Pioneer Tips: tea, cheese and more

More tips from the pioneer people book (edited):

The first tender leaves of the ordinary currant-bush, gather as soon as they grow, and dried on tin, can taste the same as green tea. (No info as to whether it has the same antioxidant benefit).

Do you make your own cheese? Have too much? Cover them carefully with paper (assuming butcher paper, but not sure), and fasten with flour-paste (white wheat flour mixed with water and sometimes salt). This will keep out air and probably pests. Keep in a dry cool place, for possibly a year or two, or maybe more.

Save your bottles instead of recycling them. Then, when you go to make wine or beer or cider or vinegar, you'll have a good supply of them.

Do not wrap your steel flatware, knives or utensils in wool. Wrap them in good strong paper. Steel degrades when exposed to wool for a long period of time.

Keeping lard is easy: place it in a dry cool place. Pack in tin rather than earthen. (Wonder how plastic fares?!?)

Pack your butter in a clean scalded firkin (a fourth of a size of a barrell), cover it with strong brine, and spread a good cloth over the top. If you have a little bit of salt-peter, dissolve it with the brine.

That's it for now. I have to stop these tips for a while. I'll try to get to them in the next few weeks. Try! Pg14

Pioneer Tips: Cleaning

More tips from the book of pioneer people (edited):

If you wish to preserve healthy teeth, clean thoroughly after your last meal or snack of the day.

Never throw away rags just because they look dirty. Mop-rags, lamp-rags and all can be completely washed (use the last of dirty soapy water), then dry and place in a rag-bag. (Yes, it's time to bring back the rag-bag!). If rags are beyond repair or hope, scrape them into lint and use to make felt, or old-fashioned poultices.

If a favorite stark-white item becomes dingy, take it apart and thoroughly clean it. While it is still damp, wash it 2 or 3 times in strong and strained saffron tea (to stain it). You could also use marigold leaves or yellow onion peel to make a "dye". Repeat the applications until the item is the desired color. Put it back together, press it on the wrong side with a warm iron, and there you have it!

Moths will attack your woolens without hesitation. Anything with a very strong spicy smell can keep them away. Just brush out the clothing, pack them in a dark place covered with linen. Sprinkle around pepper, red-cedar chips, tobacco, and even cotton balls with camphor.

more another time!

Possible change to blog

I asked this yesterday at but asking here too ... Keeping up with these blogs is very time consuming ... not that I mind, usually! We're getting ready to embark on an intensive homesteading adventure, and may not be able to work on blogs daily.

So... I'm thinking about combining our blogs (cooking, gardening, homesteading, survival, storage, homeschooling, etc.) into one. I would eventually move posts to the new and combined blog.

We have a lot of readers, and I value your opinion. Thoughts?

Pioneer Tips: Bugs and Cleaning

More tips from my pioneer people book (edited):

Cockroaches and most vermin have an aversion to spirits of turpentine. Use it to take out spots of paint and to clean.

If vermin are in your walls, fill up the cracks with verdigris-green-paint. (The following is from wikipedia: Verdigris is the common name for the green coating or patina formed when copper, brass or bronze is weathered and exposed to air or seawater over a period of time. It is usually a basic copper carbonate, but near the sea will be a basic copper chloride. If acetic acid is present at the time of weathering, it may consist of copper(II) acetate.)

The more often your shake rugs and carpet, the longer they wear. When dirt collects in them, it wears down the thread.

Don't clean brass with vinegar. It makes them very clean at first but soon they will spot and tarnish. Use instead flannel and rum (!) or oil.

Never clean marble fireplaces with soap as this will destroy polish over time. Dust, or take spots off with an oiled cloth, then gently rub with a soft rag.

Feathers should be completely dried before using. After plucking, place immediately (lightly!) in baskets, then stir often. Keep them free from dirt and moisture. Place a light cheesecloth-type cloth over the top to keep them from being blown away. From time to time, dry in an oven (after it's been turned off from baking) to stand for several hours.

When you have a feather bed, change out the feathers regularly (at least once a year, during Spring Cleaning). Empty out the "tick" or mattress. Wash the feathers completely in a tub of suds. Spread out to dry thoroughly. That should make them as good as new.

Rum (especially "New England Rum") can be used to wash hair. It will keep it very clean and free from disease, and supposedly will help it grow in healthy. Brandy strengthens the roots of hair but has a hot drying tendency. (Hmmm... good for people with oily hair, huh?).

more another time!

Pioneer Tips:

More from pioneer people (edited):

Check your root cellar and pantry often. Make sure your vegetables and fruits are neither decaying, spoiling or sprouting. If so, remove them to a drier place and spread them.

Examine your preserves and other canned foods. Make sure they are not contracting mold, and that your pickles are not becoming soft and tasteless.

When bread becomes too stale to eat, chop it up and let it dry. Use it (pounded) for puddings or dry bread crumbs for breading meats. With proper care, even the smallest amounts of bread can and should be used. (Recipe for using dried bread bits at

Make your own bread and cake. It is NOT cheaper to buy mixes or to buy pre-made, plus you can control the ingredients in your own home.

Pioneer Tips: Clothing and Industry

Here's more tips from Pioneer people (edited):

Children can be taught early to take good care of their clothing. When they are dirty, toss them into the laundry. If they've been worn once or even twice, and aren't dirty or smelly, hang them up on a shower rod to air out, then replace into the closet to be worn again.

Reserve the good clothes (ones that haven't been mended) for school, church, meetings, store trips, etc. Have "play clothes" for chore-time or berry picking or gardening or etc. This will help them understand value. And if they wear their play clothes to do something like picking berries to sell, that will help them understand that sometimes tearing your clothes on brambles can mean using money made from the berries to replace what's been torn.

Did that make sense?

The same section of the book mentioned that children can also learn quickly to make things for the family, the home, or to sell.... weave straw into mats (for table or floor) or hats. Pick berries or cranberries and sell or preserve them. Weed the garden and harvest dinner.

More Economic Tips from Pioneer People

From my found old-timey book of hints for the pioneer household (edited and reworded to not infringe on copyright):

If you raise grain and therefore, hay, teach all members of your family how to weave and braid it, to make their own hats and hats for other family members.

If you keep turkeys and geese, keep the feathers, cleaned, and ready to make a fan. It's easy to do. The sooner kids can be taught this valuable skill, the better for the whole family.

In this country, kids are basically free to do as they please for most of their childhood. This is not good for the purses and patience of the parents (and surrounding people), and has worse effects on the morals and habits of the children. Begin early in making everything an education. A child even as young as six can be useful to the family, and can do a little something each and every day that adds value to the family.

More tomorrow.

Hints: Economy of the Household

From my found old-timey book of hints for the pioneer household (edited and reworded to not infringe on copyright):

True economy is gathering all fragments of not just stuff but time. Never throw anything out that could be repurposed, even if that new purpose is tiny and seemingly insignificant.

Whatever the size of the family, every person in it should either help earn or save money.

Make things instead of buying them. Learn knitting and crocheting and sewing. These skills could always lead to employment.

Along this same line of thinking, patchwork pieces are a good idea if you use scraps, but a horrible idea if you tear up perfectly good items to make scraps.

Idea about our next (and last!) homestead

If we can't find the perfect house, and I'll admit we have lots of requirements, then we'll build it. We have very definite ideas about what we want to do, how we want to live, rooms for us now and for our growing family, and possibly for a mom-in-law apartment.

So... I'm asking you, dear readers, for contact information on USA federal government grants (or even state level - Colorado) for land-owners to build a passive solar home. I figure, if there are lots of bad greedy companies getting lots of government money, wouldn't it be a good idea to help the average citizen build something that is good for the environment and could create jobs. Anyone?

Also... a friend told me this weekend that when she bought her 6 acre property 25+ years ago, she could classify it as a farm because she has walnuts trees. She doesn't sell the walnuts, but still, she is classified as a farm and it reduces her income tax rate. Anyone have any info on this?

Bayberry Candle Wax Update

I was just ordering a supply of bayberry wax (as we don't have the bushes to harvest from yet!) and came across someone on e-bay selling "PURE" bayberry wax

The ad has wrong information. It says bayberry wax can't burn by itself. Really? I guess all of those colonial people did it wrong, or just imagined the flame that came from the candles they made. Silly colonial and pioneer people!

The e-bay ad also said that since bayberry wax can't burn by itself, he "thinned" it with 30% "green candle wax". First, bayberry wax is naturally a light pine green (the top pic is the pic he had on his ad - obviously not green, even with his addition of "green candle wax" ... ... the second pic with this posting is real bayberry wax with the real natural light pine green color). Second, I've already pointed out that bayberry wax WILL burn by itself. Third, he has the wax listed as "pure" but pure is 100%, and therefore, he lied. Fourth, he said he thinned it with "green candle wax" ... uh, what kind of wax? Paraffin? Soybean? Beeswax? Stearic Acid? Geez. Again, she lied. She. He. Whatever. Mike Fleming is the seller.

Please be careful when buying candle wax. Don't trust sources who obviously don't know what they're talking about, and don't get sucked into lies. When in doubt, ask someone who makes LOTS of candles and has LOTS of experience.

I'll admit, that's not me. It's been years since I've made candles regularly, but I've kept up with info, and do my research.

We're making regular candles this weekend (from a candle-making kit using wax crystals). I'll try to remember to take pix.

Bayberry Candle Wax

Someone asked for info on how to harvest bayberries to make candle wax. (Pic of bayberry bush in Fall to the right.) Some basic info:

The berries of both American bayberry and English bog myrtle, when boiled in water, produce myrtle wax, which is composed of stearic, palmitic, myristic, and oleaic acids. This is used in making bayberry-scented soaps and bayberry candles, which are fragrant, more brittle than bees' wax candles, and are virtually smokeless. Four pounds of berries produce approximately one pound of wax. A briskly stimulating shaving cream was also made from this bayberry wax.

Updated Feb 2011: Understand the above pic is NOT bayberry, it's BARberry so I'm adding the following pic to this posting. Thanks Brighid!

The wax's modern medicinal uses were first discovered and came into use in 1722, and included the making of surgeon's soap plasters. The water that the berries were boiled in during wax extraction, when boiled down to an extract, has been used in the North Country of England and Scotland for centuries as a treatment for dysentery. Narcotic properties are also attributed to bayberry wax. Note: It can also cause miscarriages so be careful and completely research if you decide to take in bayberry.

Here are 2 good links about using bayberry for candles:

When making bayberry candles, be sure to keep the candle small, like the size of a tea-light or votive. OR dip a cotton wick in to make tapers. Making jar candles is really not a good idea, unless you have a LOT of practice! Bayberry wax can be a bit more brittle, and burns differently than most candles people are used to. Get samples of pre-made bayberry candles to get the gist.

Once we get our homestead found and bought, and us moved, we'll be planting lots of bayberry bushes. Can't wait!

Vinegar Vs Laundry Soap

I'd been thinking about alternates to laundry soap, and had started experimenting with making my own from usual products and things I can grow.

Not long ago, I decided to look into my car's trunk. It had been a while - still packed from the last time I'd moved. Big mistake. I should have emptied it a long while ago. I have a very old car, 1984, and at some point over the last year or so, the sealing around the trunk had loosened, or perhaps disintegrated. The year or so of rains and heavy snow had leaked into the trunk and ruined much of what was there. Some things had to be tossed, and some tools still have to be cleaned. I had a large bag of my clothing in it, now moldy, so decided to figure out if they were salvagable.

I did that today.

The moldy clothes went into the washer. All except for 1 that is hand clean only; that's for tomorrow. I filled the washer with cool water, and added vinegar (antiseptic, antibacterial). About a cup of vinegar. I did two cycles of it, then an extra rinse with just water.

The clothes are now hanging on our two bathroom's curtain rods, drying on hangers. They don't smell like vinegar (or soap!), but look and feel clean.

I'm learning how to make vinegar, plus I'm storing lots until I've gotten the hang of the process. Vinegar has lots of uses, both with cooking and cleaning. This is a definite skill I gotta have.

Learning How to Make Candles

When I was a kid, my mom and us girls would make candles during Christmas breaks. We'd melt the wax, add scent and color, pour into tomato paste cans, anxiously wait to unmold and trim wicks. I loved doing this project, and can't understand why I haven't gotten back to it.

I bought a kit to re-learn how last Winter. I did take it out of the box, but never did anything with it. A few months ago, I bought more supplies, including a big block of wax, some scents and colors. With our moving upheaval, I never got around to it.

This Winter, as we search for our permanent mini-farm/homestead, I WILL make candles. I'll start out with that big ole block of wax, but when we get settled on our mini-farm and get things going, I'll be harvesting bayberries and beeswax for wax, fiber from our angora bunny or from cotton plants for wicks, and natural scents and colors.

Any tips for making functional (not necessarily decorative) candles from home-grown and home-harvested products would be very much appreciated!

Dried Banana Slices Vs Bunny

I bought some dried banana slices recently to see if our Angora bunny would eat them if we were stuck indoors for a lengthy period of time (think blizzard or flu outbreak) and if we weren't able to get fresh raw veggies and fruit.

I'd been giving our bunny 1 or 2 dried slices a day. This morning, I gave her a handful. Do NOT ever do that! I'm gonna repeat that... DO NOT give a bunny more than 1 or 2 dried banana slices. Why?

Because it made her very VERY hyper! Before long, she was running circles around in her cage and panting heavily. I gave her a big bowl of water, talked calmly to her, let her out to thump and run around our home, and gave her space and time. And hay. Lots of hay.

It took about an hour (maybe a little more) before she stopped panting heavily and running around. She's calm now, but I can tell she remembers how she was feeling because of the bananas. Unfortunately, she would still eat some if I gave them to her.

We're holding back carrots, her usual evening treat, and just giving her spinach in addition to her pellets and hay. We'll return to fresh apple and banana slices tomorrow morning. I don't ever want to go through that again.

Lesson learned.

Spinning Fiber to Yarn

I'm a hopeless clutz. I am having such troubles not only harvesting the fiber from our angora rabbit, but also spinning. So I found a book at that I ordered. Just happens to be written by Maggie Casey who owns Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins in Boulder, Colorado! I talked with her this afternoon, asking her what a hopeless clutz should first do to learn to spin.

Basically, she said start with wool, because the fibers are more forgiving and angora is a little more slippery.

Second, one should try all different kinds of spinning, from the drop spindle to different spinning wheels.

When I can afford it, I think I'll take one of her classes.

Blanca Bunny intro

Did I mention we were getting a French Angora rabbit? Well, we did. Unfortunately, it was during our house-selling-and-moving upheaval time. Now that we're settling in, I think she will too.

We call her Blanca because she's pure write, a "ruby-eyed white French Angora". Blanca is Spanish for white.

She was born June 14 2009 so she was about 3 months old when we brought her home. Very scared and nervous, having never been away from other rabbits before, and not out of her crate-home very often.

Angora rabbits need a higher protein than most rabbits because the protein helps to make better fiber (fur) which will be good for spinning into yarn. We feed her "Manapro Grow" rabbit pellets and hay (just bought a year's supply, costing only $27!). She also gets ABC-S (apples, bananas, carrots, spinach), and gets a papaya tablet every other day to prevent woolblock.

I'm learning everything I can about raising Angora bunnies so that when we move to our actual homestead, we can have a small herd of them. I plan to spin the fiber into yarn, and either use the yarn to crochet or knit, or sell the yarn. It's not easy, tho. I still have a lot to learn, especially about handling her and removing her fiber (which is done WITHOUT killing her!).

BTW... I've made a test "wick" using some of her fiber, and it is definitely possible to make a candle-wick with angora fiber. It's an expensive situation but would do in a pinch if I were to run out of wicks.

p.s. I'll add a picture of the bunny when I can!

Homemade Walnut Oil

Here's how to make oil from walnuts. I haven't done it yet, because I'm still searching for a nut/seed oil extractor machine.

  • Crack the walnuts.

  • Grind the walnut meats in a standard meat grinder. Be sure to have a clean bucket or bowl underneath to catch the walnut meats after the first grinding.

  • Using a big cast iron pot, cook the walnut meat with a little bit of water. Over a fire is fine. Takes about 30 minutes, constantly stirring, with a big wooden spoon or wooden paddle.

  • Place the cooked hot walnut meat in a press.

  • Here's the tricky part - you need to set up some kind of a press, with LOTS of strength and force with gentleness. You don't actually pound the walnut meats, just press them. Have a strong tray to hold the walnut meats, and a way to drain the oil from there to a waiting jar or bucket. NOTE: I've seen car jack hydraulic systems being used but I don't think I could do that.

  • Seal and store in the fridge.

Sorry - this is the best I can come up with ... so far! I'm still searching for a nut/seed oil extractor. Anyone?

Tracking Breeding of Bunnies

Since we plan on breeding our French Angora bunnies, we need to come up with a form to track the breeding ... parentage and acquisition, when bred and to who, babies (and any kept will get their own form), illnesses, and sections for harvesting fur.. when, how much, color, and comments.

Anyone have a form they want to share? Am I missing any important info I should track?

Homemade Fabric from Homegrown Cotton?

As soon as our Angora Rabbit produces enough fiber to make angora yarn, I'll start teaching myself how to spin.

Meanwhile, we're also learning about farming cotton - not a lot but enough to make fabric. Will plant next Spring, assuming we're at our new homestead by then. Anyway, at first I thought I'd combine half cotton with half angora, but from what I understand the resulting yarn frays and never becomes soft and fun again.

So... I've been looking online to figure out how to go from a cotton boll (ball with seeds and oil, plucked from the cotton plant) to weaving a simple fabric, and am at a loss. Do you first make yarn? Thread? Can you use a drop spindle for that? Is it possible to practice with the cosmetic cotton balls purchased at the store? Is there a cheap (inexpensive) table loom to make the fabric? How many cotton plants would be needed to make a yard of fabric? Would it be more cost effective to spin the cotton into yarn for crocheting, knitting and tapestry?

Our goal is to be very self-reliant... that's why all the questions. Can anyone point me to this info?

Go With The Flow

Looks like we'll have to keep modifying our homestead plans... we hopefully close on our house the end of next week, but we have to move to a very small rental place until we find the perfect place for our homestead. Meanwhile, we are NOT disheartened!

We have indoor grow lights, and two places to grow things indoors, so we're moving the rest of our potted tomatoes there this weekend, and we'll start other plants.

We have small buckets, water catch-trays, fresh potting soil, and a trellis, so next weekend (once we're moved in), we'll be planting vining string beans, vining garden peas, and vining cucumbers. We've arranged it so they will be able to go all the way to the ceiling. Three potted and baring tomatoes will be located right beside that, and one yellow squash.

We also have a good long windowsill that faces south and gets about 4-6 hours of strong sunlight a way. There we'll have small windowboxes with carrots and greens (like lettuce and spinach) and green onions.

On a small patio we have a small greenhouse that can be open or covered, and we'll put the rest of our potting plants (tomatoes, blackberries, blueberries, etc.) out there.

We are also getting our first angora rabbit, probably this weekend. Just to get back into the groove of taking care of an animal, so only one. These can be combed regularly, and when they shed (2-4 times a year), I'll hand-card their angora wool, and teach myself to spin into yarn. I'm also going to experiment with their wool to see if it can be made into candle-wicking. We'll increase our livestock, room permitting.

See? Just because our plans changed, doesn't mean we have to give up all hope of being homesteaders. We can do it in a tiny rental place too!

Home-Based Eco-Systems

Good information/permaculture in your small front or back yard:

Homestead Change Plan Delayed; Cottonwood Tree Fuzz

The contract on our house fell through. Then we got such a low-ball offer, that we laughed. So we're still in this house on .22 acres, harvesting tomatoes and zucchini and squash and carrots and so forth, dehydrating at night what we can't eat during the day.

I did a little experiment tho. I gathered some of the cottonwood tree fuzz that flies around, and started twisting it. While I didn't dip it in wax and light it, I'm sure if that's all I had, I could make a fine candle wick from it. Just didn't have enough to make a decent-thickness wick. The nearest cottonwood tree is several blocks away. Just wondering.. has anyone else tried this?

Beehives are illegal?


Ok, here's the scoop. We think we've found a great place to buy and set up a little homestead. On this one acre up in the mountains, it's forested but we can cut down some of the trees and plant our apple and other fruit/nut trees, and make a bit of pasture land for goats, cows, etc. We can even have chickens.

It's a very foresty-area. This is a corner lot with houses within viewing distance, through the trees. Nice and cool, and very peaceful. I really like it.

The only thing is ... this county doesn't allow bees in a residential area - we'd have to request a rezoning, but for 1 acre, I doubt we could get this to happen.

We need bees. We don't expect to have a lot - just enough for wax and honey for our own personal use, but we go through about half-a-gallon of honey a month. So here's my question. Is it possible to hide a hive of bees in a little (maybe 1/4 acre) of a forest? Perhaps attached to a tree? Or closer/right up against the house? Are there beehives that look like something else? Do they HAVE to be out in the open for bees to find their way to and fro?

Er, hypothetically, of course.

Argh. Still working

We're still working to get our house ready to list. Goes on the market tomorrow, but we still have carpet cleaning to do, and some weeding, mowing and all-around cleaning.

I'm sorry I've neglected reading blogs and writing here. I promise when I can breathe again, I'll start again. Promise.


Almost Home

Found what we think is the most perfect homestead for us ... year-round stream, 2.36 acres, room for garden, 5 bdrms, 2 baths, full basement, and old log cabin on property. Secluded. Surrounded by woods. Absolutely perfect!

Our real estate agent told us today that it was under contract. Bummer. But it's a short sale so it may fall through. I believe, strongly, that if it's meant to be ours, it will be ours.

Here's hoping!

Besides, we're still 2 weeks away from putting OUR house on the market. I just can't move any faster than I am!

Ant Invasion

My Tween was supposed to be taking the recycling out to the barrel when he threw it down and ran inside.

"MOM! You gotta see this! Come out here!"

Of course, being used to his theatrics, I said, "Whatdayawant?"

"Please Mom!"

I throw on some clothes, hair still wet from shower, and trudge down to see a black mound in front of our newly installed garage door. A moving mass of black. Ants. Ugh. They were all alives, and there's no trace of whatever they were subsisting on.

Quickly I move my butt in gear, up the stairs to google "how to naturally kill ants". First, pipe tobacco. Nope, don't want to go to the store. Second, soapy water kills on contact.

I tromp back downstairs and grab a sprayer, put about 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid in there, fill with water, and screw the top back on as I walk back outside. The squirter doesn't work. Back inside, hunt for another sprayer, find one, fill it up with another tablespoon of dishwashing liquid and more water, and test it in the kitchen sink. It works.

And, it worked. Kills those suckers on contact. We used the entire bottle because there were so many. Luckily they hadn't wandered into the garage. Still have no clue what drew the 4,000,000 black ants to that one spot!

Sorry, PETA. It's the ants, or me.

Note: My source was: .. funny AND serious alternatives!

Can We Make Oil At Home?

I've been wondering how to make our own oil. I mean, I really hate buying bottles of vegetable oil, olive oil, walnut oil, etc. To I'm doing a little research on this subject, and am asking for your help.

I want to know how to make the following oils, and this is the info I have so far.

Any other oils we can make from things we can grow? Your input will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Homemade Lip Balm

My quest to make everyday items continues. I practically live in lip balm, especially in the Winter. Here's a couple of recipes I found on the web. I like the first, but it uses so many purchased ingredients. My favorite is the second.
I found this website by searching for homemade lip balms and love her directions. She does use a lot of ingredients that aren't readily available if you're working to be 100% self-sufficient - you'd have to order or purchase them from a store. There's no way I could explain her procedure better than she did, so check it out yourself:

I found this recipe and started tinkering with it. The essential oils recommended were peppermint or citrus - yuck. I like things I made for me to be rose-scented, so I substituted rose essential oil. Worked well for me. For my Tween, who hates peppermint, and Hubby who hates all lip balm, I poked a hole in 2 capsules of borage oil to add as part of the 5 teaspoons of carrier oil.
  • 3 teaspoons grated unbleached beeswax

  • 5 teaspoons carrier oil (i.e. sunflower, jojoba, calendula, even olive)

  • 5-7 drops of essential oil (lime, lemon, grapefruit, peppermint, etc.)

  • 1/2 teaspoon honey (for flavor, but I don't use this unless we have really badly chapped lips)
Gather your supplies. You need somewhat deep skillet, and a small pyrex measuring cup (to use as a double-boiler). You'll also need measuring spoons, a small grater, and pots/tubes to fill. If you go the tube route, you'll need small heat-tolerant "eye-droppers".

Place the beeswax and carrier oil in the pyrex measuring cup, and place cup in skillet. Add boiling water to the skillet (DON'T get any in the pyrex cup!). Heat on stove until wax is melted and stir constantly to combine with the oil. Remove from heat. Add the honey (if desired) and the essential oil. (This is when I add the borage oil too.) Mix thoroughly until all incorporated.

When making my own, here's when I shave just a tiny sliver of cheapo lipstick and melt it in. This gives me a very light pink gloss... just a touch of color.

Pour mixture into containers (pots/tubs or if using tubes, use the heat-tolerant eye-dropper because it's very difficult to just pour it in!). Don't touch for at least 20 minutes. When completely cooled and solid, cover tightly. Use regularly. Doesn't keep a very long time.

For shinier lip balm, use reduce the wax to 2 teaspoons and increase the carrier oil to 8 teaspoons.

This recipe makes 1/2 an ounce so buy the appropriate-sized containers. I prefer to use cosmetic/plastic tubs (shown in the pic) instead of the tubes because it's just makes it easier to use... and softens my finger tip!

= = = =

I would love to make chocolate lip balm for me. As for my kid... this Tween loves all things vanilla and cinnamon. Anyone?

Root Cellar Required

As you know, we're in the process of getting our house ready to sell, and then look for our dream home: at least an acre, in the boonies, room for orchards and berry brambles and gardens and animals. A must is also a root cellar.

Never more reinforced as it has been this week.

We're in the Denver, Colorado area. In the past week, less, since Sunday, we've had three tornadoes.
  • Major damage on Sunday to a mall at Southlands where we used to visit when we lived in the area. Not just there - surrounding areas too.

  • On Tuesday several large funnel clouds passed within a mile of our home. Tween and I were home alone and made great use of our basement, reading books and having a regular chit-chat.

  • Today's tornado warning is happening as I type this and is slightly south of where Hubby's office and his mom's home is. Accompanied by major hail, and the storm system is moving quickly.

I don't remember this part of Colorado being prone to tornados but suddenly, here they are. We will, without a doubt, have a basement and/or root cellar in our new home. We found a house we kinda like but doesn't have a basement. We'd definitely built on - 2 more bedrooms and 1 bath on ground level, and a huge basement under all of that. We'll see.

Of course, I love having a basement here for storage purposes. We had a good harvest last year, and I dehydrated much of it. As for the winter squash, we still have several cushaw squash and pumpkins that are left from 2008 harvest, and they are still good! Can't imagine trying to store those in just a ground-level home. Not cool enough.

Be safe, everyone!

Nasturtiums As a Disinfectant?

I was reading and researching about nasturtiums: How the seeds, flowers and leaves are edible. How to grow them. How to use them. And I came across this little tidbit:

In ancient times in its native Peru the nasturtium was used as a wound disinfectant and taken onto battle fields to be used as a poultice and a disinfectant wash.

Wonderful! Another double (triple? quadruple?) duty plant. So... from what I understand, make a wash by steeping the flower heads and leaves in boiling water, probably for several hours. Dab on with fresh cotton balls, or make a poultice by soaking clean linen or cloth and leaving directly on the wound. Probably not for deep gashes.


  • I wonder if using the nasturtium-wash would help heal mosquito bites or sunburns?

  • I wonder if drinking the nasturtium-wash would disinfect our innards? Perhaps ridding intestinal parasites?

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For recipes, go to:

For growing info, go to:

Using Honey in Homemade Beauty Products

Honey has been used for centuries... did you know that Cleopatra loved her honey-and-milk baths? Honey attracts and retains water, making it perfect for use in shampoos, conditioners, cleansers and creams. It's also anti-irritant, making it good for people with sensitive skin, including baby products. (Note: Never feed a baby honey though!)

Moisturizing Bath
Add ¼ cup honey to warm-to-hot bath water for a moisturizing bath. Good for a baby's bath, although use less honey!

Hair Leave-In Conditioner
Add 1 teaspoon of honey into 4 cups of warm water. After shampooing, pour mixture over hair, and leave in / don't rinse out. Dry as usual.

Moisturizing Mask
Mix 2 teaspoons of milk to 2 tablespoons of honey. Smooth over face and throat. Leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.

Body Lotion
Combine 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon honey and 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice. Rub into your body parts that feel dry: elbows, heels, hands, etc. Leave on for about 10 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.

Face Scrub
Grind enough almonds to make 2 tablespoons (almond meal - finely ground almonds). Add 1 tablespoon of honey and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice. Rub gently onto face for about a minute. Rinse face with warm water.

Toning Face Mask
Whisk 1 egg white until fluffy. Add 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 teaspoon glycerin and about 1/4 cup of flour - enough to make a paste. Apply to face and throat, and leave on for about 10 minutes. Rinse it off with warm water. Once a week would work fine.

How to Make a Cotton Wick

I found this instruction on how to make wicks for kerosene lanterns, and will probably work with candles too.
Use cotton balls!
  1. Loosen the fibers of three cotton balls by unraveling the cotton fibers to stretch the cotton to an elongated shape.
  2. Place the elongated cotton balls on a flat surface.
  3. Connect the ends of the three elongated cotton balls by overlapping ½ inch of the bottom part of the first cotton ball to ½ inch of top part of the second one.
  4. Repeat for the third cotton ball.
  5. Then, using your fingers, roll them up together tightly to produce a long wick.


I would then dip in wax once or twice to stiffen (so it will stay in place). Cut to size needed.

Usually I buy a bag of cotton balls a month for storage purposes. I did a little more research, and growing our cotton won't be too difficult if we follow information carefully. Then, we'll harvest the cotton, save the seeds, and keep the cotton separate. It can be used to make wicks, or to spin into cloth.

Which means, sigh, more research.

Oily Skin Face Mask

Simple recipe for a face mask to use on oily skin.

1 egg white
1/2 cup instant oatmeal, cooked
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Mix the ingredients until smooth. Apply to your face (use a special paintbrush or sponge) and let sit for 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with warm-to-hot water.

Wicks to Use to Make Candles

I've researched and researched and can't find a good reliable source of information. What can we use to make wicks for our homemade candles? Here's what I've found:

  • plain cotton string

  • plain cotton twine

  • store-bought?!?!

I'm at a loss.

At our next homestead, I plan to plant some cotton. I'll pick the cotton then twist it into string to use as wicks. Meanwhile...

  1. Please.... if you have an idea of what we can use for wicks to make wax candles and beeswax candles and even bayberry candles, please leave your information as a comment here. We're looking for something that we can make from what we can grow.
  2. Is there a book or website or anything that shows how to twist or otherwise manipulate raw cotton into wicks? Please comment.

Thanks. When I've gathered the information and tried it out, I'll put up a separate posting.

Laundry Spray Treatment for Stains

Here's a spray treatment for stains. Easy to make with ingredients found in most homes.

You'll Need:
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide
1 cup very hot water

Mix all ingredients, allow to cool, then store in a spray bottle. (Mark the bottle.)

To Use:
Spray on stained spot until thoroughly wet, then allow to sit overnight. Reapply as needed.

Laundry Treatment of Stains

I admit it: I'm a slob. One or two days a week, I end dinner looking like someone threw food at me. Even if it's something dry, somehow I manage to get something on my shirt. I've started wearing the same three tops at dinner just because I'm tired of ruining my clothes. I hate to say it but I'm kinda a joke when it comes to eating. Where's my bib?!?!

So I got to looking for stain treatments that I can make at home and that actually work. Found it!

What You'll Need:

  • Pieces and leftover slivers of bar soaps

  • Jar

  • Boiling Water
Collect the pieces and leftover slivers of bar soaps in a jar set aside for just that purpose. You have soaps leftover from the hotels while on vacation? Add those too (cut into small chunks). When the jar is about half-way filled with small soap chunks, add enough boiling water to 1/2 inch from the top. I use a craft stick to stir to mix the soap cunks with the water until the soap is melted. Once this cools, it won't harden; instead, it'll become like jelly. Place a cap on it when not in use.

To Use:
Gob (er, dab) onto the stain and mix in a little. If you can't wash it right away, just toss the stained piece back into the laundry hamper with the gob on it.

Laundry Soap Using Baking Soda and Bar Soap

I was looking for alternate ways of making laundry soap when I came across this recipe. While it uses bar soap and baking soda, it seems practical because it's easier to store those two things than the big containers of store-bought laundry detergent. I always have lots of baking soda around, and I love grabbing up three bars of soap for a buck at the dollar store.

You'll Need:
2 gallons of very hot water
1 bar of soap, grated
2 cups of baking soda (NOT washing soda)

In a medium "craft" saucepan, melt the grated soap with just enough hot water to cover. Cook on medium-low until the soap has completely melted. Be sure to stir frequently to avoid burning. Then into a large pail that you keep for this purpose, pour 2 gallons of very hot water. Add the now-melted soap and stir well. Add the baking soda and stir well again. When slightly cooled, pour into your laundry-soap container (I kept one from when I bought laundry soap at the store).

How to Use:
Use 1/2 cup per full load of wash. Double if the load is very dirty/soiled

I use whatever bar soap I found for cheap at the dollar store. There are some that don't smell the best so I might mix half a bar of Irish Spring with half of the stinky one. And sometimes I add essential oils!

How to Clean Your Hair Without Water

When I was 16, I had an operation which put me in bed for several weeks, during which time I couldn't shower. I remember that my mother sprayed something in my hair that we combed out, enabling me to have somewhat clean hair without taking a shower.

I did a bit of research, and while I didn't find the product any more, I did find something else. Cornstarch. Yup, cornstarch. It's the starch of corn/maize and available in any supermarket. It can also store well in a moisture-proof container. I don't recommend using this all of the time, but this "dry shampoo" will work in a pinch!

What You'll Need:
1/2 cup cornstarch

Take the cornstarch and sprinkle it in your hair. Give it a few minutes to absorb then brush it out. It will absorb the oils in the hair.

Make Shampoo and Soap Using Soapwort

Soapwort (soapwart - Saponaria officinalis) is an herb that's actually fairly easy to grow, and contains saponins which slightly lathers when agitated. It is very gentle on the skin, so it can even be used on babies. Here's a way to make shampoo, body soap, laundry soap, and face or hand cleanser that suitable for all hair types:

You'll Need:

  • 2 cups distilled water (boiled water is fine)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried soapwort root, chopped

  • 2 teaspoons dried lemon verbena (for fragrance)

  • 2 teaspoons dried catnip (to promote healthy hair growth - for shampoo)
Boil the water in a medium-sized pan you keep for just such projects. Add the soapwort and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the herbs, and allow the mixture to cool. Strain the herbs using cheesecloth or a coffee filter, pouring just the liquid into a bottle.

Makes enough for 6-7 shampoos or 20+ hand washings (more if used sparingly). Massage into skin before adding warm water. Note that it doesn't lather up quite like store-bought soap and shampoo. Use within a week or so. Store in a cool, dark place.

Use the same bottle of soap to add to your laundry's wash water.

Note: Since the herbs are dried, all year long you can make a fresh batch weekly. Change up the scent - instead of using lemon verbena, try peppermint or rose petals.

Education at Home

Urban homesteaders are people living a self-sufficient life while being close or in a city or other well-populated area. If you live in an area such as this, you may decide to keep your child(ren) in a public or private school.

Homesteaders, in general, are people living self-sufficient lives. This includes growing food, living green (very little carbon footprint), getting back to basics, and yes, educating your children at home. When children are led by themselves with guidance from their family, they tend to learn more, especially of those practical subjects. And when the schooled-at-home child wants to attend college, these kids usually get into the school of their choice and do very well.

The blog,, discusses schooling children at home, but take a note of this:
  • research the different kinds of home-schooling: unschooling, child-led education, homeschooling, schooling at home... there are differences (yes, some are very slight) in these terms and how they may affect your process

  • check the home-education laws in your state

  • follow the laws in your state regarding reporting, subjects to cover, testing, etc.

  • do the minimum to follow the laws in your state, while creating or following a curriculum that imparts the exact knowledge of what YOU believe your children should learn.

Here's a simplification of our Tween's curriculum:

  • writing (including reports, letters, business forms, essays, poems, short stories and journals)

  • speaking (giving oral reports, making videos, reciting poems and other memorizations)

  • reading (including classic literature - including The Hobbit, 1994, Hamlet, The Iliad, Moby Dick, Kidnapped, Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone - poems, reports, instructions, etc.)

  • language arts (grammar, spelling, vocabulary, greek and latin roots, and mythology

  • math (basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, geometry, pre-algebra, and also balancing a checkbook, "consumer math", calculating interest and sales tax, etc.)

  • history, civics/government, social studies, geography

  • life science, physical science, space/astronomy, anatomy, earth science, etc.

  • music (music appreciation, reading and playing an instrument)

  • language (spanish, french, american sign language, etc.)

  • art (art appreciation, fibers, painting, ceramics, basket-making, candle-making, etc)

  • health (hygiene, nutrition, sexual reproduction, diseases, drugs, liquor, prescriptions, holistic healing) and physical education (sports, swimming, team events, exercising, jogging, marathon-prep)

  • life skills (manners/etiquette, dating/courtship, marriage, family, your role as a father, frugal living, self-reliance, leadership, gardening, cooking, sewing, laundry, preserving harvests, auto and machinery repair, carpentry, construction, etc.)

  • religion (if it applies)

  • extra-curricular activities (cpr, first aid, volunteering at soup kitchens, coaching little league, political campaigns, etc. - these are very important to document when preparing for higher education like college)

This is just what's planned for our kid through high school years. He is averaging 6th grade at present, with the exception of math (lower grade levels there), so we still have another 6 grades (years) to complete our list.

Be sure to check out the above-mentioned website for more curriculum and schooling-at-home information.

What are Willow Whips?

I've been researching on how to make a little temporary-type shelter and came across making a teepee by using willow whips. However, I can't find any definition for what a "willow whip" is! It appears that once placed in the ground, and woven into a teepee, it will stay there and will leaf. So could a willow whip be a cutting from a willow tree that will grow on it's own?

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Hey! I found the following information so...

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Of course you could in theory take clippings from hedgerows, although it would be wise to ask permission of the landowner first, and ensure only a few whips per plant are taken to avoid making the hedge livestock proof! It also takes an awful long time and a long long lane in which to collect 1.500 whips. Goat willow isn't suitable for willow or biofuel, it has a slow growth rate giving short whips and lots of branching.

Left to grow willow will take on the form of a tree, or if clipped, a bush. When coppiced (this means pruning it down to near a few centimeters above ground level in winter) it will then throw up multiple shoots (whips) ideal for basket weaving. Leave them grow five years or so and the straight whips have thickened enough to harvest for firewood.

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More Info:

A tip is to cut the willow right back after the first year and they grow more vigorously the subsequent year. One person trimmed back a golden willow after year one and a year later the cutting had 20 whips growing, an inch thick in some cases and over 8 feet long!

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So here's the plan... when we get to our new homestead, we'll purchase (or find a free source - Colorado friends?) of willow cuttings (whips) and plant about 6 feet apart or so, and allow them to grow. We'll also plant some in a circular pattern to make a living teepee. Others we'll allow to grow into trees, and some into bushes.

  • living teepee
  • supplies for making baskets and hats
  • living large border which could afford a LOT of privacy
  • grown up trees can be chopped for firewood


Using a Zeer Pot instead of a Refrigerator

I was reading a woman's dream about become self-sufficient, and she mentioned using a Zeer Pot. Of course, I thought, "what the hairy heck?" but they did a little internet surfing.

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The pot-in-pot refrigerator, also known as a Zeer الزير in Arabic, is a refrigeration device which keeps food cool without electricity by using evaporative cooling.

It is constructed by placing a clay pot within a larger clay pot with wet sand in between and a wet cloth on top. As the water evaporates it cools, allowing food stored in the inner pot to be kept fresh for much longer in a hot, dry climate. It must be placed in a dry, ventilated space for the water to evaporate effectively towards the outside.

Mohammed Bah Abba invented the device in 1995 and was awarded a Rolex Laureate (Rolex Awards for Enterprise) in 2000 for developing this “pot-in-pot preservation/cooling system”.

Of all the households in the US, 99.5% have refrigerators. About the same percentage have some way of heating food. We've seen some great gadgets for keeping things hot and cold here on Slashfood, but I want to show you an ancient technique for keeping food cool. It's called a zeer pot. The vessel itself may be third world, but it's playing a timely role in the continuing recovery of northern Darfur and other African nations. Science in Africa magazine states that a zeer can keep tomatoes edible for 20 days, as opposed to two, and meat two weeks, as opposed to a few hours.

A zeer pot is quite simple. It's basically two large earthen pots, one nested in the other. The space is filled with sand and water is added. A damp cloth covers the top. As the water evaporates, the inner pot containing the perishables is kept cool in the same manner that a mechanical refrigerator operates -- water evaporation draws heat from the inner vessel. Water is added twice a day.

Muhammed Bah Abba is credited with reviving (some say inventing) use of the zeer and has his own instructions on theory, application and making one. I am going to make one of these myself and see how long basic vegetables will keep at room temp. You can see from the picture how easy it would be to improvise a zeer with regular flower pots. I will then give it a taste test after one week.
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We definitely want to reduce our carbon footprint, get off the grid, and eliminate using a refrigerator that could break down. I've seen lots of old-timey-type boxes and ice-boxes, but like this idea. When you have all of your food right at your fingertips for harvesting, and a cow in the barn for making fresh butter, you really don't need a LOT of refrigerator space. This sounds wonderful.

I couldn't find any retailers online for these. Questions:

  • will any clay pot in a clay pot work this way?
  • will any kind of sand work in the bottom pot?
  • just a wet cloth on top? does that keep much coolness in? what if you can't re-wet the cloth twice a day?
  • as an alternate, what kind of top would you put on... and would it be on both or just the inner pot?


Using a Greenhouse or Sunroom

The best way to be self-sufficient and self-reliant is to have an adequate source of food all year round... whether you grow it in summer months and preserve it, or have it freshly growing and picked when needed. This is the key to being self-reliant, because, as you know, if you don't concentrate on the food aspect of living, you aren't self-reliant.

I once read a permaculture book, whose title I forget, that had pictures of her south-facing room. In there, she grew much of her fruit and veggies that she preferred to eat fresh. This included, amazingly enough, a tomato plant that was several years old, and so tall it reached her ceiling and curved along it.

We have two small windows facing the south in our current home. One of the conditions of our next home is that it have an entire room with windows on the southside, even if we have to build it ourselves. Whether it be that room, or a seperate building (greenhouse), we'll be growing:
  • bananas
  • lemon
  • lime
  • miniature columnar apple
  • miniature columnar peach
  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • tomatoes
  • greens
  • carrots, carrots and more carrots
  • eggplant
  • onions
  • zucchini
  • yellow crookneck squash
  • string beans
  • herbs (many kinds)
Plants Versus Storage:
I recently saw (I think on PBS) a professional greenhouse for tomatoes. The tomatoes started on the ground and wound all the way up to the ceiling. This was a professional situation so I'm quite sure their storage area was somewhere else. As a homesteader, it's advised to keep your supplies closest to where you use them the most. We're opting for benches (pictured here) in our greenhouse, and probably something similar in our sunroom.

Keeping the Greenhouse Warm in Winter:
Winters here get very cold, sometimes below zero and sometimes snowed in. If there isn't a means of heating the greenhouse, any plants in there will freeze. Beyond what you may read in books or on the internet, this is our plan...

We will be surrounding the greenhouse: barn to left and garage to the right. That will give the greenhouse lots of heat. If you can't do that, you could heat with space heaters, but those are a little dicey and need attention in hopes that they won't burn down the building during the night.

You could also provide heat via animals! Yep... chickens or rabbits or other small animals. There's math involved (calculating BTU's, body mass, etc.), and you have to provide adequate summer housing, watering, etc., but I've heard of people very successfully using this method.

Consider not only extending your fresh-produce season, but increasing it! Make use of your south-facing (or north-facing in the southern hemisphere) windows to grow many fresh veggies and fruits in your home.

Perennial Trees

VHTS (Very Hungry Tween Son) loves fresh fruit, especially apples and pears. He eats at least one of each a day, provided they are here in our house. He has a problem with most tree nuts, but since he hasn't tried all of them, we might be able to find a couple that do well with him.

Meanwhile, here's a list of perennial trees that bear edible food. Source:

Perennial Trees:

  • American wild plum, Prunus americana

  • Apple, Malus domestica

  • Avocado, Persea americana

  • Black cherry, Prunus serotina

  • Chestnut crab, Malus sp.

  • Choke cherry, Prunus virginiana

  • Citrus, Citrus sp.

  • Cornelian cherry, Cornus mas

  • Eastern Redbud, Cercis occidentalis

  • Fig, Ficus carica

  • Glossy black chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa

  • Hawthorn, Cratagus sp.

  • Hazel nut, Corylus americana, C. cornuta, C. avellana

  • Loquat, Eriobotrya japonica

  • Maidenhair tree, Ginkgo, Ginkgo biloba

  • Monkey puzzle, Araucaria araucana

  • Pear, Pyrus sp.

  • Persimmon, Diospyros sp.

  • Pin cherry, Prunus pensylvanica

  • Plum, Prunus sp.

  • Quince, Cydonia oblonga

  • Serviceberry, Juneberry, Amelanchier sp.

  • Sweet Chestnut, Castanea sativa

  • Tart cherry, Prunus sp
I didn't notice the pinion pine on here - pine nuts are wonderful sources of protein, and the beautiful appearance of the fir tree on our property is wonderful. Pinecones can be collected for fire-fuel, or filled with peanut butter and rolled in birdseed, then hung for birds in the winter.

Actually, very few tree nuts are listed here. We'll have lots of walnuts, pecans, almonds, butternut, chestnut and filberts. Some of these come in miniature size, making it easy to harvest.

We have a cherry tree at our current homestead but if we don't get the cherries the moment they are ready, the birds get to them. We're planning on planting cherry bushes at the next homestead, because they will grow closer to the ground, allowing us to cover them with a netting. They will also be easier to pick.

We have read about many different kinds of apple trees. If we plan it right, we could have several different kinds of apples, each bearing at different times, allowing us to have freshly-picked apples practically all year round!

There's also something called a "Fruit Cocktail" tree, "Fruit Salad" or also known as a "5-in-One" tree - apricots, plums, nectarines, etc. How exciting!

We love bananas, avocados and citrus like lime and lemon, but we'll grow those in our future greenhouse or sunroom. I love thinking about going into the sunroom in my jammies, blizzard going on outside, and picking a couple of bananas for my breakfast.

Perennial Vines

We've been trying to eat as organic as possible lately, which means it's almost impossible to find grapes that haven't been imported to the USA or sprayed with pesticide, and that we can afford. We will definitely have lots of grapes at our new homestead, not only for eating at the table, but also for dehydrating, canning, freezing (to make juice in the winter) and to make wine.


  • Grape, River or Frost, Vitis riparia

  • Grape, Table or Wine, Vitis sp.

  • Kiwi, Actinidia sp
Is this really it? Not a very long list. What about the passion fruit?

Last installment of this list of perennial plants that provide food is: Perennial Trees. Tomorrow!

Perennial Shrubs and Berries

I love fruit. If I had access to fresh fruit, especially berries, every day, that's mostly what I'd eat. Fruit is also great to freeze, can as jams, and dehydrate.

We have about 12 strawberry plants and 2 raspberries and 5 blackberries right now. Unfortunately we can't really take them with us when we leave. So we'll have a lot of them to buy when we get to our next (and last, please god) homestead. We'll also have a greenhouse as soon as possible so that we can grow blueberries and strawberries year-round.

Here's the list of perennial shrubs and berries (mostly fruits!) found at

Shrubs and Berries
  • American elderberry, Sambucus canadensis

  • American highbush cranberry, Viburnum trilobatum

  • Blackberry, Rubus allegheniensis

  • Black raspberries, Rubus occidentalis

  • Blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium, V. corybosium

  • Cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon

  • Elderberry, Sambucus nigra

  • Golden currants, Ribes aureum

  • Golden raspberries, Rubus sp.

  • Gooseberries, Ribes spp.

  • Hobblebush, Viburnum alnifolium

  • Honeyberry, Lonicera caerule

  • Huckberry, Vaccinium sp.

  • Huckleberry, Gaylussacia baccata

  • Lingonberry, Vaccinium vitis-idaea

  • Nannyberry, Viburnum lentago

  • Red raspberries, Rubus idaeus

  • Regent Serviceberry Amelanchier alnifolia 'Regent'

  • Sa berry, Hippophae rhamnoides

  • Silverbuffalo berry, Sheperdia argentea

  • Smooth sumac, Rhus glabra

  • Staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina

  • Strawberry, alpine, Fragaria vesca

  • Srawberry, Fragaria virginiana

  • Timbleberry, Rubus parviflorus

  • Wild rose, Rosa blanda or sp
We will also have to add bayberry: the berries are used to make light-green wax for candles, and I've heard that some people eat the berries!

Tomorrow: Perennial Vines

Perennial Herbs

Borage pictured to the right.

Herbs are very necessary for a homesteader. They are great for spicing up foods, to make toiletries, for general home use, and for a home apothecary. These are just the herbs listed at

Perennial Herbs:
  • Anise hyssop, Agastache foeniculum

  • Basil, Ocimum basilicum

  • Catnip, Nepeta cataria

  • Chives, Allium schoenoprasum

  • Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare

  • Feverfew, Chrysanthemum parthenium

  • French tarragon, Artemisia dranunculus

  • Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum

  • Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia

  • Lovage, Levisticum officinale

  • Mint, Mentha sp.

  • Oregano, Origanum vulgare

  • Parsley, Petroselinum crispum

  • Rosemary, Rosemarinus officinalis

  • Sage, Salvia

  • Shiso, Japanese Red Mint, Perilla frutescens

  • Thyme, Thymus vulgaris
We do plan to have a greenhouse for herbs we use year round. We also plan to grow other herbs like soapwort (to make shampoo and soap) and echinacea.

Note: We planted borage last year, which is supposed to be an annual. It grew huge, with large fuzzy leaves. We left it in the ground and it got brown, so we assumed the worst. We had a few days of sub-zero temperature, and several days of snow. On a warm day this past February, we notice it was greening a little bit. We waited. This weekend we noticed not only had it survived but it was getting all big and bushy again! I'm not saying it will do that for everyone, but it did it for us! Could we have gotten a perennial strain of borage? Or maybe I got the seeds mixed up and it wasn't borage at all? (Borage pictured above.)

Tomorrow... perennial shrubs and berries

Perennial Vegetables

We've been doing a lot of thinking, before and since my last posting of what we really want out of a homestead.

Okay, I'll admit it. We're a three-person family of which the 2 adults (er hum) are, well, lazy. The kid just wants to play, so he grumbles (a little) doing chores. We never get to sleep in on weekends, but want to. We're procrastinators. Hubby will do hard work but only if prodded (read: nagged). I am physically disabled so hard work is very limited.

So we're working on a plan for our next homestead. Part of that plan is to have as many perennial vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, etc. as possible. This posting will deal with perennial vegetables.

We live near Denver, Colorado in USA so we get very cold weather. So here goes:

  • Asparagus: We already have 6 plants. We planted two first-year plants per trash can (bucket) last year, so a total of 3 buckets and 6 plants. They really ferned out last summer, had a few stalks (which we didn't eat), then wintered in our family room under grow lights. We moved them outside in April, watered them, and last weekend notice 4 of the 6 are growing stalks! Hubby is really the only one in our little family who likes asparagus, but I have found that dehydrated and pulverized into a powder... it works well hidden in pizza sauce. Very high in vitamins and minerals, and dries well.

  • Rhubarb: It's used as a fruit, but is actually a vegetable. My mother-in-law has rhubarb growing in her backyard, so she split a plant and gave us some last Spring (2008). It grew pretty well last year, but thought we'd lost it because we saw lots of holes in the leaves. We thought insects had gotten to it. It was dead by August. We never moved it because, well, we're lazy! About 3 weeks ago, we noticed new green leaves where there was only dead brown ones from last year. Today, there are about 25 huge healthy stalks and lots of green leaves. Again, Hubby is the only one who likes this but doesn't know how to cook it. I think when it turns cool out on Thursday, I'll go cut some stalks and place them in the dehydrator. After they've dried, I'll turn them into a powder and add them to a homemade strawberry syrup. Yum! Rhubarb is very high in vitamins and minerals, and dries well.

The following list is from I'm going to have to do some more research to find out which of these will actually grow in cold weather. I don't even know what many of these are!

Perennial Vegetables and Greens:

  • Arrowhead, Sagittaria sagittifolia

  • Arugula, rocket, Diplotaxis erucoides

  • Asparagus, Asparagus officinalis

  • Chicory, Cichorium sp.

  • Comfrey, Symphytum sp.

  • Earth Pea, Lathyrus tuberosa

  • Elephant Garlic, Allium ampeloprasum

  • Galangal, Thai ginger, Alpinia galangal

  • Garlic, Allium sativum

  • Ginger, Zingiber officinale

  • Globe artichoke, Cynara scolymus

  • Golden shallots, Allium cepa var. aggregatum

  • Ground nut, Agrios americana

  • Horseradish, Amoracia sp.

  • Jerusalem artichokes, sunchoke, Helianthus tuberosus

  • New Zealand Spinach, Tetragonia

  • Oca, New Zealand yam, Oxalis tuberosa

  • Peruvian parsnip, Arracacia xanthorrhiza

  • Rhubarb, Rhuem rhabarbarum

  • Sea beet, Beta vulgaris ssp.maritima

  • Sea kale, Crambe maritima

  • Sorrel, Rumex acetosa

  • Sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas

  • Taro, Colocasia esculenta

  • Turmeric, Indian saffron, Curcuma domestica

  • Waterchestnuts, Eleocharis dulcis

  • Welsh onion, Allium sp.

  • Yacon, Smallanthus sonchifolius

  • Yam, Dioscorea batata
Tomorrow: perennial herbs!

Reflection on Needs

We've been doing a lot of soul-searching here in our family. If we can ever gather enough money for our dream homestead, do we want a full-on farm? Do we want sheep to slaughter and provide wool for me (always me!) to spin and sew? Do we want pigs to slaughter, root through our garden, and provide bacon and ham (needing a smokehouse to preserve). Do we want more than a cow and goat to provide milk for me (yes, me again) to make butter, cheese, yogurt and ice cream?

It is so important for people to decide how far to go - a backyard grocery garden or 40 acres of productive farm? A corner of an apartment's living room or 5 acres of permacultured land?

We're still discussing, and will come to a decision when we get closer to selling our current home. Have YOU discussed this with YOUR family?

Make Your Own Cloth Diapers

I'm trying hard to have another baby, but don't want to use the disposable diapers like I did with my first. Actually, I had to use those store-bought diapers with him because he needed to be in daycare, and they don't allow cloth diapers.

When I worked as a nanny (over the last 4 years), the main family I cared for used fabric diapers. The mother bought them on e-bay and through friends who'd outgrown their use. The fabrics ranged from tiger stripes to plain blue or green to cute animals. Most had an insert that was cute useful, especially for these boys!

Whether or not I get pregnant again (I'm quite old!), I recommend families with young children to use something that will not harm the Earth further. Here's a bit of information on making your own diapers:

You Need:
  • Fabric - anything made from cotton will do just fine. Look around your home to re-purpose clothing, receiving blankets, shirts, old flannel sheets, towels, etc. You could also browse yard sales and remnant sections at fabric stores. I once found some great flannel material at the $1.00 table at Wal-Mart, but since Wal-Mart closed the fabric section in our neighboring stores, it will be difficult to find such deals again.

  • Notions - thread (various colors), sew-on velcro (1.5") or elastic and buttons, and 3/8" elastic.

  • Sewing Machine - you could do it by hand, but it would take longer. Be sure to have bobbins and extra needles for your machine, and keep it well oiled. Keep in mind, when sewing stitches for diapers (which get washed very often so tend to fall apart), be sure to stitch, and then back-stitch by going back over your stitches. This will help stop it from coming apart.
Here's a link showing how the author made diapers. It's demonstrated so wonderfully that I'm just linking!

Her instructions give the velcro-closure. I'm using 1-2" buttons and thin elastic loops to close the diaper. I don't like the sound of velcro in the middle of the night!

Also, for the soaker pads (insert to absorb the most liquid), I bought a lot of very cheap washcloths, and insert those. They are easy to change out and wash.

You can make your own outside covers by using water-proof material, and making them a "just-a-bit" bigger than the inside diaper so they'll fit over nice and snug. When in doubt, ask for help from the fabric store person.

To measure for sizing the cloth for the diapers, try:

The main things about using cloth diapers are:
  1. Check them often
  2. Cover with something that won't allow leakage
  3. Get rid of the poop down the toilet immediately, and
  4. As soon as the diaper is off the baby and the poo is down the toilet, throw it in your bathroom diaper pail immediately to start soaking!

Note: I hate to bring this up, but this pattern could be used to make adult diapers. Just a thought.

Music on the Homestead

I loved re-reading the "Little House of the Prairie" books which I assigned to Tween for literature requirements. It reminded me that in the evenings, when chores were done, Pa would often pick up his fiddle, and play till the girls fell asleep. Aw, bliss.

We are somewhat a musical family. Well, two out of three! I was quite the accomplished musician when I was young. I played the flute in high school, took piano lessons for 13 years and accompanied friends, and sang mezzo-soprano for packed houses. I even performed in dinner theater for a while!

My Tween was destined to be musical, and he does love beats and sounds. And Hubby loves to listen, but couldn't carry a tune in a bucket if his life depended on it.

We have an assortment of musical instruments: an electronic keyboard (yes, we'd prefer a good ole piano), drums, recorders (kinda like a flute), maracas, tamborines, and more. From time to time, for family fun time, we get out the karaoke machine and jam along with our instruments. Who cares what we sound like, right? We're having fun.

Do you have any musical instruments on your homestead? Remember, it's not the quality of the music - it's the fun!

Helper Animals

With the intention of needing a guard dog on our soon-to-be-found homestead, we bought a 10 week old puppy in the middle of February 2009 (see picture to the right - that was the day after we brought him home).

He's now almost 5 months old, and weighs over 50 pounds. This dog is 1/4 Dalmation, 1/4 Rottweiler, and 1/2 Alaskan Malamute. We call him our horse puppy!

As you may know, Alaskan Malamutes LOVE winter and cold weather, and practically live to pull sleds and wagons.

We have already bought a dog-pack (similar to the pic to the right on the yellow lab) and are slowly acclimating him to the pack. He will not only carry his own food and probably water, but also supplies for when we camp, or maybe even gardening supplies. He will also be trained to pull a load, like a wagon full of harvested produce, or even pull a sled with the Tween inside.

It's almost time to step up his training. But meanwhile, have YOU decided if you need a helper animals for your homestead?

Non-Electric Clothes Dryer

This picture to the right is a clothes drying rack that we bought at Harriet Carter several years ago, and use down in the basement most of the year. None of our shirts and only some pants go in the dryer - they all get hung up on this drying rack because that helps them last longer.

But that's not what we're talking about today.

You've all seen pictures of these new-fangled clothes dryers that don't use electricity. They don't even use gas. Amazing inventions, these. Thing is, they aren't new at all. They've been used for thousands of years.


Take a moment to think about it. Yes, you take the chance that a bird might poop on your clothes, but that's a rare chance. Using clothespins and a line in your backyard will help your clothes air dry. The sun will also reduce bacteria in your clothing, and will bleach whites the most beautiful clean white.

Place your clothesline over a raised garden bed, and you'll help your plants too! Your clothes will drip onto the plants below, not wasting that water for anything. When we move to the next house, we plan to have a sunroom, which will also have a clothes line over some of the plants.

Be sure to buy a good strong clothes line and lots of old-fashioned wood clothespins. (The plastic ones are cheap, and a heavy garment combined with a strong wind will tear them apart!). No matter where you live, you can start doing this today!

Is there a Farmer's Market Near You?

We have lots of farmers markets in the Denver area, but most aren't open yet (usually starting in May).

There's also the Mile High Flea Market open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but the vendors tend to sell produce that's been shipped in.

Farmers Markets are on our mind because we're really wanting some fresh produce. Our own Summer plants are still just seeds waiting to sprout, or 3 inch tomato seedlings. The carrots, radishes, bunching onions and greens will go in the raised bed this week, but couldn't do it before now with all of the weird weather and last week's blizzard.

We're suggesting you check your area for farmers markets. Support your local farmers while you're waiting to harvest your own produce. Maybe you'll even make friends with some vendors who just might be homesteaders... talk about your goals and maybe you'll be invited to check out their homestead and meet their goats and pigs and chickens!

Now excuse me while I go pretend this mealy pink-inside tomato is a real homegrown slicer!