Last Year’s Garden

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I started this post in August last year (although it was titled “Garden Update” eight months ago), and here I am in April finally getting back to it. I meant to follow my gardening journey all through the season last year, but I only ended up with one other post. As it turns out, gardening is rather time-consuming, and I honestly didn’t have time to blog. I mean, check out my behemoth plot:

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Looking back, I’m still in awe at how lush our patch of dirt was at the height of summer. Nearly everything flourished, and my harvest was abundant. I wish I could take credit for being some ultra-talented master gardener, but all I did was plant the seeds and water them, weed, prune, and harvest. But I never fertilized or used pesticide, just let nature take its course. Ultimately, I had good weather, rich soil, and a lot of luck on my side.

Things I’m glad I did: Followed the square-foot garden planting recommendations. Companion planted. Planted flowers and herbs to attract beneficial insects. Trellised, staked, caged, and grew things vertically. Pruned the vining crops. Put down wood chips in my paths. Mulched around the pumpkins and melons with cardboard, newspaper, and grass clippings. Composted near the plot. Took the time to clean up the waste, put the garden to bed, and mulch with fall leaves. Froze, canned, and shared the excess. Read, researched, tried, and sought advice.

What I grew:

  • Boomsdale Longstanding Spinach (direct sown) – Really great until it bolted! The baby leaves were sweeter and more tender than the adult leaves, but all in all I was happy with it. Need to plant more this year for freezing.

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  • All Year Round Lettuce (direct sown) – The best lettuce ever! Very sweet and tender, and held up in the summer heat really well without turning bitter.

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  • Black Beauty Zucchini (direct sown) – Can you say zucchini exhaustion? If I missed a day of harvesting these guys, the fruits were absolute monsters! Will grow again, but only one plant instead of two. And will definitely give these huge plants a big tomato cage and plenty of room.

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  • Sugar Ann Pea (direct sown) – These are so cute and tasty, just thinking about them makes me smile. I don’t think a single pod made it to the kitchen because Olivia and I ate them all in the garden! The plants didn’t produce produce much, but I would plant them again in a heartbeat. They liked the vertical trellis made with twine best.

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  • Lincoln Homesteader Pea – The peas were tasty enough (we ate most of them fresh in the garden), but the plants didn’t produce much. I think maybe I planted them too late! Maybe we’ll have better luck this year. I trellised these with the cukes.
  • Blue Lake 274 Bush Bean (direct sown) – These tasted fine, but they didn’t produce as much as I’d hoped for. We didn’t have any excess to freeze. But they were easy to maintain, so maybe this year I’ll just plant more seeds.

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  • Blue Lake FM-1K Pole Bean – These were a bust. I’m not sure what I did wrong! They only climbed halfway up the 6-foot pole teepee and produced a handful of beans. They were hiding behind the cucumber trellis, so maybe they didn’t get enough sun. Will try again this year.

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  • Sweet Basil (direct sown) – Easy to grow, low maintenance, and smells divine! This variety produced heavily, so I will most certainly sow only one plant this year.

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  • Brunswick Cabbage (direct sown and started seedlings indoors) – These plants were completely devastated by insects. On the upside, they were a good trap crop!

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  • Lemon Balm (started seedlings indoors) – I’m not sure what to say about this since my plant just sat on my porch and I didn’t do anything with it. The leaves were pretty I guess!

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  • National Pickling Cucumber (direct sown) – I grew these just for pickling, though I ate a bunch fresh, too. They were good, especially if I harvested them before they got too big. I canned a bunch, but found I didn’t like how thinly my food processor sliced. This year I want to harvest the babies and can some spicy baby dills. I grew these on a 4-foot trellis with nylon garden netting.

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  • California Wonder Bell Pepper (started seedlings indoors) – My transplanted seedlings did awesome! Alas, I started the seeds too late and never got any fruit from them before the season was over. The seedlings I purchased from the nursery (red, orange, purple, and green sweet peppers) did really well, though the fruits were on the small side and not as sweet as I’d hoped for. I put a small tomato cage around each plant, but I’m not sure it was necessary.

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  • Garden Thyme (direct sown and started seedlings indoors) – I love thyme. I was glad I started this herb inside and glad I planted plenty of it to last me all year long. It’s easy to dry, too.

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  • Golden Bantam Sweet Corn (direct sown) – Easy to grow, but not worth the watering. Every one of my plants was infested with earwigs. The kernels were tough and chewy, so we ended up composting most of the ears we did harvest. Cleaning up the stalks after the season was a pain in the ass, even though the kids had fun hiding in them through the summer. Final verdict: I’ll let the farmers grow corn for me. it tasted better. I won’t grow this variety again.

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  • Bouquet Dill (direct sown) – Easy to grow! This plant got very big, and one plants was more than enough for my canning needs. I still have the other dried bush hanging in my diningroom.

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  • Charentais Cantaloupe (direct sown) – Really sweet, juicy, and fragrant. But also very little. I grew mine right next to the compost pile.

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  • Crimson Sweet Watermelon (direct sown) – The BEST watermelon we’ve ever had! It was perfect–dark ruby red flesh, juicy, and sweet. Yum!

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  • Danvers 126 Carrot (direct sown) – These grew well and tasted… like carrots! I wished they would’ve been sweeter. They were all different sizes. Definitely need to plant more this year!

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  • Connecticut Field Pumpkin (direct sown) – Grew like crazy! I had to commit some seedling genocide after I realized I had planted way too many seeds. I ended up with two plants, which produced three large pumpkins. I tried to make the vines “jump the fence,” but they were too heavy and began to break. So I expanded my garden fence to accommodate these aggressive growers. I’m thinking about planting them in the grass this year. If cured properly and kept in cold storage, these will last many months.

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  • Small Sugar Pumpkin (direct sown) – Two plants yielded over a dozen sweet little pumpkins. I’d like to learn to grow these vertically. It was tricky and time-consuming keeping up with all the extra runners on the vines, but I would’ve had waaay too many pumpkins had I not pruned them. Every last pumpkin leaf succumbed to powdery mildew at the end of summer, so I harvested a little early and cut down the plants. The green pumpkins turned orange in the sun during curing.

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  • Waltham Butternut Squash (direct sown) – This plant was super aggressive; its vines invaded all the neighboring beds and crowded my poor carrots. I was glad I trellised this plant so it had some space to grow, but it definitely needs more room this year. I read somewhere that putting a suspended squash in a nylon will keep it from falling off the vine, but I later discovered that the stem was strong and sturdy enough to keep it attached until harvest.

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  • Tomatoes – Sadly, the tomatoes I tried to start from seed never sprouted, so I bought seedlings from the nursery. The cherry tomatoes in the container on the porch produced a handful of fruit, but otherwise did not fare well. The heirloom variety never flowered and soon died. The determinate variety grew just fine and produced some large fruits. The indeterminate variety… well, that plant grew to the top of my 7-foot stake and was still producing lots of fruit when we put the garden to bed in the fall! I am so glad I built a sturdy cage for it: two large, round tomato cages attached (big sides together) with zip ties, one small end in the ground and one small end in the air. To the cages I attached (with zip ties) three 7-foot wooden stakes in a tripod.

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  • Flowers – Yarrow, chamomile, marigolds, zinnias, sunflowers, borage, calendula, purple coneflower, nasturtium, and bachelor’s buttons. The flowers attracted swarms of bees to our garden, but amazingly, not one of us got stung! I thought for sure I’d have battle wounds, since I spent hours with my face and arms in the flowers, weeding and harvesting. More pictures of our beautiful flowers.

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Gluten-Free Brownies

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brownies

Easily the best brownies I have ever made. Here’s the original recipe, and my tweaked version below.

  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup unrefined sugar (I used evaporated cane juice sugar)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup white rice flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 3 Tbsp. semisweet chocolate chips
  • coconut oil and white rice flour for pan

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8×8-inch baking pan with coconut oil and white rice flour.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler. Add melted chocolate to mixture, whisk to combine.

3. Add baking powder, sea salt, and xanthan gum, whisk to combine. Stir in flours. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips.

4. Bake 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

Day 2: I meant to leave these on the counter last night, but accidentally put them in the fridge. This morning (yes, we ate them for breakfast) they were still soft, chewy, and delicious. God bless these brownies.

First Kombucha Brew

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kombucha

At long last! We have our first batch of home-brewed kombucha. I second guessed myself every step of the way, convinced I would screw something up, but it turns out that kombucha is very easy to make. And healthy and delicious, too! Win, win, win. (I can’t resist Office references.)

Kombucha Recipe & Instructions

  1. Bring 1 gallon of purified water to a boil, remove from heat.
  2. Add 10 organic black tea bags, and steep 5-10 minutes. Remove tea bags and cool completely.
  3. Rinse clean hands and a glass brewing vessel (I used a gallon jar) with white vinegar and water. Pour tea into jar.
  4. Add 1 cup organic white sugar, stir until dissolved.
  5. Add kombucha starter (scoby + 1 cup brewed kombucha).
  6. Cover with a clean cloth or tea towel, secure with a rubber band.
  7. Place jar in a warm, dark place with good air circulation. Let brew for 7 days. Do not disturb.
  8. Check the tea after 7 days. If it tastes sweet, let it brew longer, tasting every day until the sweet taste is gone and the tart taste takes over.The longer the brew, the more sour/vinegary the tea will taste. (Update: My brew consistently takes 14 days—with only 1 scoby—before the sweet taste is gone. With 2 or more scobys, it’s done in 7 days.)
  9. When desired taste is reached, pour 1-2 cups brewed kombucha into a clean glass jar or bowl and transfer scobys into the container. Cover with cloth and rubber band and place in a dark place.
  10. Pour the remaining kombucha into clean bottles (rinsed with vinegar/water), flavor (optional, see notes below), and store at room temperature for 2-3 days. Transfer to refrigerator. You can skip the second ferment if you aren’t flavoring or do not want the natural carbonation.

Notes on flavoring:

  • Kombucha is easy to flavor. I just dropped a bit of frozen fruit into the bottom of each bottle, poured in the kombucha (almost to the top), screwed on the lids, and set in a cooler at room temperature for 3 days.
  • Strawberries make kombucha super fizzy! It tastes like strawberry soda; even Luke likes it! The blueberries and grapes gave a much milder flavor, but still added lots of bubbles. Blueberry-pomegranate juice was so-so, but the spiced apple is delicious!
  • There’s lots of flavoring ideas here.

Kombucha Kamp is a really, really helpful website that I referenced a number of times for troubleshooting.

Special thanks to my sister-in-law, Lacey, for the recipe and instruction, and to my sister, Amy, for the scoby! We’re a family of kombucha-brewing fools. :)

Home Apothecary V

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crunch·y [kruhn-chee] adjective, crunch·i·er, crunch·i·est.

  • Crunchy granola: health-conscious and environmentally aware (“One of those crunchy gals who insists on making her own cosmetics.”)

It’s getting mighty crunchy around here. Why? Take a gander at this list of ingredients to avoid in your cosmetics. Making your own cosmetics is not only better for you, it’s simple and cost-effective. Win, win, win.

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deodorant II

Coconut Oil Deodorant, Revised

I have altered this deodorant recipe many times trying to find just the right combination of ingredients, and I think I’ve finally got it! Use whatever essential oils you like. You will need fewer drops if using base note oils (earthy, woodsy, musky); the base note scents will last longer than that of top/middle notes (citrus, floral, camphorous).

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 2 cups arrowroot powder
  • 1/8-1/4 cup baking soda (use 1/8 c. if you have sensitive skin)
  • essential oils*

*Essential oil blends I dig:

  • 40 drops lavender + 40 drops sandalwood
  • 25 drops vetiver + 25 drops sandalwood + 20 drops sweet orange

Melt coconut oil in a small pan over very low heat. Remove from heat as soon as melted, and stir in baking soda and arrowroot powder. Let cool for a couple minutes, then stir in essential oils. (Personally, I find it wise to use a mixing boil designated for apothecary purposes when using essential oils. Should you choose to do the same, transfer the mixture to said bowl before adding essential oils.) Pour mixture into empty, clean deodorant containers or jars (apply with fingertips if using jars). Store in a cool place or in the fridge if your house is warmer than 75 degrees. Recipe makes a double-batch (I filled two 4-oz. jars and one 8-oz. jar).

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bug balm

Bug Balm

This balm has the added benefit of having a bit of “sunblock” in it because coconut oil and shea butter are natural sunscreens, albeit not very strong sunscreens.

  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp. shea butter
  • 15-20 drops each citronella, eucalyptus, and cajeput essential oils
  • 10 drops cedarwood essential oil

Melt the butter and oil in a double boiler over low heat. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes, then stir in essential oils. Pour into a glass jar and cool in refrigerator until solid. Store in a cool place.

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sunburn relief

Sunburn Relief Oil

Frankincense essential oil soothes burned skin and helps take the red out—amazing!

Pour a teaspoon of carrier oil (I use jojoba or sweet almond) into your palm and add a few drops of frankincense essential oil. Rub palms together and apply to sunburn.

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acne solutions

Acne Solutions

Simple, chemical-free solutions from your kitchen. Nice.

Astringent: Dilute raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar 1:1 or 1:2 with water. Apply to affected area with a cotton ball. Use straight ACV on a q-tip as spot-treatment.

Scrub: 1 teaspoon gentle liquid soap + 1/4-1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Pour soap into your palm, add baking soda, rub palms together, and gently massage into skin. Rinse.

Scrub #2: 1 tsp. sugar + 1 tsp. honey. Gently massage into skin. Rinse.

Spot treatment: Tea tree oil. That’s all!

Moisturizer: Jojoba oil. That’s all! Essential oils can be added if desired.

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black soap

Black Soap

I suffered from dry, itchy skin for months before realizing that maybe it was the soap I was using. I thought, “Surely, castile soap is gentle enough that it would not be causing this problem.” Then my mother-in-law suggested that the alkalinity of the castile soap was disrupting the pH of my skin, stripping away the acids and good bacteria. I believe whole-heartedly that she was right. I switched soaps, and my skin is back to normal. I still use castile soap in my foaming hand soap though.

I love Black Soap. I purchased it on a whim and will never go back; it’s perfect for my sensitive skin and inexpensive to boot. I use it as a body/face wash and use it on my kids for body wash/shampoo. It’s a little too heavy for my hair, though. Black soap, which is made from plantain skins, has a strong earthy, musky scent. I dig it, but it’s not for everyone.

Black Soap Ingredients: Water, saponified coconut, hemp & olive oils with retained glycerin, black soap concentrate, organic shea butter, fragrance, vitamin e, sea salt, citric acid, rosemary extract and caramel.

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I purchase many ingredients (and more!) from Vitacost; the prices are low and shipping is free for orders over $49. Get $10 off your first order of $30 at Vitacost!

The Garden

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Planting

I planted my very first garden this year! I got a late start with my indoor seeds, but did finally transplant most of the 19 seedlings that made it to summer. Everything else was directly sown in May and is flourishing! It is beautiful to see, smell, touch, and eat. I have thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of gardening, even the weeding. (It is almost therapeutic.) I purchased my seeds from Victory Seeds, a non-gmo, non-Monsanto company that offers a variety of chemical-free heirloom seeds.

I loosely followed the square-foot gardening method, though I didn’t read Mel Bartholomew’s book first (I just now got it from the library). I knew I wanted to grow things vertically, so I just built a variety of trellises to see what works best. Books I do recommend are Backyard Homesteading and Talking Dirt. I also thumbed through The Complete Compost Gardening Guide, which was super interesting, but I didn’t have time to get into it. The most helpful websites I found were Mother Earth News and Harvest to Table, but I mostly just Googled stuff, read websites and forums, and watched a lot of YouTube videos.

The garden, tilled and planted:DSC_0876

First sprouts and a lot of weeds:

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Indoor seedlings under the lights:

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First Harvests

There is nothing–NOTHING–so satisfying as harvesting food from your own backyard and bringing it to your dining room table. I highly recommend All Year Round Lettuce, which is still sweet and going strong, despite the summer heat. It can pretty much be harvested at any stage–the baby leaves are so tender. My Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach bolted as soon as the weather heated up, but I got a good crop before it went to seed. The Sugar Ann Peas and Lincoln Peas are still producing delicious pods (though not as many as I would have hoped), but not one has made it to the kitchen–the kids and I ate them all in the garden!

I picked up a copy of Simply in Season when we started receiving farm-share produce, meat, eggs, and other foods through a CSA (community-supported agriculture). It’s an excellent cookbook for eating through the seasons and will come in handy when more of our vegetables are ready to harvest.

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Garden as of July 10

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Trying to train my pumpkin vines to climb the fence and leave the garden:

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West and north beds, 4-foot cucumber/pea trellis on left:

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East and north beds, 7-foot tomato trellises on right, cinder-block compost bin way in the back:

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6-foot Butternut Squash tee pee and a lot of sweet corn plants:

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Beautiful blue Borage blooms in the foreground, 4-foot cucumber & pea trellis in the middle, 6-foot bean pole tee pee in back, vegetables growing everywhere:

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Chemical-free Solutions

The cabbage is my only crop (thus far, knock on wood) that has fallen prey to a ravenous insect. I’ve got this garlic insect repellant for the garden in my fridge getting ready to use. Abram and I doused the weeds in my walkways with apple cider vinegar, which burned the crap out of them, but I hand-weeded all the beds. I mulched the walkways with wood chips, and the pumpkin and melon beds with sheets of newspaper covered with grass clippings, which has helped tremendously. I also sprayed a solution of half water, half apple cider vinegar on the soil at the base of several plants that were growing mold (because I poured soured raw milk on them). I also fed my potted plants water mixed with epsom salts (1 gallon of water with 2 tbsp. epsom salts), which perked them right up. Oh, and I put some egg shells around my tomato plants. No other “fertilizing” to speak of.

For mosquitoes… If I’m out from dusk onward, I put on jeans and a white, long-sleeved shirt, and on on my face and neck I apply Bug Balm (recipe below). This balm has the added benefit of having a bit of “sunblock” in it because coconut oil and shea butter are natural sunscreens, albeit not very strong sunscreens. If you do get burned, a bit of sweet almond or jojoba oil with a few drops of frankincense essential oil soothes burned skin and takes the red out. It’s pretty amazing!

Bug Balm:

  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp. shea butter
  • 15-20 drops each citronella, eucalyptus, and cajeput essential oils
  • 10 drops cedarwood essential oil

Melt the butter and oil in a double boiler over low heat. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes, then stir in essential oils. Pour into a glass jar and cool in refrigerator until solid. Store in a cool place.

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Container Gardening

Growing a tomato plant in a 5-gallon bucket on the deck:

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Potted flowers an herbs on the deck (my window box herb garden not pictured):

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Echinacea (purple coneflower):

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Closing Remarks

I’ve made a number a newbie gardener mistakes, which are all too embarrassing to go into here, but it’s all part of the learning process! Yet even with all its challenges, I’ve not encountered anything quite so rewarding as gardening. Dirty hands, green plants, fresh air, sunshine, and food that I grew myself. Yep, I’m hooked.

Home Apothecary IV

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crunch·y [kruhn-chee] adjective, crunch·i·er, crunch·i·est.

  • Crunchy granola: health-conscious and environmentally aware (“One of those crunchy gals who insists on making her own cosmetics.”)

It’s getting mighty crunchy around here. Why? Take a gander at this list of ingredients to avoid in your cosmetics. Making your own cosmetics is not only better for you, it’s simple and cost-effective. Win, win, win.

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shaving soap

Shaving Soap

I made this for my little younger brothers. I only used it once, so I don’t know how it does in the long-term, but I liked that it produced a nice lather when applied to damp skin.

  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil (or sweet almond oil)
  • 1/4 c. liquid castile soap
  • 1/4 c. raw honey
  • 2 tbsp. shea butter
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. vitamin E (or 1200 IU)

In a double boiler, heat butter and oil until butter is melted. Remove from heat and cool about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining ingredients. Pour into container and cool, then top with lid. To use, put a small amount on fingertips and apply to damp skin until worked into lather. (Makes about 8 oz.)

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lotion bars

Lotion Bars

Because you have to rub lotion bars directly onto the skin (unlike regular lotion, which you put in your hands, then apply to skin), they are well-suited for hands, elbows, knees, and feet. They do moisturize well, but you must keep them in a container.

  • 2 oz. shea butter
  • 2 oz. coconut oil
  • 2 oz. beeswax
  • 1200 IU vitamin E
  • optional: 20-30 drops essential oil of choice

In a double boiler, heat the wax and oils until melted, then remove from heat. Cool a few minutes, then stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into molds (I used plastic soap molds) and cool until hardened. Remove from molds. Wrap in plastic wrap or store in a ziploc bag, travel soap container or on a soap dish. (Makes 2 medium bars, 1 small)

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facial cream

Lemon, Patchouli & Frankincense Facial Cream

Just a variation on the theme. This lotion is easy to make, very emollient, and non-comedogenic. To “de-shine” your face after application, blot it with a damp washcloth. Here’s a handy chart on essential oils for skincare.

Original Recipe from Aura Cacia

  • 1/2 oz. beeswax
  • 2 oz. jojoba oil
  • 2 oz. sweet almond oil
  • 3 oz. distilled water
  • 15 drops patchouli essential oil
  • 10 drops frankincense essential oil
  • 10 drops lemon essential oil
  • 1/4 tsp. vitamin E (or 1200 IU)

In a double boiler, heat the wax and oils until melted, then remove from heat. Simultaneously, heat the water to boiling in a separate pan, then remove from heat. Add the water to the wax/oils in a thin stream while vigorously beating the mixture with a wire whisk. When slightly cooled (about 5 minutes) add remaining ingredients. Continue to whisk until the lotion is a creamy consistency. Note: This cream will start to spoil after a few weeks. Use a clean spoon to scoop out of container and store in refrigerator to extend shelf life. (Makes about 8 oz.)

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foamingSoap

Foaming Hand Soap

People, it doesn’t get any easier than this. You can use any essential oils you like; these are a few of the oils that have antibacterial properties: clove, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, peppermint, rosemary, and tea tree.

Original recipe here.

  • 2 Tbsp. liquid castile soap
  • 5 drops tea tree essential oil
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil
  • water from the tap

Pour soap and essential oils into a clean 9-ounce foaming handsoap bottle. Fill the rest of the way with water, leaving room 1/2 inch at the top. Shake before each use.

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Simple Facial Oil

Much as I love my facial cream, I needed an easy-to-make and quickly-absorbing facial moisturizer for those days when I’m short on time in the morning. I came up with this recipe on the fly, and it suits my needs well. The ratios can be modified for specific skin types: use more olive oil and less jojoba oil for dry skin, and more jojoba and less olive oil for oily skin. Add tea tree essential oil for acne-prone skin, rose essential oil for dry or mature skin, and lavender essential oil for a cooling, refreshing effect.

  • 4 oz. extra virgin olive oil or sweet almond oil (or 2 oz. of each)
  • 1 tbsp. jojoba oil
  • 1/2 tsp. raw honey
  • 1/8 tsp. vitamin E (or 600 IU)
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil

Pour all ingredients into a clean bottle. Shake well before each use. Pour a small amount onto fingertips and massage into damp skin.

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I purchase many ingredients (and more!) from Vitacost; the prices are low and shipping is free for orders over $49. Get $10 off your first order of $30 at Vitacost!

Home Apothecary III

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crunch·y [kruhn-chee] adjective, crunch·i·er, crunch·i·est.

  • Crunchy granola: health-conscious and environmentally aware (“One of those crunchy gals who insists on making her own cosmetics.”)

It’s getting mighty crunchy around here. Why? Take a gander at this list of ingredients to avoid in your cosmetics. Making your own cosmetics is not only better for you, it’s simple and cost-effective. Win, win, win.

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Lavender & Vanilla Belly Butter

I made this belly butter for my sister, sister-in-law-to-be, and good friend, so I can’t personally speak to its effectiveness. It looked and smelled good, though!

  • 1/2 c. shea butter (or half shea and half cocoa)
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil
  • 4 Tbsp. beeswax
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
  • 1/4 tsp. vitamin E (or 1200 IU)

In a double boiler, heat butters, oils, and wax until melted. Remove from heat and cool about 5 minutes. Stir in vitamin E, vanilla, and lavender essential oil. Pour into container and cool until hardened, then top with lid. (Makes about 8 oz.)

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Rose & Lavender Facial Cream

This lotion is easy to make, very emollient, and non-comedogenic. Although it eventually absorbs, it does go on a little greasy. To “de-shine” your face after application, blot it with a damp washcloth. Here’s a handy chart on essential oils for skincare.

Original Recipe from Aura Cacia

  • 1/2 oz. beeswax
  • 2 oz. sweet almond oil
  • 1 oz. jojoba oil
  • 1 oz. coconut oil
  • 3 oz. distilled water
  • 20 drops rose essential oil
  • 15 drops lavender essential oil
  • 1/4 tsp. vitamin E (or 1200 IU)
  • optional: 1/4 tsp. honey + 1/4 tsp. glycerine

In a double boiler, heat the wax and oils until melted, then remove from heat. Simultaneously, heat the water to boiling in a separate pan, then remove from heat. Add the water to the wax/oils in a thin stream while vigorously beating the mixture with a wire whisk. When slightly cooled (about 5 minutes) add remaining ingredients. Continue to whisk until the lotion is a creamy consistency. Note: This cream will start to spoil after a few weeks. Use a clean spoon to scoop out of container and store in refrigerator to extend shelf life. (Makes about 8 oz.)

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Lip Balm II

My first lip balm worked just fine, but this one rocks! It’s medium-firm, so it goes on nice and smooth without being overly melty.

  • 1 Tbsp. beeswax
  • 1 Tbsp. shea butter
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 20-40 drops peppermint essential oil (I use 40)

In a double boiler, heat butter, oils, and wax until melted. Remove from heat and stir in essential oil. Pour into tubes or tins and cool until hardened, then top with lid. To keep the mixture from hardening while you fill tubes, leave the bowl over the hot water. (Makes about a dozen .15 oz. tubes)

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Lime Juice Shampoo

I make and use a bottle of this shampoo every other day. Having very long hair, I use the whole eight ounces in one wash. Adjust the recipe to suit your needs!

  • 1 Tbsp. castile soap
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. lime juice (you can use apple cider vinegar or lemon juice–just don’t use lemon on dark hair)
  • hot water from the tap

Pour soap, baking soda, and lime juice into an 8-ounce bottle. Fill the rest of the way with hot water, leaving about an inch at the top. Shake vigorously. Saturate wet hair, massage, and rinse.

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Solid Perfume

I love the idea of solid perfume, but this one is a little too waxy. Increasing the oil and decreasing the wax would make for smoother application, though I’ve not yet experimented with ratios. I chose a very feminine blend of essential oils, but you can use whatever you like! It helps to read a little bit about the aromatic blending of essential oils.

Recipe from Crunchy Betty

  • 2 tsp. carrier oil (I used sweet almond oil)
  • 2 tsp. beeswax
  • 40-50 drops essential oil blend (example: 20 drops lavender essential oil + 20 drops jasmine essential oil + 10 drops rose essential oil)

In a double boiler, heat oils and wax until melted. Remove from heat and stir in essential oil. Pour into tins and cool until hardened, then top with lid. (Makes one .5 oz tin)

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Satisfying Soups

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roasted vegetable, bean & bacon soup

Roasted Vegetable, Bean & Bacon Soup

I found this little gem in the back of my Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook. I took the basic idea of the recipe (to roast vegetables, then add them to soup), but altered it to suit my personal tastes: eliminated parsnips and rutabaga, added bacon, more veggies, and more broth, and used the beans I had on hand. The results: delicious.

  • 2 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, cut in wedges (or diced, if you have young children)
  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 4 cups bone broth (or chicken or vegetable broth)
  • 15 oz. can beans (I used kidney beans)
  • 3 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme

1. Put potatoes, squash, and carrots in a large roasting pan, drizzle with butter, and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, and thyme. Roast 15-20 minutes in a 450 degree oven. Meanwhile, cook bacon–I just put mine on a baking sheet in the oven with the veggies.

2. Pour broth into a large pot and bring to boil. Add beans, vegetables, and crumbled bacon. Return to boil, then reduce and simmer, covered, 10 minutes.

soup

Easy Peasy Soup

Today, I returned to “normal” eating after a bout of the stomach flu. I wanted an easy, healing, satisfying soup, and this one got the job done. I just used things I had on hand–you could make this with pretty much anything in your freezer, fridge, or pantry!

  • 3 1/2 + cups bone broth (start with 3 1/2, add more if the pasta absorbs too much liquid)
  • 15 oz. can beans (I used kidney beans. They must be my favorite.)
  • 1 cup small pasta (I used brown rice elbow)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 slices nitrite/nitrate-free salami, diced
  • 4 slices nitrite/nitrate-free smoked ham, diced
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf

In a large pot, bring broth to boil. Add all remaining ingredients. Reduce to medium-low heat and cook until pasta is tender, about 20 minutes.

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