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Simple Skin and Hair Care For The Homestead

Up until about seven or eight years ago, I felt that I needed to be externally acceptable to others, especially those in my age group. Probably most if not all of you have felt the same way at some point. For me, this came through in the form of wearing trendy clothes, having to keep my hair a certain way and wearing makeup. If I didn’t, I would feel stressed that I was not socially acceptable.

The whole trying to fit in thing started when I was in elementary school and continued on through high school. In university, I held back a bit more with the makeup, but still obsessed about hair and clothes. When I reached my over 40 years, I realized that the thing that was most important to me about fashion and style is that I need to be able to be relaxed at all times in my clothes. This means that I need my clothes and hair to be clean and comfortable and that’s pretty much it.

Personal style is not normally influenced by fashion, but it can be. By today’s standards, you should be able to wear pretty much whatever you want, no matter what the trend is at the time. Trends are there simply for big clothes companies to make money. They change the styles randomly so that you have to buy new stuff whether you need it or not.

For myself now, I wear pretty much what I want when I want. Hair and skin care for this homesteader has also had a transformation to the frugal and basic kind. I don’t have time to waste on trying to make other think I’m acceptable.

Almost a year ago, I decided I want to live in an even more “eco-friendly” or sustainable way. This means I want to use as few personal care products as possible and the ones I do use are basically things I can make myself.

I started a while back by committing to only buying products that are made in North America. I actually used this rule for buying things for the home to start and continued it over into the beauty product area as well.

Homestead Skin Care

My first discovery of frugal, eco-friendly skin care was done by accident. I was trying to get to the point of having cold showers in the morning. I started by using a hot and then cold cloth on my face and neck to get used to the idea of shockingly cold water. This routine had the result of eliminating any pimples I had been getting on my chin and forehead. If I stopped the face cloth routine for more than a week, I would start getting pimples again. This was something I had not anticipated but was pleased about because it solved an issue that was somewhat annoying.

This became my skin care routine and I didn’t have to buy anything new. When I was in high school I went through the buying of skin care products because it seemed like the thing to do. Some girls and women are certain they can’t get along without numerous facial products. I wonder whether putting all kinds of chemicals on one’s skin is not part of the problem.

Hair Care

Shortly after I started this routine, I decided to try the “no shampoo” thing again. I had attempted it a year and a half ago but quit when I saw that it was not working as fast as I had read it should.

This time around, I didn’t stop. The initial result were the same – my hair stayed oily for months and still has periods of being heavily greasy, but there are fewer of those times now than before. When I think about it now, it makes sense that some people will have trouble with this method, especially if you have spent decades washing your hair every day with shampoo. In my case it was well over 40 years of stripping the natural oils from my scalp. That can’t be a good thing.

In order to make this work, you need to find the right combination of water temperature, brushing and combing that works for your hair. What was described on informational websites about hair did not work for me. I was not going to buy the recommended “boar” brush due to the fact the I could not find one that was made in North America. Instead I use a vintage wooden handled plastic bristled brush I found here in the house made in France.

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The brush does need to be washed regularly as you can see in the picture above to remove the oil that is removed from your hair by brushing.

My hair has now started to slow down on the oil production and I have also become better at caring for it in its natural state. It is not shiny (fake) and “flyaway” like it was when I removed the oil from it, but it is also not as greasy at the end of the day as when I was washing with shampoo daily. It was definitely over-producing oil then. Sometimes I felt I needed to wash it twice, morning and evening, to get rid of the oil.

Other benefits of this hair care method are that I don’t have to use conditioner now, I never get “statiky” hair anymore or knotted hair from the wind, AND my split ends are gone.

I do have to be a bit more creative at times about how I wear my hair because it is thicker and still shows a bit of oil in certain styles. But I never have bad hair days anymore which is amazing to me. It used to drive me nuts because my hair was so flyaway when shampooed that it would mostly just be impossible to keep in one place. Now it stays where I put it. Surprisingly, there is no odour in hair washed well with water, or at least with mine anyway.  Oh, and my scalp is not itchy all the time either like it used to be when I used shampoo – another benefit.

So, my homestead “beauty” routine is as natural as I can make it. As for traditional beauty products, I can’t stand the smell of nail polish anymore so I don’t wear it and I still have a few dozen unfinished bottles of it. With regards to makeup, a few years ago I started getting watery eyes from anything I put on or near them or any scent that was in foundations. This makes it easy not to wear any makeup at all.

No makeup, no perfume, no purchased hair or skin products. That is my homestead skin and hair care routine.
Happy Homesteading (and not wasting money and time on beauty products)!

How We Reduced Our Food Spending

Last month I told you about how we are attempting to spend less money on food. The result of our February experiment was that we spent $280 for the month which ended up being $109 less than February last year (2017). It’s also consistent with the $10 a day spending experiment that I have been doing to see if it is possible to eat well for $10 per day for two people. It IS possible.

The main things that made this possible were the following:

Eating in season. We bought blueberries when they were in season in the summer at a great price and then froze them for use now. We also froze most of our own fruit, including currants, raspberries and apples.

Not buying convenience foods. This is an obvious one. Convenience foods may look cheaper to start with but they are used up faster because the quality is poor. You end up spending more because you have to repurchase more often.

Eating a bit less. There is nothing wrong with eating less. I found this quite liberating. We were eating better quality food, and therefore not needing to eat as much because there were no cravings.

Cooking everything for ourselves. This is a must. I have found that eating at restaurants is actually not that fun for me. It’s really for convenience. I prefer the food that we make for ourselves, for the taste, the control of the quality, and time spent together. I know where the food is coming from and what goes in it.

Having a garden. Naturally, growing your own food is going to save you a bundle. It is more work for sure, but the quality of the food, at least in our case, is superior to anything we’d buy from the store.

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The Coming Months

We are continuing our spending freeze on food for the next two months at least to see if it can be kept up. We are definitely going to run out of potatoes this year but that should be about it and not sure if we’ll buy from the store when we do. We’d only buy if they are locally grown potatoes so we can’t predict if there will be many or any to buy in the spring.

Our source for meat is local, which provides us with grass fed beef, humanely slaughtered on farm, so we don’t need to buy meat at the store. This also saves us money. Even though we don’t eat much meat, I eat it for the energy it provides me. Not every one needs to do this but by the same token, not everyone can be healthy by eating only plants.

As an aside, but following the nutritional topic, our dogs eat a raw meat and whole food diet (no kibble or canned dog food). We are able to keep their meal costs to $100 per dog per month (more or less, as the dogs are different sizes and eat accordingly) which is extremely good.

So, all in all, our experiment is providing us with an interesting and useful pastime with a very good result so far.

How To Make Vinegar At Home

This fall we had an abundance of apples. So after we used up and froze as many as we could I decided it was a go on the vinegar.

I used chunks of apple, not fruit scraps, just because we had that many apples and we didn’t need to process any more whole ones. You can use just the cores and peels for this if you use the main part of the apple for something else. If I were to use cores, I would remove the seeds before I used them, just to be sure that they don’t break down in the vinegar and leach anything into it.

I cored and chopped enough to fill the jar put in a honey/water brine. I weighed down the apples with a regular drinking glass with a shooter glass inside that. Use anything that fits in the mouth of the jar you use. Make sure you use a glass or ceramic weight and not metal or wood.

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It bubbled away for a little more than a week and started to smell like alcohol – the desired result of the first part of making vinegar.

I think I left it a little too long because the apples started to brown and some of the liquid evaporated from the jar. Below is the result of the this first part of the process. Here I am getting ready to filter the liquid through a linen cloth. This removes any pulp and residue from the liquid.

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I thought it should be a bit clearer than it turned out, but the smell was right so I continued on with it. The picture below is the final liquid after the filtering.

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I am storing it on a shelf in the corner of the kitchen out of the light in a glass casserole dish.

The mother of vinegar will settle out from the liquid. The “mother” is the substance that you would use to create new vinegar from just juice. It is slimy looking stuff, kind of like a jelly that will settle in the bottom of the bowl of vinegar.

To store in the fridge, it is necessary to put a cover on it I also re-strained it because there was more “mother” in the vinegar. I then covered the mother with some of the vinegar and put it back in the fridge.

There is a definite change in colour of the liquid. It has darkened quite a bit. Also, it seems that all of the vinegar is continually producing mother of vinegar if left long enough, which is OK from what I have learned.

I ended up with two cups of usable vinegar. Right now I am giving it to the dogs by the teaspoon with their meals, as it has benefits for them as well.

Eating Well On Little Money Part 2

Over a year ago, I did an experiment of sorts in my kitchen. Using the local Co-op weekly sales flyer, I chose food items up to $10 per day to see if a family of two could feed itself well on that amount.

The problem I have found is that eating “well” is a subjective term. Some people think that eating well means eating at restaurants or buying as much convenience food as they want. OR it could mean a certain quality or price of food.

All this is just avoiding learning how to eat well for less. It can be done.

To remind ourselves from the last post: The daily food purchases for Day One and Day Two are as follows:

Day 1: Eggs, Butter, Pasta (made from white flour, not great but that is what we used for now), Salt.

From this you could eat for the day and if you did have some condiments such as ketchup or left over from previous purchases of food you could use those to spruce things up.

At our food store, this all cost $9.54 cents. At other stores you could get it for less, I’m sure, but that is not part of the project.

The point is use what is available.

The belief is often that you can’t eat well and cheap, locally.

Day 2: Carrots, Banana, Potatoes, Onion, Barley. Cost: $10.00

With the ingredients from these two days, I made a vegetable soup that was unbelievably good.

So now you have pasta and soup with some fruit.

We figured out that our soup cost us 38 cents a serving while a store brand, canned, cream of mushroom soup cost about 24 cents. However, the nutritional content of the canned soup is clearly lower. Eating this canned food is NOT what I would call eating well.

I expect that some people don’t know how to make soup from scratch, and therefore think that they have to buy canned and therefore can’t eat well.

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The key to eating this way is to learn how to cook. It’s as simple as that, or as difficult.

Cooking for oneself takes time and effort, just like anything else worthwhile.  Our society has moved away from that. The focus is on ready made, packaged foods. You get addicted to these and the convenience of them. They are part of the disconnect between how people work and how people live. They are easy and simple – and not nourishing.

I am not saying this to point the finger of blame at anyone or of how people live, just a statement of fact. My goal is to educate people to see that it is not as difficult as they might believe and to encourage a bit more food security into their lives – learning how to prepare their own food. That is the whole point of this blog.

Many people go to jobs daily that suck the life out of them. They are then exhausted and don’t have the energy to prepare good food for themselves. There is a different way.

This happened to Ernie during his working life in the big city. Work was from 7 am to 3 pm. Luckily his commute was only about 20 mins each way, but at the end of the work day he would go home and sleep for an hour before eating a meal or two hours after the meal. When he changed his life from working at this job, his food selections changed as well.

Working at something you don’t feel good about or are not connected with depletes your energy just like eating crappy food. I know, I’ve done both.

If you feel defensive when reading this post you may not be secure in your food or other choices. Please don’t post a negative comment. The intention is not to try and insult you (I am not that much in control of your thinking anyway ;-).

There are people who need help and it is to those people that this post is directed. Thanks you.

I will continue this experiment as planned and post the results here shortly – with a few modifications. Day 3 and 4 will be posted on soon.

DIY Dog Bathtub

When I first started grooming dogs for a living, I did it fast, so I didn’t have much time or money to get all the supplies I needed at the highest quality. Thank goodness we live in an area in which most people didn’t care what I was bathing their dog in!

My first dog grooming bath tub was a true DIY. We purchased a livestock tub at a farm store in the city an hour away and used it just as it was, with a hole cut out of the bottom for a drain. We put it on a homemade wooden stand and I lifted the dogs into the tub to bath them. This worked perfectly for quite a while.

Then one day we were driving around town and we passed by a cottage that had an old apartment sized metal bathtub sitting at the roadside. We took a closer look at it and decided it would replace our DIY tub. The DIY tub got put aside in the wood/junk pile.

WE NEED THAT TUB!

When we got our new dog – Ira – a Kuvasz, I knew eventually I would have to have a tub lower to the ground.  At 5 months of age he was 55lbs and I couldn’t lift him into the high bathtub was using for grooming smaller dogs anymore by myself. So we made some modifications to the DIY trough bathtub so I could use it on a low grooming table that Ernie refashioned. The low table was originally a piece of 3/4 inch plywood with rubber matting on top with full length folding legs. To make it shorter, Ernie had to remove the folding feature of the legs, but it worked perfectly.

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Ira on the low table getting used to being brushed. You can see the higher bathtub that we found on the side of the road in the background.

The modifications

The tub needs to sit on some kind of stand or table. I also needed it low enough for the big dog to easily get into it.

Because we can’t lift Ira the Kuvasz into any tubs, we have to get him to walk up a ramp or use a step to get into the tub. This means the tub had to be cut in the back in order to make it easy for him to do this. He wouldn’t be able to hop over the lip of the tub and likely won’t want to either, so it had to be easy to get him in there.

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Ira learning to climb into the tub. You can see the yellow top of the step he is using.

Ernie used a reciprocating saw to cut a section out of the end of the tub. The tub will sit on the low table when we need it.

He fashioned a drain out of left over pieces of plumbing supplies. It is a good idea to keep these things around just in case. And a good idea to learn how to figure things like that out.

The drain simply lets the water into a rubbermaid container or pail underneath. This is all we have for now since there is no floor drain and the drain for the other tub is too high to allow for proper drainage.

Ernie also cut an old rubber tube in half that he had in his junk drawer and put it over the edge of the opening cut. This is where the dog will enter the tub.

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When I am done wetting or rinsing the dog, I simply have to lift the bucket underneath into the other tub and dump it down the drain.  During a groom for a big dog, you will have to dump the pail at least a couple of times if not more.

If you bath dogs a lot, it’s a good idea to put a catch over the drain to prevent too much hair from going down and plugging things up. As a pro groomer we are required by law to have that in place for our drains.

If you don’t have a drain for the water to go down, or a place to put a tub underneath, it could go out the bottom of the tub onto the ground. This isn’t very eco-friendly especially if you use dog shampoo. If possible, make sure it goes into a manhole or sewer drain (which still isn’t perfect) but can be used if absolutely necessary.

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Here I’m working with Tommy who is heavy but nowhere near as heavy as Ira the Hungarian Kuvasz will be as an adult.

The main thing about this tub is that it is not just on the ground and any dog that will be bathed in it will need to become accustomed to being in it and getting sprayed with water. If you do some work ahead of time without water and with some yummy food almost any dog can learn to step up into the tub with no problem for the dog or you.

This tub could obviously be used for other pets and washing other things as well. The limits are only made by one’s imagination.

I prefer reusing things as much as possible. This is one way we do our part to be kind to nature. We have stuff and we don’t throw it out if at all possible. If we hadn’t used this for a bathtub it would definitely be used for something else. Maybe to grow plants in?

Happy Reusing Stuff!

 

 

 

Redecorating Without Spending

I redecorate regularly by spending no money.

This is actually something that I have been doing since I was in elementary school in my childhood home.

My parents had little money, and certainly nothing to spend on decorating. For some reason, redecorating the house came naturally to me, and I did it regularly for almost two decades. I would simply move furniture around, and find things in boxes or closets that hadn’t been used. Occasionally, we bought things are yard sales – which didn’t cost much anyway – but most of the time it was what we already had.

When I got a little older, I started growing flowers in the yard, cutting them and drying them for the house. I also dried wildflowers from the ditch that I picked up when we were on holidays and used them in the house too.

Now my obsession continues.

Currently we have no more room for any new things in the house. I like to keep things to a minimum, such as it is. What I am using for decorating is what was already here or what I had before I moved here. Also, I am not repainting or staining anything. It has to look good just on it’s own without any adjustments.

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There are a few important rules that I follow when redecorating with no money.

Use what you have. There is an unbelievable force in our society that tells people to buy new things and if you don’t you’re not good enough and you may end up feeling guilty for not doing it. We actually don’t need to do that unless there is a real need for something like a vacuum cleaner, a new shower head, or a large appliance. Most other things we buy we can do without, especially if they are from stores that sell cheap things in large quantities. You know the ones I’m talking about.

There are so many things that can be bought nowadays that break right away, look cheap and provide you with no unique qualities for decorating. I avoid these things as much as possible. Unless I already have them, I don’t include them in your redecorating. Mass produced cheap knick knacks and even household items often have no real thought behind their production other than to make a quick dollar.

Your best bet for decorating is to use what you already have. I can pretty much guarantee that you have stuff in storage that you can use, no matter what it is: fabric, craft items, yard sale finds, old stuff, new stuff, almost anything.

To reuse things you have, you can follow some basic principles for no money re-decorating:

Don’t always leave out something or get rid of something you dislike. Often, there will be an item that you dislike or that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere in your house. Don’t necessarily get rid of it.  Obviously if you REALLY don’t like looking at something maybe don’t include it in your display, but sometimes things you may really hate can look different among certain other things. It really just depends. My suggestion is to try it first before discounting it. I find that it is better to wait a while and see if an object or placement of an object grows on you. Sometimes even a few days is needed to make a final decision.

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An example of something I disliked was the white (yellow) pot on the right. It looked kind of yucky but because it is vintage, I just couldn’t get rid of it. Then I paired it with it’s green friend on top of the stereo speakers and it worked!

I don’t try to match things. Matching colours or sizes of items is boring to me. I don’t go nuts with using bright colours or anything like that but new stuff and older stuff  can often work together or different fabrics and material can give neat contrasts. Just go with whatever you like and that usually will be right. Below you can see a small display I have on the top of my work desk. All items are finds, the green candle holder from a thrift shop, the glass holder and plant pot were already mine. They look good where I put them together even though they are completely different objects and unlikely partners.

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Moving things just slightly can make a big difference. I find I don’t always have to move EVERYTHING around to different places. Sometimes there will be an item that just doesn’t work and it’s removal or a change in position will fix it. Just offsetting one thing can also work wonders.

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In the picture above, you can see that the wall hangings are not quite in the right position – at least for me. This is a personal preference. Put or arrange things so that they are pleasing to your own eye. When I put these up, I used the nails that were already in the wall without moving them. If I want to fix them, I would move the  painting down a small amount. that would be all I have to adjust to make it look better.

I make sure to dust. Yeah right! Well, the intention is there. Dusting really makes things look better and makes you FEEL better about your house. Just regularly dusting some things can make a huge difference and gives the illusion of redecorating! It’s magic.

And there you have it. My simple but effective, (I think), ideas for redecorating without spending money. Everyone has a different style and preferences. Make sure to use yours when you are working on your house and it will always work out well for you.

Soggy Beets? No Worries.

Every year we have a good crop of beets even though we don’t plant many. For some reason they grow and grow.  We store the beets and other root vegetables in our cellar which is essentially an area under the house that was dug out and filled (sort of ) with concrete in some places. In other places, there is just dirt. But it works.

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Here’s what it looks like:

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The partitions were put in many years ago by Ernie and his dad.

As usual, we left the beets until now and they got squishy. This happens when the air around the beets (and potatoes, carrots etc) is taking the moisture out of  the vegetable because it is too dry. We did put the beets in pails with newspaper, which works not bad to keep the ones that are lower down from getting soft, but were still left with many soggy beets.

What To Do With Soggy Beets?

First, here are a couple of things we can do to make beets last longer in storage.

Keeping them at the appropriate temperature is crucial. Also AS important for good beets is being at the correct humidity. Being at the right temperature is something that most people will realize right away. Obviously, root vegetables have to be kept very cool. But lack of humidity is what causes root vegetables to get soft. The air around them is too dry and sucks the moisture out of them.

The beets need to be between 3 and 7 degrees C and the air to have high humidity like 95%.

It is difficult to keep the humidity high in an open basic vegetable storage area, such as our cellar. You could use a humidifier, but that could be time consuming and you are continuously using power to keep it running which when it comes to beets, is likely not worth it.

If you have some containers without air holes you can put the beets in,  interspersed with crumpled up newspaper for air circulation. Occasionally mist the top of the beets to add moisture but be careful not to use too much or it could cause rot on the surface of the beet. In containers with air holes you won’t need to put newspaper as much if at all but misting is still a good idea, especially on the top. Don’t get the beets moist near the bottom or again they could rot.

We now use 5 gallon pails in a very cool room to store our beets. The beets are spaced out from the bottom of the pail to the top so that there is some air flow and so that the moisture that is misted can reach them easier. Beets at the bottom of the pails don’t get soggy as fast.

Remedy For Soggy Beets

For beets that have already gone soft you can soak them in water until they get plumped up again to a degree.

Uses For Soggy Beets

If you’re beets are really soggy and you want to get rid of them, you can make soup immediately, eat some and then freeze the rest for later. If you make beet pickles, make sure you soak them in water for a bit since most people prefer crisp pickle. It won’t always work perfectly but it’s better than throwing them out.

You can also dehydrate beets. I use a dehydrator on beets grated with a large sized cutting hole. If you use a fine grater, you could sun dry them or put them in a drying room on a screen.

We make beet soup or Borshch (traditional Ukrainian pronunciation) (it’s not “borsht” (anglicized pronunciation).

The process of making borshch is simple. Fry onions and garlic in fat (I used olive oil but you can use whatever you want), then add water, beets (I grated them with a large-holed grater we bought at a yard sale), dill, green beans, tomatoes and if you want carrots. I also put some garlic tops that I had frozen two years ago. After it is done cooing, you can add cream or not.

Beets are not a super versatile vegetable but are nice for a few things. Mainly, proper storage is what will prevent soggy beets. Otherwise, quick usage will help you save what you can of them.