We have something special for you today! Our “This, Not That, Thursday” is about indoor herb gardens. An indoor herb garden is a great way to have fresh herbs all year long and in almost any climate. Plus if you grow them from organic non-GMO seeds, you’ll know you’ve got the best of the best for your family.
Savor the flavor of your favorite herbs and add a bright bit of green to your kitchen when you bring your herb garden inside. If you have a sunny windowsill with at least four hours of sunshine a day, you have everything you need for a flourishing garden full of herbs such as mint, oregano, basil, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
There’s no benefit to growing herbs you aren’t going to use. Start with the ones you use often. If you’re still not sure which to grow, here are some ideas:
Rosemary – This herb is spicy and warm and great paired with beef, lamb, or chicken. Rosemary is also helpful for keeping rodents and mosquitoes away.
Thyme – Thyme is most often used as a spice in culinary uses and its aromatic and rich flavor is perfect for soups, stews, and marinades.
Oregano – Oregano is often used in Greek and Italian food (especially tomato dishes).
Mint – Mint is a tasty herb that adds some freshness to any dish (especially lamb!).
Basil – Most well known as the main ingredient in pesto, basil is a delicious and mild herb.
Sage – Sage is a great herb to add to pork or turkey sausage and combines well with any other herb on this list.
You can start your herb garden from seeds, or to get a quick start, you can purchase established herb plants from your local garden center or grocery store. When you purchase established plants you won’t have to wait long until the plants are mature enough for harvesting fresh herbs when you need them.
Hello again! Since many of today’s cat treats are full of preservatives and chemicals, why not make them yourself? That’s why this week’s “This, Not That, Thursday” is on DIY Natural Cat treats. It’s relatively easy and quick, and, best of all, you know what kitty is eating!
Did you know that a single little brown bat can catch up to 600 mosquitoes in one hour?
One gray bat will munch on 3,000 insects in a night. I don’t know about you, but those statistics make these little nighttime flyers pretty popular with me. Would you like to attract some bats to your homestead for natural, non-toxic organic pest control?
The first way to get the little critters interested in your yard is to leave a dead tree if you happen to have one. Some dead trees can pose a problem if they are close to your house or other structures, but if you have a tree that can be left on your property, chances are the bats will eventually move in. The bark that loosens up and pulls away from the trunk when a tree dies provides a perfect little crevice for bats, who love to squeeze into small spaces.
If you’re like most people and having a dead tree on your property is not an option. The next best choice is to install a bat house. If you are handy and want to try building your own bat house, here is a link on DIY Bat house plans https://homesthetics.net/bat-house-plans/ If you’d rather purchase a ready-made bat house, those are also available online, amazon sells them for $25-$60. You may want to visit the website for Bat Conservation International. You’ll find bat house plans, ready-made houses, and all kinds of fascinating bat information.
Now, onto where to place your Bat house. They are best located near a permanent source of water, especially a marsh, lake or river, which is by far the most likely to attract bats. They should be hung roughly 12–15 feet above the ground, where their approach is unobstructed by vegetation or utility wires and they are sheltered as much as possible from the wind. A bat house can be placed on a tree or pole, although those attached to the side of a building have had the most success because they provide temperature stability.
Since appropriate temperature may determine how (or even if) your bat house is used, you may wish to consider several factors before mounting it. Lower temperatures, due to higher altitude or latitude, require that bat houses intended for use by nursery colonies be oriented to receive maximum sun, especially in the morning (southeast exposure). Another way to gain heat absorption is to add tar paper or dark-colored shingles to the Bat house roof. Even in hot climates, bat houses should be positioned to receive morning sun
No matter if they are summer residents only or hang out all year long, it is well worth your time and effort to attract them to your homestead by installing one or more bat houses on or near your home. Encourage other community members to do the same. You’ll enjoy the natural pest protection that they will happily provide you and your family.
Apples! Did someone say apples? This week “This, Not That Thursday” is all about saving those apple peels and cores.
Every fall we take at least one trip to an apple orchard near us. They have family-friendly activities, wonderful local canned goods for sale, and of course, apples. So many apples! Plain apples, apples to make applesauce, pies, crisps and the “mother” of them all… Apple Cider Vinegar
When making any of the above you will probably peel & core some of those apples but did you know you can use the peels and the cores to make apple cider vinegar? This way you have virtually no waste! WINNER!
It is also totally possible to make apple cider vinegar from the whole apple so don’t worry if you don’t have leftover peels and cores from anything.
There are several more elaborate ways to make apple cider vinegar at home, but today I’m gonna show you how to make it from apple scraps. I especially like this method since it allows me to use the apples for other stuff while still making a valuable product from the “waste”.
5-6Large applesApple peels & coresany browning/discolored flesh from organic apples
2-2 1/2Tbspgranulated sugarI like Turbinado raw sugar
2-2 1/2cupswaterboiled and allowed to cool
Cover the bottom of your jar with apple scraps, filling no more than 3/4 full. The apples need room to expand and stay submerged.
Add 2 Tbsp of granulated sugar and 2 cups of filtered water to the jar. The apples should be completely submerged. Mold can grow on any portions of apples that are not covered and ruin your batch of vinegar. If your scraps float to the top of the jar add a smaller jar on top to keep them submerged.
3.Stir the apples, sugar, and water and cover with a coffee filter. Secure with a canning band, or a rubber band.
Allow apples to sit in a warm, dark place for 2 weeks. Above the refrigerator or on the top shelf of a cupboard are great places. Just don’t forget you put it there!
After 2 weeks, you might notice some fizz or bubbles. That’s good news! Strain out the apple pieces and compost. Cover the apple cider vinegar again with a coffee filter and canning band. Allow continuing to sit at room temperature for another 2-4 weeks.
The vinegar may become cloudy or a SCOBY could form on the top, both of which are normal. Taste test the vinegar once a week until it’s to your liking. You can stop the fermentation process by replacing the coffee filter with a canning lid and storing it in the refrigerator.
Use your homemade vinegar just like you would store-bought vinegar– for cooking, cleaning and everything in between
Tip: You don’t HAVE to use a quart-sized jar, but it’s what I readily have available. Feel free to use whatever size jar you have on hand. If you use a different size jar, the ratio is 1 Tbsp sugar per 1 cup water.NOTE: About preserving and pickling with homemade vinegar: It’s generally recommended that you do NOT use homemade vinegar for any sort of preservation. In order to ensure the safety of your home canned products, you need a vinegar with an acetic acid level of 5%. Since most of us don’t have a way to check the levels of our homemade vinegar, it’s best just to skip using it for canning or preserving– better safe than sorry!
NOTE: You want the peels to be from apples that have been scrubbed very, very well. Organic apples are preferred, but simply buy the best you can afford and wash them very well. Secondly, it’s okay to use brown or bruised apples. However, it is NOT okay to use moldy or rotten apples.
It is easy to make aloe vera gel at home. All you need is a few healthy leaves of the aloe vera plant. If you have an aloe vera plant at home or in your garden, then you are lucky! Aloe vera gel is an excellent all-natural healer for skin issues such as sunburn, rashes, acne, among others. Aloe vera gel is also known to promote healthy hair growth. You can even preserve the gel for a month by adding natural preservatives.
How to make Aloe Vera Gel
Make your very own natural healer and skin cleanser!
Prep Time 30 mins – Total Time 30 mins
Appliance Needed: Blender, Refrigerator Serving size: 1 cup
2 aloe vera leaves
500 mg vitamin C (optional)
400 IU vitamin E (optional)
If you have access to an aloe vera plant, take a sharp knife and cut off a leaf from the outside of the plant, close to its base. They are usually more mature and contain plenty of gel. If your plant is too young, make sure you do not cut off too many leaves at once. Aloe vera leaves are also available in supermarkets in the produce section. You can usually get 1/2 a cup of gel from 1 mature aloe vera leaf.
Wash the leaves under cold running water to remove any dirt on the skin.
Place the leaves upright in a bowl to let any white or yellow resin to drain off. This can cause irritation to the skin.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel off the skin of the aloe vera leaf on one side. You will see the sticky gel underneath.
Use a spoon to carefully scoop out the gel. Collect the gel in a clean glass container and make sure you do not get any pieces of the leaf skin in it.
If you have collected a lot of gel and want to preserve it, you can mix it with natural preservatives. In a blender, add aloe vera gel and vitamin C or vitamin E capsules. For every 1/4 cup of aloe vera gel, you can either add 500 mg of vitamin C or 400 IU vitamin E. The foamy gel should be put in a clean, airtight glass jar. It will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 months.
You can also use fresh aloe vera gel to make a nourishing aloe vera juice or add it to smoothies.
Consider growing an aloe vera plant in your home as they are low-maintenance plants and grow easily. Aloe is generally safe for most people, but if you have an underlying health condition or take medicines or use herbs, talk to your doctor before using aloe as it could react with other medications and substances.
On this week’s installment of “This, Not That, Thursday,” we want to discuss beeswax wraps. Last week we touched on DIY reusable snack bags to move away from disposable plastic, so this week we’re focusing on plastic cling wrap.
If you’re like me, there’s probably no love lost between you and plastic. Most food-related plastics – including cling wrap and so-called “BPA-free” containers – “can release chemicals that act like the sex hormone estrogen”*
Fortunately, there are so many amazing alternatives available like leakproof glass containers and silicone stretchable lids that stretch to fit a variety of container sizes, and of course beeswax wraps!
When you pack your own lunch every day (maybe your kids’ too), it might feel like you’re always adding cling wrap to your grocery list… enter beeswax wraps. The pliable covers fold up around foods and cover bowls of leftovers. They rinse clean with cold water and mild soap (hot water would melt the wax!) and you can reuse them time and time again.
These bee-autiful storage solutions sell for about $18 for a pack of three on Amazon, but if you’re feeling crafty, they’re super easy to DIY. Either way, you’ll easily recoup the cost by buying fewer sandwich bags and plastic wrap. If you use three plastic bags per day and a box of 150 costs about $10, you’re already spending more than $70 per year on something most people just throw away after one use.
These beeswax food wraps are not hard to make, but they do take a little bit of time, so plan ahead for that. This recipe makes four wraps, but it’s easy to double the recipe if you want to make more.
Cut the muslin cloth to whatever size works best for you, or even different sizes if you wish. You can use pinking shears if you want to make the edges fancy. I personally love the look it gives. The pine resin is probably the hardest ingredient to come by, but I was able to find a good source on Amazon. Beeswax pastilles are probably the easiest form of beeswax to use here, or you can do what I did and grate some off a block of beeswax.
¼ cup beeswax
2 tablespoons pine resin
1 tablespoon jojoba oil
4 squares of 100% cotton muslin fabric (I used 12″ squares)
glass pyrex measuring cup
1″ wide paintbrush
clothes drying rack
Melt the pine resin in a double boiler (I use a glass pyrex measuring cup in a pot of boiling water) over medium heat.
It takes a while for the resin to fully melt, but once it does add the beeswax. Stir using a wooden or bamboo stick until the resin and wax are completely melted together.
Then slowly drizzle in the jojoba oil. Turn the heat to low to keep it all melted.
Preheat the oven to 225°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place one square of muslin on the parchment and use the paintbrush to brush it all over with the beeswax mixture.
Place the baking sheet in the oven just long enough to fully melt the beeswax. It should only take a couple of minutes. Take it out of the oven and spread the beeswax around again with the paintbrush, so that the whole muslin cloth is coated evenly.
Then take another square of muslin and lay it on top of the first square to blot up the extra wax. Flip the two squares over so that the blotting square is now on the bottom.
Return the baking sheet to the oven briefly, just long enough to liquefy the wax.
Remove from the oven, and hang the first piece of beeswax coated muslin on a clothes drying rack to dry.
Use the paintbrush to spread the wax on the blotting square, which is now your working square, and repeat the whole process again.
Once they are all dry, they are ready to use! They work perfectly for covering bowls, just as you would use plastic wrap. The beeswax can be warmed in the hands and will conform to the bowl and stick to the rim. The pine resin gives it some stickiness as well.
FYI: Beeswax wraps aren’t air-tight and won’t keep highly perishable items (like raw meat) fresh. We recommend using them to cover foods you’ll eat within a couple of hours or the next day, like a sandwich, bowl of pasta, or piece of fruit. For longer-lasting leftovers or smellier items like cheese, you’re probably better off sealing them up in reusable glass containers. With that in mind, here’s how you can make your own beeswax wraps <3
*Concluded a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives(source 1, source 2)
This week’s installment of “This, Not That, Thursday” we’re talking about Diatomaceous Earth. It’s the “Jack of all trades” of natural home care products, and it has applications in the bathroom, kitchen, living room, and more. An added bonus is that DE is so safe and non-toxic, it’s frequently used in water filtration.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth, Anyway?
DE is, as mentioned, a white powder naturally occurring from the fossils of diatoms (a type of algae found in river beds and lake beds). The diatoms form a very hard shell of silica in a tubular shape.
When dry, DE appears very fine and soft to the naked eye but microscopically it has some very unique qualities:
High Silica Content: These fossilized diatoms have a very high silica content (which is used to build hair, skin, and nails).
Hard as Nails … or Diamonds: DE is very hard (only two points lower than diamonds on the hardness scale). It looks like a tiny cylindrical tube with many holes in it when viewed through a microscope.
Holds a Strong Negative Charge: DE has a very strong negative charge, which makes it purifying and beneficial in several ways.
Since the 1960s DE has been commonly used in things like toothpaste, as an anti-caking aid, for clarifying beer or wine, and to eliminate pests naturally. In fact, you’ve likely consumed products that contain traces of DE without even knowing it! While I’m usually not a fan of hidden ingredients, DE is one we don’t need to worry about.
Note: you should only use “food grade” Diatomaceous Earth if you intend to use it around your house. This is distinct from “pool grade” Diatomaceous Earth, which is coarser and designed to help filter pool water.
Do your copper pots look dull? A mixture of vegetable oil, vinegar, and DE can return it to its store-bought shine. Just rub the mixture vigorously into the pots until you can start to see that copper color come back.
Water Stain Removal
Notice a buildup around your water faucets? Mix together lemon, vinegar, vegetable oil, and DE in a small bowl. With a damp cloth, use that substance to scrub the deposits away.
Oil Spill Cleanup
Interestingly, DE can hold up to twice its weight in liquid. That makes it useful when you accidentally spill oil on your driveway. Just coat the spill in DE and let it soak the oil up. Then, sweep up the DE and throw it away. When you clean the area with hot, soapy water afterward, it’s much less likely to leave a permanent stain.
Do your shoes sometimes resemble a petri dish? Hey, don’t be embarrassed. Fungus thrives in conditions exactly like the inside of your shoe. However, there’s one crucial ingredient that all fungi need in order to thrive: moisture.
By sprinkling DE in your shoes, you’ll steal away that moisture and neutralize foot odors at the same time.
DE absorbs odors. That’s incredibly valuable when you have an old fridge that is filled with the smells of years’ worth of groceries.
To improve the odor, first, find a container (like a coffee can or a mason jar) and stick a few holes in the lid. Pour DE in the container, slap on the lid, and stick it inside of your refrigerator. As the air slowly circulates, you should notice it start to smell more neutral in about a week.
Repel Bugs & Fleas
Pest infestations in your home are maddening. But it’s possible to clear your home of insects without using pesticides. Since DE absorbs oils, a small sprinkling of the stuff can cause bugs to shrivel like raisins and die, even though the substance is harmless to humans and pets. If your home is under siege, thoroughly clean your bedding, carpets, and upholstery, then dust these surfaces with DE.
Have you ever used Diatomaceous Earth? What did you use it for? How did it work? Share below!
Good morning! It’s almost Back to School & snacks are a big deal. This week “This, Not That, Thursday” is focusing on reusable snack bags. There is so much waste that comes from using single-serve packets or using plastic bags every day. Reusable snack bags are amazing and will save you money in the long run. You can buy them of course but we’re going to tell you how to make them.
Materials for Making Reusable Snack Bags: – Outside cotton fabric—dig through your fabric stash! You just need enough to make two 6 1/2”x5″ rectangles (or whatever size you choose) – Waterproof food-safe fabric – Velcro – Coordinating thread – Scissors – Ruler – Seam gauge – Rotary cutter and mat (optional, but makes this project even quicker!)How to Make – Reusable Snack Bags: 1. Cut your fabric. Cut two pieces each of the outer fabric and the line (6 1/2″ x 5″) but any size will work. Cut a strip of the Velcro/hook and loop fastener to 6 1/2″ (or whatever width your bag will be). 2. Pin one half of the velcro strip 3/4″ from the top of one-liner piece, and sew all around the edges of the fastener. You may be tempted to not pin, even if you tend to freehand your sewing, you WILL want to pin in this. Repeat with the other piece of lining fabric and the other half of the hook-and-loop fastener. 3. Pin one piece of the lining fabric to one piece of the outer fabric, right sides together (for the lining, the “right side” is the one with the fastener on it). Sew along the top, 1/4″ from the edge. Repeat with the other lining and outside fabric piece. Open up both pieces and run your finger along the seams to press them open. You’d usually want to iron here, but the high heat may damage the liner. 4. Put together both pieces, right sides together, matching up the seams and the Velcro. Starting at the bottom of the lining fabric, sew around the perimeter of the piece, leaving a 2″ space open at the bottom of the liner to turn the bag. Backstitch at each end of your sewing for security. 5. Turn the bag right-side-out through the opening in the bottom of the liner. 6. Close the opening at the bottom of the liner by folding in the edges to create a seam. You can either topstitch over this or slipstitch it. 7. Push the liner inside the bag, and you’re done! To make the bags lay flat, you may want to either finger press the top seams or briefly run over the bags with a very low iron. Cleaning Your Snack Bags Most of the time, you can just turn the bags inside out and wipe clean. But if it gets really dirty, wash in cold water and hang up to dry. If you choose to put these through the washer, I recommend putting them in a mesh laundry bag first, just so the Velcro doesn’t get caught on the rest of your laundry