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?