Homestead News, Volume 25

Sit back, pour up a cup of coffee, and enjoy the update. Thanks for stopping by. Please share your news in the comments. The more we learn from each other the better.

Did you know when olive oil gets cold, it partially solidifies? Just move it to a warmer location and let is set for about 12-24 hours. You will read everywhere that oil will go rancid after about six months. We have stored and eaten olive oil that was five years old with no degradation in quality or taste. Not that I would recommend that to everyone, it’s just something we have done.

As the seasons turn, my thoughts are always on our food supply. I have been planning the garden for a couple of months now. We have a few salad greens growing in the greenhouse for winter eating, but mostly there are flowers, some that grew on the porches last summer and some I planted in there in the fall…..just because. During the polar vortex we ran a couple of space heaters and covered the plants with frost cloth. We had some damage, but most of the plants did very well.

Once the sun came out, it warmed up in the greenhouse quickly. It always amazes me to see the difference between inside and outside temperatures. The greenhouse is not sealed, the air freely flows out around the top and the sides. The inside temperature here is 33*, the round thermometer is hard to read, it is 72*.

I have three bus tubs planted with brussel sprouts, kohlrabi and carrots that I will transplant to the garden when the time comes. I have started moving them outside to maintain the adjustment to cooler weather. The greenhouse is starting to heat up quite a bit on sunny days.

We discovered during the cold snap that this entryway into the garage had heaved upward and made the storm door drag on the concrete when we opened it. This small slab has been sitting here for 40 years or more. In the last 12 years we had never had anything like that happen. Fortunately, it settled back down to it’s normal position after the temperatures warmed up again.

I started growing sweet potato slips right before the recent cold snap. We had some starting to sprout that we grew last summer and I intended to grow all of our slips from the heaviest producing variety. Now we have plants growing in a kitchen window since it is too cold in the greenhouse for these tender plants.

Yesterday was a busy day. We partially repaired a chicken house door that needs replacing before it falls off. Then Frank brush hogged a small area by the barn before we replaced the brush hog with the tiller on the tractor. We have an extended rainy season coming and wanted to get the garden area tilled and fertilized. A few months ago, right before we were going to clean out the barn and haul it to the garden, we had bought hay that had been sprayed with Grazon, an herbicide. We were told the hay had been sprayed before we bought it, we just didn’t know enough to ask what with. Grazon can kill your garden, even after it has been ingested and passed through livestock. A friend had their garden spot decimated for a couple of years until the Grazon had time to deteriorate in their soil. As fate would have it, we were unable to clean the barn before the baby goats were born and in the meantime found out about our hay. We replaced what hay we had left with another supply and took the remaining few bales out into a pasture to be burned at a later date. The barnyard will be dumped out there too instead of being brought down to the garden.

It’s hard to imagine the garden looked like this just a few days ago. What a difference a week makes.
Commercial 13-13-13 fertilizer we applied to the garden this year.

Winter weather and aching bones have also prevented us from cleaning out the chicken house and getting that manure into the garden early enough to be useful and not be too hot to burn any seedlings we want to plant, so this year for the first time ever, we are using commercial 13-13-13 fertilizer. I am grateful we have the option of purchasing fertilizer, even though it is not our first choice. If it was unavailable, our garden would probably still produce well since it is a spot that has been worked and fertilized for 10+ years. I still plan to make some manure tea with chicken litter over the summer to water some of the crops.

Just as we finished spraying down the tiller to get some of the caked on dirt off, Frank discovered we had a flat tire on the tractor. Not just a low tire, but it looked like the tire was almost off of the wheel. We didn’t think we could get it to seal and hold air at all. So out in the mud and water puddles we had just created while cleaning off the tiller, we got out the air compressor and extension cords. We were very happy to find we could get it to hold some air, at least temporarily. It was enough to get the tractor back to the barn, but by then it was almost completely flat again. Frank aired it up again with the compressor there, but it very quickly went flat. The good news is we got the garden tilled before the rain came. We have rain forecast for about a week and were working against the clock on getting the garden fertilized and tilled.

While Frank was tilling, I was working on getting the last two flats of carrots planted in the greenhouse. These are seeds we saved from our carrots in 2018. I planted a bus tub of them in the fall to see if they were still viable. Since they were going on three years old, I planted them thickly. I have thinned them twice and they are still too crowded. That’s good to know. Saving viable seeds is always a gamble. Sometimes they are viable, and sometimes they are not. I use the Pot Maker for these seedlings. Direct planting carrots in the garden doesn’t work for me. The weeds and grass take over and they never have a chance since they are so slow to germinate. Using the Pot Maker [link goes to a previous article about them] also allows me to easily thin them before planting and space them in the row just by planting them next to each other.

Our new companion is named Charlie, but she’s a girl. Frank named her. Many of you know we are ham radio operators. When using phonetics for call signs, the alphabet starts with Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, etc…. Well, when we were thinking of names, Frank said he is always alpha when it comes to our dogs, and that is true. Then he came up with he is Alpha, I am Bravo, and she is Charlie. Our Great Pyrenees, Pearl, left us about a year or so ago. We miss her a lot. She was great with the goats and had the best personality. Charlie came to live with us this last summer at eight weeks of age. So far we have survived the puppy stage, but some days just barely. She no longer tears up 40 lb. bags of potting soil, eats the front and back porch, but she still tore up some of the black plastic we have around one of the sheds in the garden yesterday. I made a big mistake not long after Charlie came to live with us. When she got here the garden was in full swing and she would follow me around when I was picking vegetables and weeding. I would pull a weed and hand it to her. She liked the roots and would take it, run off, and attack it. As she grew, she got to the point of pulling her own weeds, except they weren’t all weeds. At the end of the season she even decided pulling up full grown okra stalks was a good idea. She also loves apples and would race me for any windfalls. Charlie decided it was fun to pick tomatoes even if she didn’t eat them, and peppers as well. She has good taste, but these crops are for the people, not the dog. Thus with the addition of Charlie to the yard around the house which includes the garden, this year we will fence it off to prevent certain destruction of seedlings. This will have to take place before we start planting, but we have it tilled and are ready for the next step.

As you can tell, a lot of our efforts are focused on food. At this day and age, I feel that everyone should be focused on their food supply. Prices continue to go up, stability of the world food supply continues to be questionable. Cooperation between countries that traditionally trade or sell their excess food has been changing over the last year. How that may affect our food supply, prices or possible rationing or confiscation is yet to be seen. I think all of these events are possible, but not necessarily eventualities. Only time will tell.

Over the past few years my goal was to plant a smaller garden. Aches and pains affect my ability to keep up with the garden, the weeds, the processing and preserving of the harvest. But, you know what? This year’s garden will be larger, not smaller. Being able to produce as much of our food as possible has always been a goal, now more than ever. We are not increasing varieties or experimenting with new crops, just increasing the volume of our known, proven varieties.

Folks, do what you can. Buy and store what you eat, not a bunch of strange foods that are supposedly ‘prepper’ foods. Buy what you normally eat and store it as best you can. If you can grow and preserve more, in a garden, on a porch, in a pot, do it. Learn more about how to provide for yourself. Even if the world, our country, your state, county or neighborhood doesn’t have challenges in the coming months or years, it never hurts to depend on yourself, your knowledge and abilities instead of someone else.

Because if things continue the slide into tyranny, into subjugation, into the enslavement of the masses……

NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE YOU.

Until next time – Fern

Frank’s Cinnamon Toast

Frank needed a little something different to eat. Something that just tasted different, but was still part of our low carbohydrate way of living. After some pondering and discussion, we came up with this.

A normal batch of our sourdough bread dough with about twice the honey and two tablespoons of cinnamon. I made the dough extra stiff with a drier consistency than I do for the buns.

After letting the dough ferment all day, I divided it in half and pressed each half into a large cookie sheet, kind of like making pizza. I discovered it needed very little olive oil on the pan, much less that making buns since I am not turning and coating the dough.

Frank likes his toast thin, somewhat well done, and crunchy. We’ve experimented for a while and this is the finished product.

One baked, one not

I brush on a thin coating of olive oil when it is done.


Recently we discovered that some chevre cheese with strawberries, blueberries, some of the berry juice, non-iodized salt and a little honey, makes a great topping for this toast. Frank will eat it with the cheese on it, he likes it, but he still prefers his toast plain. You see, when we have a snack, it’s normally bread. Sometimes regular buns, sliced made into toast in a skillet. Good bread makes a good snack and this cinnamon toast provides us with a different variation.

Gotta have treats in life sometimes, even when storms are on the horizon. Stay alert, vigilant and strong. The winds of change are among us.

Until next time,  Fern

Got Wheat? Fern’s Sourdough Bread

I had to look back at some of the previous articles on sourdough to see what we had written, and how this particular journey has evolved since that time. One of the last articles for bread is here if you want to do a comparison. Pull up a chair and a cup of coffee, this has turned out to be a rather lengthy article. Hope you enjoy it.

There were two small boxes of ground flax sitting in the cabinet, that I bought for some forgotten reason (You don’t do that, do you?) and wasn’t sure what to do with. The research on cholesterol and blood pressure we did lead me to flax. There are many, many articles about the benefits of flax, this one is an example. After reading the research, those two lonely boxes of flax got put to use after checking to make sure no weevils or other bugs had set up residence. 

By the way, when we moved here we had some weevil issues the first year. Then I found some traps (similar to this one) for the weevil moth, and other critters of that kind, that I hung around the area we had grains and food they prefer. After trapping them for two years, we have never had another problem. Our bulk grain is stored in five or six gallon buckets and transferred to a canister as needed.
Once we began using ground flax in our bread recipe, we stocked up on some from Wal-Mart, picking up a few bags each time we went. Then we researched online and found some bulk flax seed that we could store in some of our empty five gallon buckets that have gamma seal lids. The first time we tried the flax seed in our wheat grinder, we thought we had killed it. The flax is too moist and oily for our WonderMill. Frank was able to work and work and work on it. He ran through some wheat that removed the gummed up flax, and it still works like a charm. We have had this grinder for at least ten years and would highly recommend it.

Flax

You see that piece of blue tape on the bucket? That is a date, which will help us determine how long our stock will last at the current use rate. When we’re trying to prepare for the long haul, estimating how long our supplies will last is critical. They may not last as long as we do, but if we have a rough idea, we can plan accordingly. 

Wheat

Next, we found a grain grinding attachment for the KitchenAid mixer, which is designed to grind oilier seeds like flax. It works well. Which mixer? Well, the KitchenAid is okay, but we now have purchased three of them since moving here. The first red one died after a couple of years so we got the yellow one. After a year the gears started grinding and we thought it was dying as well, so we ordered a second red one. In the meantime, Frank removed the top cowling to see if there was anything he could do for the gears, there wasn’t, but since looking in there and putting it back together a couple of years ago, it still works. The red one is just sitting in the wings waiting it’s turn. I guess we could put it away, but as you can see, we haven’t. Do any of you have stand mixers like the KitchenAid you would recommend? What are your experiences? We also have manual back-up grinders in case the grid goes down. You can read about it here

 And speaking of grinders, see that cord coming out of the bottom? Frank has given up trying to figure out how it wraps up and stores in the bottom of the grinder, he just leaves it for me. He just can’t see how it works anymore than he understands how yarn (he calls it a piece of string) can turn into a sweater, or thread keeps fabric together after it goes through a sewing machine. Now, Frank is a very intelligent man and can fix just about anything I ever bring to him. He can wire, plumb and build a house, learn and install a solar system and a myriad of other things, but he just can’t see how these things work. Our point is, different people have different talents and it’s no sin or crime to not ‘get’ something. Me, physics and the realistic interaction between things – I just don’t get it. Things that are simplicity in itself to Frank are like kryptonite to me. Sometimes this causes friction (another scientific term, right?) and sometimes it causes laughter. There is nothing wrong with not getting something, or understanding things at a different rate, it’s the blessing of being individuals instead of robots.

Okay, so, making sourdough bread. Our starter lives over here in this corner away from the kefir and jars of oatmeal. We discovered years ago that most cultures don’t play well together so they have their own ‘areas’ of the kitchen. Our starter now lives in a half gallon jar with a piece of cheese cloth over it to keep the little gnats out that show up here a few times a year. It also has a sprouting lid on it. Why? Well, we had a catastrophe with our starter a few years ago. I was keeping it in a ceramic pitcher in this corner. It had

cheese cloth over it held in place by a rubber band. One morning when we got up there was a hole in the cloth. Upon removing the cloth we could see a live mouse looking up at us trying to keep his head above the surface. The catastrophe of the situation is that I had not kept my backup starter in the refrigerator fed and it had died. I was left without any starter. I was upset. Then Frank remembered that I had shared some starter with a friend, Grace, down the road, who was happy to restock our supply. Lesson learned. Now the starter lives in a jar that is mouse and bug proof. One of those experiences I would never have thought would happen. You know that old saying, “You just never know.” I think there is a reason it is an old saying. And remember, two is one and one is none.

The bread. Warning. I don’t measure much, so everything will be estimated amounts. I will list everything here then show you the process.

3 cups starter
1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 – 1 cup filtered water
Approx. 2 tbsp. sea salt – no iodine
1/4 – 1/2 cup honey
2 cups ground flax
5 – 6 cups fresh ground wheat

 

We start with the 3 cups of starter, then to that add the oil and water. The amount of water I add depends on how much liquid is in the starter. Sometimes the starter is thicker and sometimes it’s thinner, just depends on how much water I put in when it is fed. 
Here is how the salt and honey are measured. Very precisely……..
 
We have gradually increased the amount of ground flax in the recipe. I started off with about half a cup, waited to see how it tasted, then gradually added more. Now it’s about 20% of the recipe, not quite, but almost. 


Once these ingredients are in the mixer, we start it up and start adding the wheat flour. I usually start with five cups and add the remaining amount as needed until the dough clings together in a sticky ball. Sometimes I need more than others, it just depends on how fluid the starter has, and how much water and oil I put in, since I don’t measure precisely.

After enough flour has been added, I set the timer to around seven minutes (it depends on how long it took to get it to the right consistency) and let the machine do the kneading for me. 

 

 We mix the dough in the morning while fixing breakfast, put it in a glass bowl and set it on top of the frig for the day.

One time when we made bread, Frank noticed this glass lid, that goes with the stock pot, fit perfectly on the bread bowl. Up until that point I had been using plastic wrap. Interesting.

 In the evening after doing the chores, it’s time to bake bread. I start with pouring some (about this much) olive oil on a large cookie sheet and putting it in the oven to warm as it preheats to 450*. We use virgin olive oil, not extra virgin. We just don’t care much for the extra virgin taste.

As the buns or rolls are made, I coat one side with the oil, then turn them over. I’ve tried a number of different ways to do this including using lard, which works fine, we just prefer the taste of olive oil – while it is still available.

Unbaked

We have tried loaves as well as buns, but we prefer these for the crusty nature of a bun. They also travel very well when we have to be out and about. We take four buns, a couple of boiled eggs, a piece of our cheddar and a quartered apple. Lunch on the go. Besides that, it has been over a year since we have eaten out anywhere. We just don’t like any food but ours and if we eat anything ‘off the home menu’ we feel sick. Part of that may be age, but it’s also an indicator of what we’re used to, what our bodies are accustomed to dealing with. Another thing to consider if a collapse occurs. Store what you eat and eat what you store, otherwise your body may not cooperate when you start feeding it ‘foreign’ objects.

Baked

Most other rolls or buns I have baked with past recipes bake for about 20-25 minutes. These take 45-50 minutes. The bread comes out fairly heavy and dense, plus, we like the crust on the crunchy side. If you try this you will need to adjust the time to your personal preference. Upon removal from the oven, I coat the tops of the buns with olive oil.

On bread nights, we usually have a lighter supper because regardless of the meal, we always have bread for ‘desert’. One for me, two for Frank. It’s tradition. Buttered, of course.

We just finished pouring the last wheat from a six gallon, 45 pound bucket into the canister when we made bread a couple of days ago. This bucket of wheat will last us approximately 12 weeks, which means we consume about 3.5 pounds of wheat per week. More than we thought, but it gives us a baseline to use in estimating how much wheat we want to store. It’s interesting collecting data on yourself.

How do you make bread? We always enjoy hearing other versions of our recipes, it makes good ‘food for thought’.

Well, I’m sure your coffee cup is empty by now, mine is long gone. And I think Frank is wanting another piece of bread. We have one every afternoon for a snack with a cup of coffee. Another tradition we have started.

Until next time – Fern
 

Some Things I’ve Been Reading

There is so much information out here on the internet that I could just about read for the rest of my life. The more I read and learn, though, the more I want to do and try for myself. Some of my reading teaches me how to do or understand new things. Some of it motivates me to learn, and grow more of our own food, or make more of our own hygiene products, to avoid what is out there on the market. Either way, what I am learning can be put to use. Knowledge. One of our most precious commodities. Here are some things I have read over the past month or so. I hope you learn something, too.

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Here are some things I have learned that I don’t like. Some of them make me mad. How can the dollar be more important than healthy, productive people? I don’t get it, and I’m glad I don’t get it. That means I don’t think like that.

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GM Wheat Discovered Contaminating Wheat Fields in Montana

U.S.D.A. Approves Modified Potato

Study Links GMOs to Over 22 Different Diseases

Gene-Altered Apples Get U.S. Approval

Fluoride in Drinking Water May Trigger Depression and Weight Gain, Warns Scientists

Monsanto’s New ‘Herbicide-Resistant’ GMO Crop Slammed by Food Experts

Scientific Team Sounds the Alarm on Sugar as a Source of Disease

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And then there are those articles that give me more insight into how to improve our health with food and diet.

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Scientists Prove Organic Food More Nutritionally Rich Than Conventional, GMO Crops

Olive Oil May Prevent Cancer, Study Finds

Heart Disease and Diabetes Risks Tied to Carbs Not Fat, Study Finds

Sourdough Bread and Health

Benefits of Kefir

Low Carb Fermented Foods

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And then there are some articles that are just unbelievable.

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Officials Declare ‘Eating Healthy’ a Mental Disorder

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Thanks to M.E. Masterson over at Adventures of My Life! who put a link to this article, G.H.A. (Goat Haters Anonymous) from Krazo Acres yesterday, we had some very good laughs. I guess you might have to have personal experience like the folks from Krazo to truly enjoy the humor in this article. We thought it was hilarious.

There is not much going on here on the homestead. We have had steady snow all afternoon. The garden is white. The pastures are white. The roads are white. And I am rather bored. Reading is a good past time on days like this, so I hope you learn something from these links. I can’t say I hope you enjoy them all, because I find some of them down right disgusting. But like any good leader, it pays to know your enemies and their tactics. Learn all you can so you can equip your mind for this battle called life.

Until next time – Fern
 

A Very Simple Lotion, Failures & Success

A day or so after we made our simple lip balm, I tried my hand at making a simple lotion. I got the recipe from Leigh over at 5 Acres & A Dream. It’s in her latest ebooklet, How To Make An Herbal Salve, which is part of The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos, she’s been writing. I wanted something very simple, with few ingredients, that I could make from things I normally keep on hand. Leigh’s recipe fit the bill.

Trying to make a simple lotion is a continuation of our attempt to minimize the chemicals we ingest or absorb into our bodies. And, once again, I was amazed just how easy it is to make this lotion, even though it failed the second time I made it. But that’s getting ahead of myself. I forgot to take any pictures while I made the first batch.

The recipe calls for one cup of herbal tea. I had recently read that lemon balm and peppermint are good for your skin, and I happened to have a few leaves here and there growing out in the herb bed, so I picked them to use in my tea. I brought the water to boiling, turned off the fire, added the herbs and let them steep for about five minutes.

Next, I took 3/4 cup of oil, I used olive oil, and melted 2 tbsp. of beeswax in it. After the tea was ready, I blended it into the oil, until it was well blended. Leigh uses a blender. I used a slotted spoon. I wasn’t sure how long to stir it, and I knew I wouldn’t get the same consistency as a blender, but I thought it worked out well.


Frank and I were pleased with the results. This lotion is definitely oilier than any over the counter lotion we have used. But, if you give it a few minutes it will soak in and works very well.

 
So, the other day I thought I would make another batch since we have already used up more than half of the first batch. I picked more lemon balm and peppermint, even though there wasn’t much left out there. 

 

Made my tea, melted the beeswax and got ready to mix it together. 

This time I used the KitchenAid with the whip attachment to ‘blend’ the tea into the oil. After I thought it was well blended, it started to solidify on the sides of the bowl, I poured it into my half pint jars. 

 

Very quickly it started to separate. Tea on the bottom, olive oil and beeswax on the top. I scooped it out and remelted everything, stirred it with my slotted spoon, and poured it back into the jars. It separated again. I looked at the recipe over and over and tried to figure out what I had done differently to no avail. So, on the counter, taking up space, my failed lotion sat for almost a week. The other day Frank asked me if it had anywhere else it could be. But I told him for now, it was just sitting there until I could figure out what to do differently with it.

 Well, this morning it was time. I didn’t have the time to go out searching for more lemon balm and peppermint, so I used some store bought chamomile and made up a cup of tea.



I scooped off the olive oil and beeswax from the failed batch, remelted it again, and poured out the old tea. This time I didn’t bother with the Kitchen Aid. I figured if it didn’t work, I would dump it all out and try again another time.

After I poured the tea into the oils, I stirred and stirred with my slotted spoon. The mixture looked exactly like the failed batch and I didn’t think it would work. I have been researching a lot about making soap lately, reading and watching YouTubes. I have learned what getting your soap to trace means. It’s when you have stirred it long enough for it to become a thick, pudding consistency that will hold it’s shape when you run a spoon across the top. What does this have to do with making lotion? Well, as I stood there stirring and stirring, I wondered if I cooled the lotion down enough for the oils to start solidifying, would they begin to blend with the tea the way they were supposed to? So I put the pan into a sink of cold water to cool it down as I stirred and stirred. My arm was getting tired.


It worked. As the oils began to solidify, the tea started to blend into the mixture. I tried stirring with my left hand, but kept splashing droplets here and there on the counter. So, I stirred and stirred until it was time to stop.

There are still tiny, little pockets that look like moisture, but this time, the lotion actually looks rather creamy, like you would expect from a commercial lotion. I really couldn’t care less if it looked like a commercial lotion, but since that is what I have used all my life, it is what I have come to expect a lotion to look like. The consistency of the first batch is more like a salve than a lotion, but this batch is creamier, even though the ingredients are the same. Interesting.


There are many things that I have long dreamed and thought of doing. Making lotion wasn’t one of them. But, you know what? I think it is so neat, and fun, and healthier, and just really cool. I made a very simple lotion from ingredients I keep on hand, thanks to all the folks out there that share what they know and do, so I can do it too. What a great life!

Until next time – Fern

How Did It Work Out? Some Updates & Things

You know how it is when you read about someone trying something new, but never hear how it worked out? It can leave you wondering if it was a success or a flop. So I thought I would let you know about a few projects we’ve written about recently.

First up are the reusable food wraps. I love them. They work great on bowls of stuff. I have yet to try wrapping food in them without using a bowl, but my main goal was a way to cover bowls of things in the frig without using plastic wrap or a plastic lid. I’ve used them to cover fish, ground meat, coleslaw, onions, herb cheese, and I don’t remember what else. The first time I put it over
a bowl of salmon I really wondered if the wrap would stink. Nope. It still smelled like beeswax. The next stinky test was the onion. I was glad to find out that the wrap will not absorb the odor of the food item it is covering. Clean up is an easy rinse with lukewarm water, dry thoroughly, fold up and store for next time. I’m glad I made the smaller wraps while I had the beeswax out making lip balm. I use these smaller wraps the most.

They do get creases where they are bent or folded, and I haven’t done anything to cover them up yet. But, from what I have read, you can use hot water and your hands to smooth out the wax on either side of the crease and cover it back up. I am very happy to be using something besides plastic lids or plastic wrap. These appear to be very durable, are quick and easy to make, and are made with more natural products than plastic.

Next, are the reusable panty liners. I am still very pleased with the design I came up with. They are effective for my use, comfortable, easy to make and care for. I haven’t made any more yet, we have been doing a major clean up and organizing task. But I will make about a dozen more before long, probably on one of the next cold, yucky winter days. If you have a sewing machine and a need, I would highly recommend making your own. If not, there are many vendors that make a good, quality products. It’s an easy way to eliminate the many detrimental chemicals that are so easily absorbed by women’s bodies.

The lip balm we made is great. We really like knowing exactly what we are using, and again, eliminating more chemicals from our daily routine. I have used Carmex, and Frank Chapstick, for many years. One thing I found out when I switched to our lip balm is that I seemed to have a kind of withdrawal. I know, withdrawal from Carmex? I never considered it before we switched to our lip balm. My lips got pretty chapped for about 10 days. During that time we had some really cold weather with strong north winds that may have contributed some, but I really think most of it had to do with a Carmex ‘withdrawal’ period. It didn’t occur to me at first, but as time went by, I began to notice an improvement. So, at first, I used our lip balm many times a day to deal with the chapped lips. Now, I only use it a few times, similar to how I used the Carmex. We are both very pleased. I have infused some olive oil with lemon balm and peppermint that I picked from the herb bed for our next batch. We’ll let you know how that goes.

One thing I have not written about, nor did I take any pictures of the process, was the simple lotion I made. It is only beeswax, olive oil and herbal tea made from some of the lemon balm and peppermint I picked. Very simple. The recipe called for mixing with a blender, which I do not have, so I used a slotted spoon. Obviously, the spoon did not do the mixing job a blender would do, and sometimes there is a couple of droplets of water on top of the lotion. But it doesn’t bother us at all. We really like this lotion. I will take pictures and write about the next batch. I’m going to try using the KitchenAid with the whipping hook on it to see if it will mix it up better.

When I first started using the lotion, I only used it on my hands. My skin is very sensitive to a lot of things. For many, many years the only hand lotion I could use is the original, plain Vaseline Intensive Care. It’s a good lotion and worked fine. I cannot use any soap or cleansers on my face at all. They break me out in fine little red bumps. So, I wash my face with water and use Eucerin lotion and nothing else. But, after I used our lotion on my hands and it didn’t break them out, I tried it on my arms for a few days. That went okay, so after about a week I got brave and tried it on my face. No little red bumps. I was very happy. But the same kind of dried out reaction happened to my hands, arms and face that happened to my lips. I wondered if it was the quality of moisturizing components of our lotion compared to the chemicalized store bought version. You know, those chemicals we can’t pronounce? Things like isopropyl myristate, PEG-40 sorbitan perolrate, glyceryl lanolate, sorbitol, propylene glycol, cetyl palmitate, stearic acid, magnesium sulfate, aluminum stearate, lanolin alcohol, BHT, methychloroisothiazolinone, and methylisothiazolinone. I have no idea what these ingredients are, or what they do to my body. But, you know what? I really think our bodies are so accustomed to, and almost addicted to, all of the chemicals we put on them every single day, that we have withdrawals. When I first thought of that, I thought it sounded kind of weird, but the longer I used our non-chemicalized products, the more I think it is true. I have long considered these two lotions to be good quality products, but until now, I have never read the ingredients. Or tried to, anyway.

Now, I know that the olive oil I have is processed. And the beeswax is processed. And the lard we bought to use in the lip balm has preservatives in it and the pigs it came from were fed highly chemicalized feed. But at least we were able to eliminate many of the man made chemicals that are the basic components of lip balm and lotion. That’s one more small step we were able to make. We really hope in the near future we will be able to render our own lard and harvest our own beeswax. That will be wonderful.

One of the things we are excited about is making lye soap. We have researched and gathered the necessary ingredients for a basic lye soap. When time allows, and a few other projects are completed, we will give it a try and share the results. We haven’t experimented with many projects that could be dangerous to our health, but making lye soap is one of them. Remember, safety first.

We will continue to learn and experiment with eliminating more chemicals from our lives. We really feel that the more naturally we can live now, before we have no choice, the better off we will be. If we can learn how to make our own natural care products with minimal, hopefully renewable ingredients for the most part, then when the stores are empty, we won’t miss them as much. Don’t slow down and let a life of learning pass you by. There is so much to learn and do, the journey is a never ending process. It will keep you young and ticking.

Until next time – Fern

A Simple Lip Balm With a Rant

Now that I have a nice supply of beeswax, I have been looking into making a few more things I have thought about for years. Just like making reusable food wrap, making this simple lip balm took about 10 minutes

after the needed items were assembled. Ten minutes? Unbelievable to me. This type of endeavor is supposed to be difficult and complicated, that is why we depend on the store to provide all of our needs, right? Well, the more we learn, the more we realize that there are many things that we can now provide for ourselves, and not depend on them. This decreases our dependence and increases our independence, which is one of our goals, as our world spirals more and more out of

control each and every day, right before our eyes. I know you weren’t expecting this commentary at the beginning of a lip balm article, but it’s just another example of marketing and brainwashing. I can make a very simple lip balm with minimal ingredients that can be acquired locally. That is one more small measure of comfort I can provide when the SHTF. With that said, here is my first effort at making a very simple lip balm.

But, before I get to that, I want to show you how economical it is, and how manufacturers are continuing to decrease the amount of product we receive, while maintaining the prices, in a effort to disguise just how bad inflation has become. If you don’t pay attention, you won’t notice that you now put much less on your plate for the same amount of money than you could a year ago, or even six short months ago. I know the cost of gasoline at the pump has recently gone down, but it doesn’t change the amount of food on your table.

Frank and I have used Carmex and Chapstick for years and years. Well, after we moved here six plus years ago, we started saving the empties. Yes, we are turning into our grandparents and saving all sorts of odd things, but I thought maybe someday I would learn how to make lip balm and refill them with our own stuff. One of the interesting, but irritating things we noticed a while back is how much less the containers are holding than they used to. We ran out much quicker than before. For example.

Older Carmex, current Carmex, our lip balm. Carmex used to be flat on the bottom.

Without further verbal wrangling, here is what I did to make lip balm. I found a great site, The Nerdy Farm Wife, that gave the basics of lip balm with recommended options, but without a lot of fluff. I also obtained a great little eBooklet recently from Leigh at 5 Acres and a Dream titled How To Make An Herbal Salve. It has some great simple recipes that I plan to try now that I’ve gotten my feet wet with this experiment. We bought a tub of lard recently for our first attempt at making soap. It is another project that is on the list of things to learn. There is some pig fat in the freezer waiting to be rendered, but, for now, we bought the lard. Farm Wife gave me the information I needed to make a very simple lip balm.

First, to gather the needed materials.

Beeswax
Olive oil
Lard
Measuring cup
Pan
Containers

These little containers have a short story. Our friend down the road, Grace, loves garage sales. A while back she found these little containers and brought them to me knowing I wanted to learn to make salves and such. I’m happy to finally be putting them to use, and the smaller ones are just the right size for lip balm. After I finalize my recipe, I will start filling up the old Carmex jars as well. After I gathered the needed ingredients and materials, it was very simple to complete this recipe. I am still amazed. So here goes.

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. lard
1 heaping tbsp. beeswax 

That’s it!

The lard has almost melted & the beeswax has just started.

Put about two inches of water in the pan, measure ingredients into the measuring cup and place it in the pan with medium heat,  and watch everything melt. This creates a type of simple double boiler. I used a plastic spoon this time because I wasn’t sure how difficult it might be to wash off the wax. I have an extra measuring cup just in case I couldn’t get this one clean enough, but I washed it immediately after use with hot water and Dawn and it came clean just fine.

After everything was melted and stirred well, I took the cup out of the pan and dried it so it wouldn’t drip any water into the mix as I poured it into the containers. Warning, the handle on the measuring cup was hot and I needed to hold it with a towel. I was surprised that this small amount of ingredients filled up four of these small containers. That will last us quite a while.

 

It only took about 10 minutes for the liquid to totally solidify and be ready to use. The texture in the jar is very similar to Carmex, but feels more oily when applied. Frank and I are very pleased with the outcome, and will let you know how it goes as we use it over time. Now that I have tried this, I plan to infuse some olive oil with peppermint and lemon balm, which are growing out in the herb bed, to put in the next batch.

 

When I finished this little project, Frank asked me how much it cost to make this much lip balm. I didn’t know so I went and looked up the prices and did some figuring. Here are the approximate prices.

  • beeswax $0.40
  • olive oil $0.44
  • lard $0.09
  • TOTAL $0.93 = approximately 6 oz.

Carmex at the store: $0.98 = 0.25 oz.

The recipe I used made approximately 6 oz. of lip balm compared to 0.25 oz. of Carmex. That would be 24 times as much for a few cents less. So, the equivalent amount of my lip balm would cost about $0.04 compared to $0.98 + tax for Carmex. Amazing!

 And while I was at it and had the beeswax out, I needed some smaller reusable food wraps. So while the lard and beeswax were melting for the lip balm, I cut out a few more pieces of fabric, sprinkled on some wax and popped them in the oven. Another new item for us that takes very little time once you have the needed items on hand.

 

 

You see, if I am going to make lip balm or bread or a meal, I’m going to use simple plain ingredients that I hope to be able to produce here on our farm. If I am really serious about being self-reliant and being able to manage when, when not if, the end of the world as we know it arrives, then I have to be realistic about how I learn and do new things and not play head games with myself.

I know we will not be able to produce olive oil in a survival situation, but we plan to be able to produce lard. We don’t have

them yet, and don’t really like to read about what people are going to do, but we will be adding American Guinea Hogs and bees to our homestead come spring. This will provide us with a source of lard and beeswax which can be used for so many things besides a food source. And if for some reason those plans don’t work out, there are other folks around that have bees and hogs that we can barter with. We have been homesteading for many, many years and know from the school of hard knocks that things don’t come together overnight, and sometimes don’t work out at all. But with gumption and perseverance, they can and do come together. 

Learn something important today. Obtain, or begin to research the knowledge and skills you need to do something useful for your family that will make life better when all of the chips are down. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It may be one of the most important things you have ever done. Time is wasting, and may run out before we know it. Work with fervor and a prayer in your heart.

Until next time – Fern