DIY Mint Teas With Refreshing Recipes!

Guest post DIY Mint TEas watermarked

The following article is a guest post by a friend of mine, Kathie N. Lapcevic.  Welcome Kathie!  Kathie is a freelance writer, teacher, and blogger living in northwest Montana with her soulmate Jeff.  She lives a fiercely D.I.Y. lifestyle in harmony with the natural rhythms of nature.  You can follow her blog at Homespun Seasonal Living. -Leona from My Healthy Green Family.

There’s no such thing as a small mint patch as it tends to be downright invasive.  Instead of cursing it for taking over every inch of the herb bed, harvest it often during the hot months of summer for refreshing iced tea. Mint tea is delicious all by itself but it also makes for some incredibly tasty combinations. Here are 5 different ways to make tasty tea from all that mint.

mint cropped

Start with Basic Mint Tea

Because this gets poured over ice, start with a double strength iced tea to prevent the flavor from being diluted as the ice melts.  In a heatproof cup, place 2 Tablespoons of fresh mint (2 teaspoons dried). Pour in 1 cup of boiling water and steep 10 minutes. Strain and cool mint tea to room temperature. Use this mint tea as a base in the following combinations, each of the following makes 1 large or 2 medium servings.  Simply double or triple the amounts for larger quantities. Keep any extra in the refrigerator.

Apple Mint

Combine 1 Cup Mint Tea with 1 Cup Apple Juice, mix well. Pour over ice and serve cold. Add a shot of apple brandy to each glass for an adult treat.

Black Mint

Brew a cup of black tea and allow to cool to room temperature. Combine 1 cup of black tea with 1 cup of mint tea. Serve over ice.

Hibiscus Mint

In a heatproof cup, add 2 teaspoons dried hibiscus flowers (4 teaspoons fresh). Pour over 1 cup boiling water and steep 10 minutes.  Strain and cool to room temperature.  Combine the hibiscus tea with the mint tea.  Serve over ice.

Lavender Mint

In a heatproof cup, add 2 Tablespoons fresh (2 teaspoons dried) lavender blossoms. Pour over 1 cup boiling water and steep 10 minutes.  Strain and cool to room temperature.  Combine the lavender and mint teas.  Pour combined teas over all and mix well. Serve cold. Add a shot of gin to each glass for the adults.

raspberries and mintRaspberry Mint

In a heatproof cup, add 2 Tablespoons fresh (2 teaspoons dried) raspberry leaves. Pour over 1 cup boiling water and steep 10 minutes.  Strain and cool to room temperature.  Combine the raspberry leaf and mint teas.  In the bottom of a glass, crush 3 fresh, ripe raspberries add ice.  Pour combined teas over all and mix well. Serve cold.

For the Sweet Tea Fans

Sweeten the mint tea when it is still hot. Simply add a teaspoon (more or less to taste) of sugar, honey, or other sweetener right after adding the boiling water and allow to steep as usual. Mixing the sweetener in while the liquid is hot ensures that it melts into the entirety of the tea. If you happen to have any mint infused honey, this is a great place to use it.

Kathie Headshot 300 labelledFiercely D.I.Y.

Creating herbal teas from the things that are growing in our yards or available to us locally is just one of many ways to build a courageous home and live fiercely D.I.Y. Creating herbal tea blends is just one of the weekly projects in this summer’s Fiercely D.I.Y. e-course being offered by Homespun Seasonal Living. The E-course is designed to inspire and encourage you to live a life by your own hands, on your own terms, and in your own pace. You can learn more, download a sampler, and register for the course over at Homespun Seasonal Living.

 

Dandelion Fritters and other great ways to use dandelions!

Dandelion Fritters watermarked2Dandelions are one of the first flowering plants to provide pollen for our honeybees.  We don’t pick them until our property is covered with the beautiful yellow jewels.  By then there are plenty for the bees and for us.  Many people think of the dandelions as ruthless weeds, but they actually are quite useful.  The tender green leaves harvested in early spring are often the first fresh greens available to anyone and can be added to salads.  The blossoms taste mildly sweet and floral, and the roots in the fall can be roasted to make a healthy tea.  We picked the blossoms this time, battered and fried them in coconut oil, then dipped some of them in cinnamon sugar for a sweet treat, and dipped the others in honey mustard for a savory treat.  To me, they tasted kind of like fried mushrooms.  The kids gobbled them up and then, I am sure, amused their teachers and friends by telling them all the ways you can eat dandelions.dandelion fritters collage

Dandelions are loaded with nutrients.  Sunwarrior tells us how good they are for you:

Dandelion is a very rich source of beta-carotene which we convert into vitamin A. This flowering plant is also rich in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. It is a good place to get B complex vitamins, trace minerals, organic sodium, and even vitamin D. Dandelion contains protein too, more than spinach. It has been eaten for thousands of years and used to treat anemia, scurvy, skin problems, blood disorders, and depression. – See more at: 11 health benefits of Dandelions

Dandelions grow all over the world, so chances are, if you don’t use chemicals on your lawn, you will have lots of dandelions in the spring.  Don’t confuse them with a similar flower that grows later in the year. Find lots of different ways to use dandelions below the recipe!

Dandelion Fritters
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Dandelion blossoms fried in coconut oil add a fresh, flowery, locally grown treat to your spring diet.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups fresh dandelion blossoms, without stems
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • sugar and cinnamon to taste, if desired
  • honey mustard for dipping, if desired
Instructions
  1. With a whisk, blend flour, egg and milk until smooth consistency.
  2. Gently heat oil in skillet
  3. Pick up dandelion blossom by the bump on the back, and dip it into the batter until it is totally covered.
  4. Place blossom in oil, blossom side down. Once it has browned a little, flip the blossom with a fork and brown a bit on the other side.
  5. Remove blossom from frying pan with a fork, let excess oil drip off, then roll in cinnamon sugar or set aside to be dipped in honey mustard.
  6. Enjoy!

Learn more about how to use dandelions from these great links!

How To Harvest Medicinal Roots: Dandelion and Valerian from Homespun Seasonal Living

Useful Weed Dandelion from Homespun Seasonal Living

Harvesting and Using Dandelion Roots from Common Sense Homesteading

How To Make Dandelion Wine and Cookies from Common Sense Homesteading

How To Make Dandelion Salve from Montana Homsteader

Make Dandelion Pesto and Save the Goodness for Later from Joybilee Farm

Dandelion Jelly from Green Eggs and Goats

Dandelions: Foraging Them, Eating Them and Keeping Them Out of your Lawns from Yearning and Learning

 

 

Grow Your Own Popcorn!  The little things in life make the difference.

Grow Your Own PopcornLast night we enjoyed a very special treat.  We shared a bowl of popcorn.  But it wasn’t just any old popcorn and we didn’t eat it with a casual disregard as most people eat popcorn.  We savored each piece and smiled.  This popcorn was extra special and extra sweet because we grew it ourselves!

I bought a pack of pink popcorn seeds a few years ago from West Coast Seeds.  I didn’t plant them immediately because I was worried about cross pollination with the other corn.  Last year, though, I had a spot in my garden needing seeds, so I popped them in the ground.  The patch was only about 4×8 ft, and my rows were relatively close together, but I planted the entire pack and left them alone to see what would happen.  The seeds sprouted and developed like any corn, and grew to about 5 or 6 ft tall.  They were smaller than a normal corn plant, and thinner.

popcorn pink watermarkedThe package said that the corn is mature when the kernels are pink and then they should be allowed to dry on the stalk. The squirrels started to get into them so I picked them and let them dry in the house.  I was worried that they hadn’t fully developed because the cobs were small, and they weren’t uniformly pink throughout.  I left them alone for months… almost scared to try them to see if they would pop.

Last week my daughter pulled all the kernels off the cob and we put them in the air popper.  They popped!  And it was the best bowl of popcorn we have ever had.

Can you harvest and plant the seeds?
If you have other corn that flowered at the same time, or if your neighbours did within a fairly large radius, then likely your corn will be cross pollinated with another variety and it might not grow true popcorn.

What if my kernels don’t pop?
Always test a small amount first to see if they will pop.  If they don’t, soak them in water for a few days, dry them off and try them again.  They might not have quite enough moisture in them.

Do they taste the same as regular popcorn?  
No.  They are better ;)  I actually thought they were slightly sweeter.  In my opinion it was the best tasting popcorn ever, but my taste buds could be biased because I grew them!  They were delicious, and the popped kernel, along with the dried kernel, the cob and the plant itself, are a bit smaller than normal.

Was the percentage of corn that didn’t pop similar to store-bought popcorn?
I would say there were a bit more kernels left at the bottom of the popper afterwards than a good quality store-bought popcorn, but MOST popped and it was hugely successful.  My inexperience and the fact that I harvested them a bit early could have influenced that too.

How many cobs do you need to get a whole bowl full of popcorn?
This is a tricky question since I didn’t count the cobs that I used.  I would say we used about 4-5 cobs of corn to get a medium sized bowl of popcorn.

Are the popped kernels pink?
No they aren’t.  Just the unpopped kernels. :)

A couple quick tips on growing corn:
Corn likes to be grown in fertile soil so plant in soil that has been boosted with manure or compost, watch for pests especially when the plant is small (cut worms, slugs etc) and keep it nicely watered through the drier months.  Don’t plant until your soil is warm (in my location in Canada corn shouldn’t be planted until about May).  Corn needs to be planted in at least a 4×4 grid (4 rows across by 4 rows deep) to allow for proper wind pollination.

Where to buy seeds:
In Canada:
West Coast Seeds
Saltspring Seed Company

In the United States:
Victory Seeds
Rare Seeds

 

If you have a bit of space to grow some extra seeds, give popcorn a try!  I guarantee that you will love the taste and you will savor each bite.  And remember, its the little things in life that make the difference.  

A Homesteader’s Thank You.  Do You Say It Right?

A Homesteader's Thank You watermarkedHomesteading is all about learning, sharing and teaching.  Without mentors, learning the old skills would be a lot more challenging.  Thankfully there are people out there who have learned, and who are faithfully teaching others.  I have reached out to many different people to learn how to milk goats, can food, spin wool, make soap and build shelters.  I have called my mom or dad countless times to discuss pruning fruit trees, bread-baking tips, and tapping maple trees.  I have had intimate conversations with elderly ladies, discussing tips on freezing food and harvesting honey.  I have sent numerous text messages to farming friends for advice while birthing goats.  And made many trips to a friend’s house to learn how to skin a goat for meat, process chickens or felt wool.  The information is there, if you search hard enough, and it is worthwhile to learn.

But do you say thank you?  And how do you say thank you?  I have spent years now, teaching my skills that I have learned, to others, for free. I get so excited when I learn a new skill that I want to share it with others as soon as I can.  Everyone says thank you.  Some even bring me thank you “gifts”.  And others reciprocate.  I have to admit two things: First,  it feels good to feel appreciated.  And second, I haven’t always given back.  But now that I am doing a lot of the teaching, I realize how I should have thanked people, and I hope that I won’t let that occasion slip from my fingers again!

3 Ways That A Homesteader Can Say Thank You: 

Show appreciation by giving something you have made.  
Words DON’T always cut it.  If someone spent a few hours teaching you how to make soap, don’t just say thank you.  Give them a jar of jam!  A packet of garden seeds!  A rooted cutting of a fruit tree!  It doesn’t have to be big but it makes a world of a difference.

Give back by teaching them something.
I started a facebook group for local people interested in learning basic life skills.  A few of the people often host get togethers where people go and learn a skill.  Or they offer their house as a location and someone else teaches a skill.  When you are always the one hosting you figure out very quickly that it takes a lot of time and energy to prepare, including cleaning up the house, in order to share with others.  If others are also doing this, it is much more rewarding.

Give back by helping them out.
So you just spent the day learning how to spin wool.  Someone sat with you and patiently taught you.  Give back by teaching them how to make cheese. Help them process their chickens.  Help them shovel manure.  Help them build a chicken coop.

Go forth and multiply! 
When I teach a new skill for free, I always finish up my talk with “now, everyone, you have two pieces of homework to do.  Number one, go home and do what I just taught you to do so you don’t forget how to do it.  Number two, share it with others, as I have shared it with you!”  Obviously, some skills can’t be repeated immediately, but some can, and if you value the skill you just learned, you should do it again on your own so that you remember how to do it. Nothing is more satisfying to me than knowing that I taught other people a new skill,  that they went out and did it themselves, and  that they will be teaching others, as someone once taught me.

Homesteading is a community and it takes a continuous sharing of hands to keep everyone feeling like they are valuable and not being taken advantage of.

I invited a group of people over to walk the “maple tap trail” with me.  I spent a lot of time teaching them what I had learned, from locating the trees to tapping the trees, storing the sap and making the syrup. One family brought me a jar of homemade chicken stock.  Another lady brought me a packet of flower seeds that the bees would love.  THAT, my friends, is an example of a homesteader thanking another, in homesteading language.

Does it have to be every time?  No!  But it has to be often enough that people feel that the skill that they taught you was valuable to you, and worth their time and effort.

Please share how you thank your homesteading friends, or how a gift has made you feel like a valuable member of your homesteading community!

 

 

Maple Sugaring: Tapping Bigleaf Maples on the Pacific Northwest.

Maple Sugaring Watermarked2
I have known where maple syrup comes from since I was a child reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder book “Little House in the Big Woods” where Pa taps the trees and comes home with gallons of maple sap.  The simple, true story set in Wisconsin in the late 1800s, describes in great detail how maple sap becomes maple syrup and maple sugar  The little girls’ memories of the event and the taste of maple candy is invigorating even today, when I read those same stories to my children.  I live on the west coast though, and we can’t grow sugar maples here so the story remains just that, a story.  Or not?

Little House in the big woods

I read last year that people on the west coast were tapping broad leaf maple trees.  Not only were they collecting sap, but they were having maple syrup festivals, local high-end restaurants were buying it, and the few local farms tapping and selling the syrup can’t keep up with the demand. Hipsters on 100 mile diets from the city, craving syrup that, typically until now was not a product produced within a 100 mile radius, are buying local maple syrup for $20 a cup.  That’s $80 a litre!

I started talking to others about trying to tap my own bigleaf maple trees.  I was quickly shut down by many people.  It isn’t worth the effort. It requires being rendered down 80:1 rather than the typical sugar maple which is 50:1.  But as is typical for me, “isn’t worth the effort” isn’t really in my vocabulary.  Isn’t worth the effort typically means: it is a lot cheaper and easier to go out and buy it.  Truth.  However, homesteading isn’t done because it is worth the effort (financially).  I homestead for the experience.  Maple sugaring is no different.  And the effort put into it is worth it in such a big way that those people can’t even imagine it.  It’s the bigger picture.  It is beyond physical effort.  It is satisfaction, pleasure, sustainability, all rolled into one big picture.  Homesteading.  Do you get it?  Well I do.

I bought some spiles (or taps) online.  The first four were made of stainless steel, and their arrival sparked that good old homesteading thrill that makes this lifestyle worth living.  They have that wholesome, raw appearance that other homesteading devices have like wooden buckets, spinning wheels and axes.  But it was raining so hard my thoughts were on building an ark instead of tapping trees.maple spiles

A few days later the weather warmed to record highs.  The sun shone and this was the day to tap the trees.  I re-read my directions,  and went out with my glass bottles, spiles, a drill and tubing under my arm.  I was trailed by 3 intensely interested young children, a dog and a few chickens.  You know what they say about learning: when the teacher is excited about the subject the pupils will learn.

One drilling produced sap.  It was literally dripping out of the tree.  It tasted mildly sweet, much like coconut water.  Once the spile was in place and the tubing attached to the spile and the glass jug, collection officially began.  The warm weather caused a beautiful sap flow, and the jars were full in a few hours.  I was ecstatic.  The dripping did slow down that night, and while still dripping continually, the weather cooled a bit resulting in less sap than the first few hours.  The pleasure was all mine.

maple tapping bucket tree watermarked

Over the following weeks my “maple tap trail” became a bit of an event.  Others were interested in coming to see these trees being tapped, and I opened it up to visitors.  My daughters’ kindergarten and grade 2 classes both came over to have a look.  And I was given the opportunity to prove, once again, to my neighbour that, at least in his eyes, I am stark raving mad.  Some days were so busy that I wasn’t able to walk my maple tap trail until after dark, bucket in hand, and headlamp strapped to my head.  One of the best producing trees is on the border of my inlaw’s property and their neighbour, seeing a light in the forest, shone a bright light out towards me.

“Whose out there?”

“Oh, just me, your crazy neighbour.  I am tapping the maple trees.”

Dead silence, followed by disbelieving chuckling.  Then he called his wife and chuckled some more.

Yes, once again, there was absolutely nothing I could say to the dear neighbour to prove that I wasn’t crazy.  I grinned helplessly and hoped he thought I was my mother-in-law, not me….

Follow my blog for the next chapter of Maple Sugaring: Syrup! coming soon.

Health benefits of maple sap and syrup:

  • Maple syrup is high in minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron and zinc.
  • Maple sap or water can boost energy without spiking your blood sugar level.
  • Maple sap or water,  similar in taste to coconut water, it is very mildly sweet and a refreshing
  • First Nations people used to drink maple sap at the end of every winter to help rejuvenate the body and regain vitamins and minerals that were lost due to an unvaried winter diet of dehydrated food.

How to tap maple trees:

  • Buy or make spiles.
  • Drill a 2.5 inch hole into the tree, slightly smaller in diameter than the spile.
  • Tap the spile into the hole.
  • Attach a food grade hose to the spile.
  • Put the hose in a container.
  • Check frequently to empty your container.

When to start and stop tapping:

You can start tapping bigleaf maple trees on the south coast of BC, Washington and Oregon any time during the winter, before the buds start developing.  Once the buds develop the taste will become more bitter and you should stop collecting.
It isn’t recommended that you tap your tree more than 1 month long for the health of the tree.

How to store the sap:

Pouring the sap through fine strainer into a large pot that sits on our wood stove all the time, proved the best way to deal with the sap.  It slowly reduced and I continued to add sap to it throughout the sap run.  You can store sap in the freezer until you render it down, but 80 L of sap is a lot to store in the freezer…..  especially when all your freezers are already full of food.

You aren’t limited to just tapping maple trees.  Other trees you can tap:
Birch
Black Walnut
Box Elder
Alder

I have started a facebook group specifically targeting those who tap Bigleaf Maples or who are interested in tapping them.  If you are interested, please request to join!  Click here.

Maple Tapping facebook collage

For more information on tapping specifically Bigleaf Maples click here.

Enjoy these great articles on tapping trees:

Tapping Trees for Syrup by Homespun Seasonal Living

Home-Sugaring Preparation by Homespun Seasonal Living

No Maple Trees?  No Problem.  How To Make Birch Syrup by Joybilee Farms

Making Syrup in the City by Imaginacres

Making Syrup in your Own Back Yard by Homestead Honey

How to Make Maple Syrup by Commonsense Homesteading

The Great Bigleaf Maple Syruping Experiment of 2013 (I thought I was reading my own journal when I read this blog post.  2 peas in a pod, right down to the Laura and Mary series!)

And to round it all off, a delicious looking buttermilk pancake recipe!  Just add your own syrup!
Buttermilk Pancakes by Reformation Acres

 

 

 

 

 

You Know You Are A Modern Homesteader When… 17 Tell-tale signs that happened to me!


You know you are a homesteader when... titled watermarked
A person doesn’t decide one day to turn into a modern homesteader.  And it doesn’t necessarily occur as soon as you bring home your first chickens. It generally happens slowly, over a period of time. And then one day when you least expect it, the realization suddenly hits you. And it is often either pointed out by someone else or discovered through a slightly embarrassing moment. And then you know, without a doubt. YOU have become a modern homesteader.

The following statements, in no particular order, are instances when I knew, with absolute certainty, that I had changed. I was no longer a suburban housewife. I was a homesteader. And I am telling you the truth: these all happened to me.

You know you are a Modern Homesteader when…

  1. You spend more on canning jars than you do on clothes.
  2. “Picking up chicks” takes on a whole new meaning.
  3. You are proud of your farmer’s tan because it means you actually WORKED to get it.
  4. Your child teaches you that you don’t need to spend money on a mud mask.
  5. You don’t need your wallet to run out to get some _________ (milk, eggs, vegetables etc.)
  6. You reach into your pocket and pull out a duck egg instead of coins.
  7. You understand the real meaning of “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket”.
  8. You find hay in your bra.
  9. You’d rather spend winter evenings reading seed catalogues than going out anywhere.
  10. Pallets are included in your list of building supplies.
  11. Your selfies involve farm animals and/or vegetables.
  12. A “mud room” really means a room with mud in it. LOTS of mud.
  13. Your 3 year old knows how babies are made and where they come from.
  14. You pay for things with eggs, jam or honey instead of money.
  15. You store your vinegar and baking soda in the bathroom and your toothpaste and lotion in the fridge.
  16. When a date night with your husband means getting hay or trimming hooves.
  17. You actually cry over spilled milk.

Can you relate?  What signs proved to you that you were a modern homesteader?

You Know You Are A Homesteader WHen... Collage photos

How To Plant Garlic Using an Electric Drill. Easy, quick and fun!

Garlic planting with drill2 title and watermarked

I like power tools.  I don’t have my own but my husband has lots, and when I do get my hands on them, I get that glazed over look in my eyes and rev the engine.  There is something about holding an electric drill up on your shoulder and squeezing the trigger.  I feel POWERFUL!  I feel STRONG!  I feel like we can do this, sistas!  Maybe if I had had the ingenuity to take shop class in high school instead of home ec I would have less of the glazed look and more skill to show for it.  That said, I have discovered a new use for the electric drill.

In 2013 I bought some lovely big, local garlic bulbs to plant.  They were horrifyingly expensive, but I figured that I could collect half the harvest and save seeds for next year.  I planted them in December (our soil doesn’t freeze much where we live) and the following summer I had a bountiful crop of beautiful, delicious garlic.  I ended up with 60+ heads of garlic.  I saved the best half for seed garlic, and we used the other half.

This time when I planted my garlic I had 30 heads, which resulted in 142 cloves of garlic.  That’s a lot of digging, especially in winter, in our cold, clay soil.  My friend Bruce shared his solution!  It is so simple it floored me.  A drill!!  A cordless drill with a large bit on the end.  I could tell you in words how well it worked, but instead I took a video.  Its only a few seconds long: check it out!!

Tips for planting garlic:

  • Garlic prefer well-drained, loamy soil although they will grow in other types of soil.
  • Garlic like to be fertilized.  Before you plant them add some compost or manure to the garden.
  • Don’t plant in an area where they will sit in water at any time during the winter.
  • Plant garlic 4-8 inches apart and about 3 inches deep, pointy end up.
  • You can mulch your garlic to prevent weed growth, with a thick layer of staw, hay, leaves or grass clippings over the winter.  Make sure to thin it to about 2  inches deep in the spring to ensure the garlic will come through the mulch.
  • Don’t forget the scapes!  Hard neck garlic will produce long garlic scapes that should be removed to prevent the garlic from getting woody.  Chop and use as you would garlic or onions, in stir fries, omelets or ???  Delicious!
  • Garlic needs a cold period of time in the winter so make sure you get your garlic in 3 weeks before the ground freezes for the winter.  To prepare your garlic for planting let them sit in a cool area (7-10C) for 3 weeks before planting.

For more tips and information on growing, harvesting and collecting seed garlic, click here.

 

The Green Gardener Soap Recipe with Hemp Oil, Mint and Green Tea.

Green Gardener soap watermarked and titledI am an avid gardener and I spend hours wrist-deep and bare-foot in sun, clay, and manure.  While the last three ingredients result in beautiful vegetables, they take a toll on your skin.  Dirt sucks the moisture out of your skin.  Sunshine and wind further dry and age your skin.  A good soap is a valuable commodity in a homesteader’s wash basin.

The Green Gardener bar is one of my absolute favorites.  It makes a beautiful hard, pale green soap with a fantastic lather.  Using nourishing ingredients such as moisturizing hemp oil, anti-oxidizing green tea and soothing, refreshing mint extract, this soap is great for dry gardeners’ hands.  I added clay to 1/4 of the batch at trace to make a lighter layer on top, but this is totally optional.  This one is a must for any gardener on your list!

Shopping List:

Lye
Sustainably Sourced Palm Oil
Coconut Oil
Hemp Oil
Olive Oil Pomace
Vitamin E
Green Tea
Peppermint Essential Oil
Kaolin Clay

This recipe is written for people who have made soap before.  If you are looking for a basic soap tutorial with pictures click here.

The Green Gardener Soap Recipe.
Author: 
Recipe type: Soap Making
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Green Gardener's Soap makes a beautiful, hard bar of soap combining the nourishing properties of hemp oil with the rejuvenating and anti-aging properties of green tea.
Ingredients
  • 32 ozs. Palm Oil (Sustainably Sourced)
  • 27 ozs. Coconut Oil 76
  • 16 ozs. Hemp Oil
  • 15 ozs. Olive Oil Pomace
  • 10 drops of Vitamin E Oil
  • 13 ozs. Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)
  • 30 ozs. Green Tea (yes, make up a batch of strong tea)
  • 4 ozs. Peppermint essential oil or oils of your choice.
  • 1-2 tsps. of Kaolin Clay (Optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine the oils in a large pot and melt until almost totally melted. Turn off heat.
  2. Combine the lye with the green tea.
  3. Take the temperature of both and add the lye mixture to the oil mixture when the temperatures are the same. As long as the temperatures of both are within 5 degrees F of each other, and are between 90F and 120F, you can combine them.
  4. Blend with an electric hand mixer (stick blender) until the soap reaches trace.
  5. Working quickly to avoid cooling, separate ¼ of the mixture into a different bowl
  6. Pour the rest into your prepared mold.
  7. Quickly mix the clay with the ¼ batch. Then pour on top of the soap that is already in the mold.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap and then wrap the batch well with a towel.
  9. Store in a warm place (70 F) for 24 hours.
  10. Remove soap from mold and cut into pieces.
  11. Place soap pieces on edge on a towel where they aren't touching each other (kind of like dominoes) so they can harden and finish the soap making process. Leave for 3-4 weeks before using.

 

 

 

Eartheasy Vermicomposting Giveaway: Learn How To Compost with Worms!

Have you got worms yet?  This is an easy way to get an amazing, rich compost for your garden!  Check out this giveaway and take a moment to enter!  I have had a worm bin of my own for months now and the kids and I enjoy feeding them and watching them in action.  I have even given away a batch for a friend to start her own colony!

 -My Healthy Green Family

Welcome to the Eartheasy Vermicomposting giveaway!

eartheasy vermicomposting giveaway amended

This Vermicomposting giveaway is sponsored by Eartheasy, your online store for sustainable living. One lucky winner will receive:

Vermicomposting is a great way to turn kitchen scraps and yard waste into nutrient rich fertilizer. The Worm Factory 360 is the ultimate worm bin for vermicomposting and tucks easily into a corner of your back porch or even the kitchen! Read more about how the Worm Factory 360 works here.

Store your kitchen scraps in the handy stainless steel compost keeper and feed them to your composting worms each week. The worms start composting the scraps immediately and in a few short months you will have enough worm castings to harvest and fertilize your garden. You’ll no longer have to buy bags of compost at the store or worry about your standard compost bin freezing outside in the winter. Vermicomposting is the easiest way to make compost at home and this giveaway is the perfect way to get started!

This giveaway is open to residents of the United States. You must be 18 years or older to enter. This giveaway will end on December 19th at midnight. When the giveaway ends, the randomly chosen winner will be contacted by email and have 24 hours to respond. If the person does not respond in the given time, another winner will be chosen. Good luck!

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Living On What We Have: A Month of No Groceries

Living On What We Have
Planting.  Weeding.  Watering.  Harvesting.  Canning.  Dehydrating.  Freezing.  When October finally arrived this year and things gradually started to slow down I would stop periodically and gaze lovingly at my full pantry shelves over-flowing with over 700 jars of stored food, the freezers full of our own meat, fruit and vegetables, and jars of dehydrated fruit.  Then I went to the grocery store and came home with more food.  When my husband’s aunt heard the number of jars of food I had canned and told me that was 2 jars of food a day we needed to eat, for 365 days, not including the food in the freezers or the dehydrated food, I finally realized what we needed to do… we needed to stop buying food.  With buckets of beans in the freezer and pounds of carrots still underground why was I coming home with vegetables?  Surely we could stop buying food and eat what we had. Canning shelves 2014d watermarked

I have a tendency to hoard the food I worked so hard for, but realistically it all needs to be eaten before we harvest it again next summer.  A plan began to take shape in my head.  I had  read a blog post about a couple who stopped buying groceries for a year.  They had their exceptions: they bought from local farmers and markets, or traded and bartered.  This is a neat idea, and helps support the local farmers, but in November in Canada there isn’t much to buy from local farmers, and besides, we really already have it all.  We have fresh eggs and milk, and so much food preserved we would last a long time if we could never buy food again.  If they could go a year, surely we could go a month!

And so we began.

My goal was to make sure that my pantry was full of baking necessities, and I bought extra local cheese and butter, freezing the butter.  Other than that, I did not buy anything extra.  We didn’t buy any packaged or prepared food.  We had a case of our own apples in the fridge, and I dehydrated some bananas and apples.  Our garden still had carrots, lettuce, chard, kale, broccoli and radishes.

Within the first week all fresh store-bought produce was gone.  We were relying on the garden, cool-storage and freezer for vegetables.

Starting in the second week we had below freezing temperatures for ten days.  This finished off much of the garden, and the escaped pigs finished off the rest.

By the third week I discovered we were running low on chocolate chips.  Horrors!  :)  We did without.  Pretty much everything else was still well stocked.  Even the canning shelves didn’t look like there was much taken out of them.  The only thing I craved was greens… a nice big salad!  This kick-started an indoor greens garden project.  A few days later I had sprouts growing in jars and in dirt, and the lettuce and mustard green had sprouted.  No one needs greens that come from Mexico in the winter.  We can grow our own.lettuce 1 weekwatermarked

By the fourth week our fridge contained pretty much just jars.  Jars of milk, jars of homemade yogurt, a jar of homemade mayo, relish and sauces, jams, canned fruit etc. The kids grabbed dehydrated fruit for snacks instead of fresh fruit from the fridge.  The frozen blueberries became more important, and the dehydrated apples, pears and bananas were brought out.  We were missing things like avocados, oranges, bananas, tomatoes and greens.  All of those things, though, are either not local or are not grown here this time of year.  We used a lot of frozen peas, corn and beans, the last of the carrots out of the garden, and squash or pumpkin became a feature. Still though, there was no sense of need or depletion of our stores.


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LESSONS LEARNED

Our month without groceries has taught us some valuable lessons.

It’s greener.

  • No grocery shopping means no plastic bags.  You can’t even get upset with yourself for forgetting the cloth bags.  The opportunity is simply not there.  You are getting greener.
  • No grocery shopping means almost no recycling.  We didn’t stock up on packaged food so there was no packages to recycle or throw out. After all our hard work preserving food all summer, we really CAN preserve enough to THRIVE, not just make it through, the winter.
  • Much smaller carbon footprint. If you aren’t driving to the store you aren’t burning fossil fuels to get there.  And neither are you buying food that came from somewhere far away, that has, itself, a significant carbon footprint.

You save money.

  • To start with you can’t impulse shop.  If you aren’t there to see it, you won’t be buying it.  The end.
  • You aren’t affected by advertising.  2 for 1 apple juice! Too bad I am not going to the grocery store to buy it!
  • You aren’t buying any prepared food which is a lot more expensive than buying the raw ingredients with which to make it.  You use what you have which uses things up and keeps you from buying unnecessary food.

Value your food

  • You learn pretty quickly the value of treats.  Food that we didn’t have, such as fresh out of season produce or tropical fruits, can be truly enjoyed and valued when eaten as a treat rather than every day. My seven year old daughter came home with an uneaten mandarin orange in her lunch box. When I questioned her about it she told me that a boy had brought a box of mandarins to school to share with the class.  Everyone had one.  She took hers home because she remembered that we couldn’t have oranges this month and she wanted us all to share it.  For supper that night, along with our meal we had a little slice of orange cut up neatly by my daughter and placed on each plate.  She had learned how to value a treat, and how to share it with others when she could have eaten it all on her own without us even knowing she had it.  <3
  • You learn to value the resources you have in your freezer, on your shelves, or in your garden.

Reap the health benefits

After eating homemade food for a month when you DO have processed food you are a bit overcome by the intensity of the salt, the sugar and the flavor.  Your body has adjusted to how you are cooking and it no longer tastes bland; it is just what food tastes like.  But when you are hit with the over-salted, over-sugared, over-fatted processed food, your body rebels by feeling sick.  I ate a candy and within a few minutes developed a headache and felt sick to my stomach. It is amazing how quickly our bodies become used to and even addicted to flavoring, salt, sugar and fat.  After “cleansing” our bodies of it, we realize exactly what we are doing to our health by eating processed food in the first place.

Habit changes

  • “Any habit can be broken in 30 days” I read once.  Well, I don’t know how accurate this is, but I certainly know that our lifestyle has been altered significantly after completing this challenge, and I know that it won’t swing back to how it was.  Every single day for thirty days I have had to come up with 3 meals a day and lots of snack ideas with only what was in the house.  This makes for simple eating, and crafty thinking.  Who needs a granola bar for a snack when you could have sliced apples and cheese?  We will be looking deeper into the cupboards now rather than running off to the store.
  • During this challenge I taught my seven year old daughter how to read recipe books and follow recipes.  Now, when she is looking for a snack that isn’t already there, she pulls out a recipe book and makes it from the ingredients we have on hand.
  • With our craving for fresh greens I took on projects I had never done before, like sprouting beans and growing lettuce indoors.  This challenge has helped us look for alternatives rather than just automatically buying something.

How Long Could We Go?
Before the invention of the grocery store people just DID put up enough food for the winter.  It was a matter of life or death.  Today, we don’t have to although we could.  Is it doable?  Well, that depends on how far you take it.  We did buy supplies so that we could bake and continue to eat pretty much the same as we ever did.  That’s just storage though.  We didn’t grow the wheat or oats. Without those supplies we would be living a far different life, and adapting to a different diet. Our quality of life might decrease much further though, and I wasn’t prepared to force my family into something that wasn’t a group decision.  Judging from the one month of no grocery shopping, we would definitely have enough meat, potatoes, flour and canned food to last us the year.  We would not have enough fresh fruit or dehydrated fruit just from our own supplies.

What can we improve on for next year?
In order to go more than a month without fresh fruit we would have to dehydrate more. The kids love fresh fruit and I don’t see why we need to make them do without for extended periods of time unless we have to.  We still have a lot of frozen vegetables but I think we would need to add more next year if we were to get through a winter comfortably.

Will we do the challenge again?
I am sure we will!  In fact, after just one month my canning pantry hardly looks like it has been touched yet.  The freezers are still loaded and the food must be eaten.   And in keeping with Christmas this year, eggnog can be made from eggs and milk produced on our farm, and the ham in the freezer sounds particularly tasty for Christmas.  Christmas treats can be made with whole ingredients with not much difficulty, and with a large stash of pumpkins, frozen apple slices and lard, the pies won’t be lacking! Maybe by Christmas the lettuce will be ready to harvest :).

Ready for the challenge yourself?  
Ever wonder how long you could go without buying food?  Ever wonder how prepared you would really be to spend a winter without groceries?  You could try it even just for a week to get some kind of an idea of what it would be like!  We now know we could go through the winter with the food we have, although we would miss the fresh fruit.  With a little ingenuity though, it is definitely doable, and has made me feel just a little more sustainable in this crazy world of ours.

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