kinda got ripped-off. Car dealers!) We had to buy a small apartment's worth of kitchen and bathroom supplies just to take our first trip in her, when we could have taken a traditional camping trip for just the cost of food. (We already have tents, sleeping bags and everything else you could need for camping.) And we have to find RV-specific campgrounds and hope they have all the hookups or we may as well just boondock, in which tent-camping is more fun anyway. So what do I say to that? Well, I say so what... I love her! I love Big Momma. (A name I immediately gave to her the moment I sat behind the wheel.) She provides a home away from home - not just the necessities, but the feeling of a home. And since we lived in her while building our house, we feel like it really was money well spent. Here she is on a (necessary) trip I took for the weekend:

I got it! I'll grab a bag of food and we can take Big Momma on a quick trip for the weekend. We'll be in a different place and maybe that will be just what we need to realize there is more to life than our future homestead. Ah, I'm just kidding. Now where's my reading glasses and Kindle? We gotta convert this girl to *biofuel.

With all the research being done for our new life, we can't forget about the good things we did here. Here is a list of things we intend to do again. They are such great ideas that if you can do it, you really should.

The hubby goes green

Radiant heat: His do-it-yourself, radiant floor system is one of a kind and anyone can do it and save a bundle of money. And he has many other terrific ideas just waiting to come out. In fact, I convinced the hubby to write an ebook with me to detail how to do it and share the knowledge. If we can ever get to it...

Cooler thingy: The hubby's whole-house cooling system is based on filling a tank with water and burying it under ground to stay cold all year, and then simply "drawing" in the cool air it creates... FAB.

Insulated windows: We joined Direct Buy for a while and actually saved tons on the kitchen cabinets, the exterior brick siding and all the windows. The window discount was comparable to a contractors' discount which is great for the average family remodeling on their own. We were able to get top-of-the-line, Hurd casement windows with screens (aluminum clad wood, double-paned, glazed/insulated) that just aren't available at your local home improvement store. Thanks to the splurge (they were a bit costly) the house stayed cool in the summer and warm in the winter, which saved us money in the end. (We went from a $500/month electric-gas bill in our previous home to a $200/month electric-propane bill instantly! Awesome!) Joining a program like the one at Direct Buy isn't for everyone though. When doing a small project, you should save the money it takes to sign up. It'll be more headaches than what it's worth and the savings really only come with big purchases.

Reclaimed wood: The hubby stored all the fallen and cut trees from the property and wants to buy a small saw mill (if one ever comes up on Craig's List) to make our flooring for the new house. I liked this idea ever since I came across a company that sold only "reclaimed wood" and "fallen tree" flooring. They make you wait for it (up to two months before they find something and mill it for you) and that makes them as green as you can get in this day and age. What a wonderful idea.

Optimum air-flow house design: When we learned that we had to go up since we couldn't get a bigger footprint on the hillside, the hubby knew he wanted to place the windows in such a way that the air would "flow" through the house with ease. This set of skylights along with another set upstairs were instrumental in filling the house each morning with fresh air. If it was summertime and the weather forecast was hot, the windows were opened at the crack of dawn and then closed back up to trap the coolness in. Though we installed a cooling system, we rarely used it due to the way we used the air-flow system. Pretty cool.

Fab insulation: And finally, if you can, splurge on the insulation. If this is the only place you can splurge then do it. We went with spray-foam insulation and had to pat ourselves on the back. Even with all of the above, the house would not be as efficient without the foam. Heating and cooling a house of this size would be a small fortune in this part of California - everything just costs a lot more - and so it's worth it to save up the duckets. All of it just works so well together, we're quite happy with it.

I am green

Solar lights: Natural light was a must for me. Especially since I learned that mold cannot grow in it. So we installed these lights into the master closet, the laundry room and both showers in the upstairs bathrooms. They are very cheap and super easy to install. We use less electricity and things just look better in natural light, you know?

No VOC paint: Since I am affected by many things (hay, mold, paint and thinners, etc) I knew I had to think about alternative finishes that wouldn't taint the indoor air quality. Enter no VOC's. This stands for volatile organic compounds and paint is one of those things that knocks me off my feet every time. The good news is that just about every brand out there now has a line of no VOC paint and it should be easy enough to find. Here's to being able to breathe!

Bamboo flooring: The radiant heat system the hubby installed called for a floating floor. We could have gone to the local Lowes or Home Depot and found something that would do, but you know me, it just wasn't right. As a matter of fact, each board I picked up smelled funny to me, and I could imagine my home being filled with it. Ew. Turns out that the glues they use to hold the bamboo strips together are extremely toxic (and smelly). I then found a company that distributes a bamboo product that uses non-toxic glue and so we purchased our first floating floor. And it is a very well-made floor that will last 10 times longer than the other stuff. And it's a renewable resource of course. Score.

I wondered what "green" really meant and whether I should use the term or not. As I understand it, people are steering away from the word since EVERYONE is using it now whether it's true or not. But I still kinda like it. It's so nature-like and sounds nice. I am calling the things above green because an efficient home that is less toxic deserves to be called a really nice word.

Resources for research

The Homesteading Handbook: A Back to Basics Guide... (Abigail R. Gehring,
Getting Started Making Biodiesel: Utah Biodiesel Supply (
Quicken Home and Business, Turbo Tax and Quickbooks Pro (
Business Plan Pro (
The Farmer Fred Rant (
Journey to Forever (
Harvest to Table (
Lotsa blogs and more: Good Neighbors

See also: 45 Ways To Coexist

*I since found out that because the RV doesn't have a diesel engine, she can't be converted. So sad. Do we give her up for something "eco-friendly"? Oh, say it ain't so. Big Momma and I have been through a lot together. Will you forgive me for keeping her? Pleeeeease?

Greenies Like Us: Pam Schmam

Trick question: What do you get when聽you take 2/3 cup mystery oil, add alcohol and lecithin (additional carbs to calculate if you happen to be dieting), stick it in a non-reusable can full of propellant (gas used for spraying) and pay $3.50 for it? Answer: Pam cooking spray.

Here's another question for you: What do you get when you take a reusable canister with a built-in pump and fill it half full with the cooking oil of your choice? Answer: The smartest thing you've ever done!

This one is a no-brainer... pay a high price for practically nothing AND add to the landfill or use a do-it-yourself method that is better for you and the environment? Oh yeah, that's an easy decision. I did a bit of research on to see which dispenser was worth the shipping (because shipping it would add to my carbon footprint and all) and immediately tried the Misto sprayer. Though it only holds a small amount of oil or vinegar, it seems to be the one that works the best. So if you're like me and you like a mist of oil every once in a while, then here's a tip: Buy several to suit your needs - one for keeping olive oil, one for canola oil, one for an oil/vinegar blend, etc. So far (about a year now) I've had no problems with the pump on the Misto brand at all. And here's a tip from a buyer on slightly unscrew the cap (relieving the pressure) in between uses. This prevents the Misto from clogging up. Clean it once it's emptied and let it dry (thoroughly).

Tip: Use labels like these for the different uses.

Greenies Like Us: No Mo’ Paper Towels

We decided a while ago to stop thinking about how to go green and start doing green things. And just this year (early 2011) I switched all of us from using paper towels to cloth towels. It wasn't hard at all, and we don't even miss using paper towels! But first, I had to learn a few things about how we live.

For instance - we use way more napkins than I realized, mainly because we eat just about all of our meals at home. And concerning food, I needed a separate (not so fancy) set of napkins for things like: covering a basket of hot rolls, absorbing the grease from bacon or other fatty foods, etc. Every family is different and so how you live will determine what you buy. It's all very personal. Tip: Buy DARK napkins and you won't worry so much about greasy spots. Pre-soak greasy napkins (see below) before doing the laundry and you're good to go. Use the white linen for guests only!

I needed three kinds of cleaning towels; one for cleaning dishes, one for general cleaning + spills in the kitchen and one for cleaning the rest of the house. You should keep these separate since it's kinda nasty to use bathroom cloths in your kitchen, or kitchen cloths on your windows, etc... know what I mean?

Though it took me about 3 months into it, I finally figured out that soaking the really dirty ones in 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 bucket of warm water before doing laundry took out the bad smells. Whew! Tip: Keep an old tote under the kitchen sink to easily carry laundry to and fro. Also, your baking soda will do double-duty if you soak the laundry in your bathroom or kitchen sink; it will freshen the drain as it goes down.

Next, I bought two kinds of drying towels: one for hands and dishes and one for mirrors and windows. I suppose there may be other needs for dry towels but this is all I need for now. (You think I should iron the towels? What would Martha do?) Tip: The absolute best towels for drying are good old-fashioned flour sack towels. They are FAB for drying without leaving little bits of lint behind. The striped restaurant towels ain't bad either...

Once I was able to collect all I needed, the savings began. Just a few months later and I've already saved us a ton of money. Yes, an advertisement for a case of Brawny at $16.99 sounds terrific. But you know what? That's money I won't ever spend again! I have no idea how many paper towels we went through in the past but it must have been a lot because we use the cloth replacements all the time. Seriously. In looking back I am ashamed of the wastefulness. Half of what we used could not be recycled so in the garbage can it went. Not even worth it. So save a tree and make the switch! You can find the cheapest cloth towels and napkins online at restaurant supply stores or


Update, 10/12:

Since leaving the above house and moving to our new property, we've had to stay in the RV since the new house is such a mess. And sad to say, I went back to using paper towels for the last couple of months. It started with me finding a roll stored in the RV cabinet, the fact that the nearest laundromat is 3 miles outside of our little town, and the list of excuses I told myself (it's such a small space, I really need to cut down on all this laundry...).

We have since painted and carpeted the office in the house and moved some stuff in. But the real exhale is in the fact that I can store and use all the laundry I need to, only having to go to the laundromat once a week now. Whew! Please forgive me and accept my apology for being weak and taking such a huge step backwards. We all feel a lot better now!

45 Ways To Coexist

45 things you can do to coexist with the planet and your neighbors. Plus informative news links below. In the end, you improve your family's health, your home and garden is clean and your conscience is clear. You can't beat that!

Build Green

Just The Facts

Buildings contribute a huge percentage to the health and environmental problems we face today. Despite all the insentive programs, we are not constructing healthy buildings. More than 30% of buildings in the US have poor indoor air quality, a serious problem given that most people spend about 90% of their time indoors.

Typical building construction, use, and demolition, as well as the manufacturing of building materials, contribute significantly to environmental problems. In the United States, buildings account for:

36% of total energy use
65% of electricity consumption
30% of greenhouse gas emissions
30% of raw materials use
30% of waste output (equal to 136 million tons annually)
12% of potable water consumption

A typical 1700 sq. ft wood frame home requires the equivalent of clear-cutting one acre of forest.


What You Can Do

  1. Use salvaged materials
  2. Consider going solar
  3. If possible, put in a well
  4. Consider using wood heat
  5. Buy energy-efficient appliances
  6. Use products that do not off-gas
  7. Install a rainwater system
  8. Install a graywater system
  9. Limit landscaping; go natural
  10. Use the sunlight for heating
  11. Buy energy-efficient light bulbs
  12. Calculate your carbon footprint - click here
  13. Install a passive-cooling system
  14. Invest in good insulation (foam, cellulose)
  15. Seal the home well


Live Green

Do a handful, or go for it and do them all. Every bit counts!

  1. Start a garden
  2. Raise chickens
  3. Use a clothesline once a week or more
  4. Cook more
  5. Can, freeze and dehydrate your food
  6. Use natural remedies for ailments
  7. Create your own homemade cleaners
  8. Create your own personal care products
  9. Take lunch to work
  10. Learn to live on less
  11. Carpool, bike ride or walk
  12. Convert a car to veggie oil
  13. Learn to sew
  14. Recycle and reuse whatever you can
  15. Avoid the doctor: eat right and exercise
  16. Skip a flight; go camping
  17. Press your own oils
  18. Make your own cheeses
  19. Bake your own bread


Shop Green

The money you spend on gas driving to a farm to buy beef, chicken, pork, honey, fruit and vegetables, and more, will still be considerably less than the amount of diesel a big rig will use to drive these items across the country.

  1. Know where your local restaurant shops for ingredients
  2. Shop for produce at the nearest farmers market
  3. Trade your goods for the neighbors' goods
  4. Start a neighborhood CSA
  5. Find nearby farmers for meats, honey and milk
  6. Shop the 'mom and pop' stores
  7. Shop the thrift stores
  8. Have a clothing exchange party
  9. Shop garage sales
  10. Put the breaks on a big rig - buy in season
  11. Use Craig's List service - across county beats across country


Links: Local and Eco-Friendly

Links: Health

Links: Magazines/Books/News

See all links here: Good Neighbors.

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