Archive for Homemade / Do-It-Yourself

Apple Cider, the old fashioned way!

ImageLast weekend I met up with some girlfriends for a Sunday afternoon of apple pressing in the country.  It was a blast!  Love getting together with other ladies who enjoy organic foods, gardening, home food preservation, good company and fresh air!  While I had a fun time, apple pressing is hard work.  Megan was gracious enough to open her home and farm up to us and share with us her apple press and grinder.   We all came with local and organic apples, glass jars and a pot luck meal. 

We had an assembly line going beginning with washing the apples and cutting off any wormy, bad spots.

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Next we ran the apples through the grinder. 

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Then we filled the pillow case-lined wooden bottomless barrel with the ground apples.

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They are ready to be pressed!  We turned the crank as far as it would go then inserted a stick for a leaver to crank it down further.  We had to then loosen and repeat with a wooden block under the press to squeeze out all of the juice.  Megan’s husband, Ian helped us get every last drop!  We repeated this over and over again until all of our approximate 4 bushels of apples were processed.  This may sound quick and easy but ittook 7 of us about 3 hours to make 6 gallons of cider to share.  We also had many unwanted guests there, and it wasn’t the fruit flies from my kitchen.  Bees!!  Honey bees everywhere!  Including many that probably got pressed along with the apples.  There were more and more of them by the minute.  We made it through with only one person getting stung once, not too bad.

With the 3/4 of a gallon of apple cider I took home last week there’s maybe a cup left!  DH thought it had a “weird aftertaste” but the boys and I loved it and made some apple cider popsicles too.  I had a great time pressing apples in the country, but I do also appreciate that I can do the same in a fraction of the time with the Jack Lalanne juicer in my kitchen.

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Our garden fresh potluck!  Love the handmade from reclaimed barn wood giant kitchen table too!

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Homesteading & Sustainability

Ready to dry/freeze

Hello blogging world. It has been a while but I have had homesteading on my mind and decided to write about it.  I have been on a homesteading and sustainability mission lately.  We are trying to slowly increase our self-sufficiency now that we have settled into our first home.

In case you were wondering, here is the definition of homesteading via Mother Earth News and the EPA’s definition of sustainability:

  • Homesteading is “….a lifestyle that promotes greater self sufficiency – wherever you live. It’s about using less energy, eating wholesome local food, involving your family in the life of the community and making wiser choices that will improve the quality of life for your family, your community and the environment around you.”
  • Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.  Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

We choose to adapt this lifestyle as much as possible for several reasons:  to leave a small carbon footprint on this planet, for better health, and it’s good knowledge to have and to pass onto our children.  We have a lot of respect for those who came before us who homesteaded out of necessity.  And in some respects I feel it has come full circle.  As a health practitioner, and health conscious individual, it is frustrating and scary the amount of toxic chemicals that surround us:  in the grocery store, the cleaning isles, garden centers, the make-up counter, they are everywhere.  In a way, I feel homesteading is a necessity, not in the same way as our ancestors, but as the best way to reduce the toxins in our lives and to not contribute to the growing toxins entering our environment.

 What we have done so far

We have been making small steps toward becoming more self-sufficient and sustainable.  Here is what we have accomplished:

  1. Vegetable and herb garden

    Photo by Elizabeth Bernstein Photography

  2. Green house
  3. Line drying our clothes in the summer
  4. Composting
  5. Well water and septic
  6. Canning
  7. Homemade candles
  8. Homemade vanilla extract
  9. Shopping at local farm market
  10. Homemade household cleaners
  11. Some woodworking and handy work
  12. We buy pantry items from amish and online co-ops with organic and fair trade products.
  13. Homemade gifts
  14. Rain gauge and barometer (does that count?!)

What we want to do in the future

  1. Plant apple, pear, cherry and maybe peach trees
  2. Build and instal 2 rain barrels
  3. Chickens! And build a coop first
  4. Find new ways to reduce electricity usage
  5. Grow some mushrooms
  6. Make our own soap
  7. Sewing
  8. Grow more and new produce
  9. Save seeds
  10. Grow herbs indoors in the winter
  11. We are installing a portable generator this fall (thanks to my generous in-laws)

ARE YOU HOMESTEADING?  WHAT DO YOU DO FOR SUSTAINABILITY?  WHAT ELSE CAN I ADD TO OUR FUTURE LIST?

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Boy’s Blue “Green” Train Room

I wanted to share our boy’s new bedroom with everyone.  I am not the best decorator  in the world so I was pretty proud of how this room turned out!   Well, I have to confess, I was not the creator of this decor, only the executer.  I know when I see something I like but if I am given a blank slate, I don’t know where to begin when it comes to decorating.  Thankfully, our wonderful receptionist, Evelyn also has MANY talents!  One of those is decorating!  She enthusiastically helped us create the perfect room for the boys.  I love, love, love how it turned out!  Check out Evelyn’s Blog and Etsy store to see more of her talents!

We wanted to create a room that was all boy, highlighting J’s favorite color, blue (also Granville School colors – blue and white) and favorite interest, trains.  We wanted a room that was clean, simple, somewhat non-traditional, and flexible (easy to update as boys grow).  I did not want a super mainstream look or character theme.

Key decorative aspects of the room: Train mural,crisp, clean white walls, light blue stripe around the room from the color of the train mural sky, navy accent stripe around room, navy dresser, wood bunk beds, blue and white bedding, navy baskets on book shelf (not pictured), vintage toy signs.

On the Green Side

 

So the title of this post is the Boy’s Blue Green Train Room. 
It is more of  a easy, practical green room, not super duper greenified to the max-room.  On the scale of green-ness, I’d give it a 7.

We used Sherwin Williams zero and low VOC paint for all colors (except mural).  There is some  amount of VOC in tinted paint.

The spectacular, detailed and colorful, train mural was painted by my amazingly talented artist-sister, Erica Arndts!  J love’s trains and this was the perfect touch to make the room bigger than life!  Erica spent an entire day painting, while visiting from her home in Atlanta.  Yes, you read that right, only one day to create this masterpiece!  I know, impressive!  By the Way, if you like her work and are interested in a mural or a painting and are in the Atlanta area, contact me and I will put you in touch with her.

Notice the ceiling fan (well, I didn’t quite get it in the photo).  A great Green addition to any room to lower your utility costs.  Set it to counter-clockwise to cool your space in the summer time with a downward air flow.  Set your fan to rotate clockwise in the winter to circulate warm air that otherwise would get trapped near the ceiling. I do want to paint the blades white instead of the rainbow of pastel colors they currently are.

The bunk beds were hand made with love by Daddy!

The Navy dresser was repurposed old dresser from when Greg was a boy.  Greg sanded and painted the dresser following tips form Evelyn.  He finished it off with  new hardware.

The vintage toy signs were a find by my mom.

The white roman blinds were finished off with navy vertical gross-grain ribbon stripes by my mother-in-law, Doris.  Another ingenious idea from Evelyn!  I love how it’s the little touches here and there that make all the difference in pulling everything together in the room (Tutorial here).

The comforters I splurged on from Pottery Barn Kids 2 years ago when Greg made the bed’s.  I consider them a little green contribution because they are reversible, simple and classic pattern and nice quality.  I have high hopes that they will last the boys through high school! The green bedside lantern also came from Pottery Barn Kids.  I couldn’t resist that when I saw it (it spoke to my love for camping and outdoors.  I know, it’s not my room but had to do it).  I thought it was unique as a light fixture and added some character.

Of course the room is outfitted with compact florescent lights (CFL’s)

Finally, a Train Room wouldn’t be complete without a train table!  Our train table is mostly filled with trains and accessories from Whittle Shortline Railroad (made in USA), Plan Toys, BRIO, and Nuchi.

Tell me what you think!  Do you think I should add a rug?  What do you do to create a “green” bedroom?

   
 

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A Homemade Holiday Gift

 
Healthy Home

Welcome to Healthy Home, an enlightening weekly series on Mom Going Green.  Healthy Home focuses on natural health topics for the whole family.  The goal of this series is to provide moms (and dads too), with information on how to achieve optimal health for the entire household naturally.   The series will include the latest in natural health news, wholesome health tips, yummy recipes, and natural health remedies that have worked for healthy homes in years past.

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Nothing beats a homemade holiday gift.  Recently, Denise Pickenpaugh came to our New Albany chiropractic office to teach a class on making homemade, all natural soy candles.   Soy is a great alternative to the traditional and unhealthy paraffin candle.  Paraffin candles emit carcinogens into the air.  Have you ever seen the black soot inside of a half burnt candle container and thought about that entering and depositing in your lungs too?  According to a CBS News article “Paraffin, which comes from the distillates of wood or petroleum, can be more toxic than gasoline”.    Planet Green states that the fumes from paraffin candles are similar to those from burning diesel.  Even OSHA lists paraffin as causing irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and skin.  There are many benefits of soy candles over traditional paraffin candles.  Soy candles produce no black soot on walls, ceilings, and the candle container.   Soy beans are renewable, sustainable and grown in the US.  Making or buying soy candles supports American farmers.  Soy candles are non-toxic and non-irritating for people with breathing problems (and for those who don’t want to get breathing problems).   Also, each soy candles is unique and different.  Every soy field is different, with different soil and different properties therefore every candle is unique!  If buying a soy candle look for the percent soy on the label.  A candle can be labeled soy with little soy in it.  Look for 85-100% soy.   I had a great time at the candle making class and learned a lot.  I’m so excited to make some candles for friends and family this year (did I just give that away?).    So here’s what you need to know:

Materials:

  • Decorative container
  • Wick
  • Soy wax flakes
  • Scent
  • Hot glue gun
  • Double boiler
  • Scale
  • Liquid thermometer
  • Chopsticks or skewers

Make your Candle:

  • Heat water in the base of a double boiler to 125-135 degrees (maintain that temperature throughout process).
  • Use the scale to weigh 2lbs of soy wax flakes and place in double boiler
  • After wax is completely melted, add 2 oz of scent (1oz/lb wax) to the waxCook 15-20 min, or 20-30 if using vanilla or another heavy oil
  • In the meantime, use a hot glue gun to attach wick to the bottom of the container. 
  • Use a small wick for 1-2 inch diameter container, medium wick for 2-3 inch diameter, large for 3-4 inch and X-large for 4-5 inch diameter.  For larger containers double wick but be carefulot to place the wicks too close or they will drown each other out.
  • Pour wax into container.
  • Use chopsticks or skewers to hold the wick in place by lying them on top of the container on either side of the wickLet the wax dry, 12-24 hours
  • Trim the wickReady to gift or burn and enjoy!

Look for all natural ingreadients localy at Makes Scents Candles in Pataskala.

Delightful

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Winterizing

Growing Up Green!Welcome to the weekly series, Growing up Green.  This will be your eco-friendly stop for green, all-natural, toxin and chemical free tips for your family.   Learn simple and meaningful ways to make your children’s environment a little safer for their health and the earth.

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Mercury Dropping

The mercury is dropping which often times means a skyrocketing heating bill.  We live in an old home built in 1959.  There are many cracks and crevices for cold air to sneak in uninvited!  Over the past few weeks we have been gearing up for the winter and prevention of that unwanted out of control electric bill.

We started with developing a game plan for heating our home.  The house is equipped with baseboard electric heat which I’ve heard is very inefficient.  We also have a wood burning stove without a blower and one energy efficient space heater.  Initially we thought we would be doomed with the baseboard heating.  However we did some investigating and spoke with a patient who is an electric engineer.  He said that baseboard heating can actually be very efficient when used properly.  He said to turn them on when you are in a room and off when you leave.  They work well heating small spaces.  This will be great for the 2 bedrooms we use (the third room can just remain off).  It may be a little chilly when first going to bed but after testing it out they actually heat the rooms surprisingly quick.  They can be turned off during the day when the rooms are not in use.  We thought we would have to turn on all base boards in all rooms at a minimum thermostat level to prevent frozen pipes but he said that is not necessarily the case.  That brings us to the large living space where the kitchen, dinning and living rooms are located.  Baseboard heating would not be efficient in this area so we tested out our wood burning stove.  I was not too optimistic about it.  I’ve lived in homes with a fire place and it only heated a few feet in front of the hearth.  However, our neighbor has a stove and said it heats his entire house (his has a blower and duct system though).  We were hoping ours would at least heat our living area.  So on a cool night we tested it out.  We were pleasantly surprised.  That thing was HOT!!  It was in the 30’s outside and Greg had to put on shorts, he was sweating so much!  Granted he really loaded it up with wood thinking it would be a bust.  The entire living area, all 3 rooms registered at 80 degrees.  Its amazing what a difference it makes to with the stove that is not within the wall like a fire place.  I then emailed Jack’s midwife, Abby who lives on a large, beautifully wooded lot with many, many acres of woods.  She kindly allowed us to load up on fire wood and welcomed us back for more if needed.  I am now confidant we can heat our house at a low cost without breaking the bank!

Next was to seal up the cracks and crevices to prevent our cozy heat from escaping.  We started with the bedroom windows.  Greg created a wooden frame with heavy duty plastic staple gunned to the frame to create a barrier to place in the window.  We lined it with foam and shimmied it into the window.  There is no way even a molecule of air will get through that contraption!  The only down side is the plastic is not clear, it’s a cloudy white color.  I don’t mind because we don’t spend much time in the bedrooms outside of sleeping.  The sun does still come through and brightens the rooms too.  We did this for Jack’s room and ours.  For the windows in the bath, spare bedroom, dining room and the large bay window we purchased kits to cover the windows with plastic using double sided tape and a hair dryer.  Greg’s parents were over and couldn’t even tell the plastic was there.  Our curtains cover the edges nicely and the hair dryer helps remove all wrinkles.   To tackle the window wells we bought plastic covers, which Greg screwed into the brick to prevent snow from falling in.  We did purchase a second space heater incase we might need it.  Finally, we will be foaming one leaky door which we won’t be using during the winter.  I can tell our efforts have already paid off, our electric bill this month was less than last month and we have even used the bedroom baseboards a few times already.

Can you see the window covering?

Additional winterizing we will be finishing up, not related to heat is tilling our vegetable gardens to prevent weeds, cleaning the leaves out of the gutters, and adding an additional composting hole to our back yard (one just isn’t enough, need to rotate between two).

What are you doing to prepare your home for the winter cold and heating bill?   I’d love to hear from you!

Winterizing Check List

    1. Have a game plan for your main heat source

      Conserve!

    2. Seal up leaky windows and doors
    3. Set thermostats at 68 degrees instead of 70 – it WILL make a difference.  Grab an extra layer or blanket if you need.
    4. Have a family meeting to discuss how you will conserve energy by keep bedroom doors closed to keep heat in, turning off lights in rooms not occupied and unplugging appliances that are not in use.

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Homemade Green & Organic Play Dough

Growing Up Green!Welcome to the weekly series, Growing up Green.  This will be your eco-friendly stop for green, all-natural, toxin and chemical free tips for your family.   Learn simple and meaningful ways to make your children’s environment a little safer for their health and the earth.

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Jack 20 months Halloween 013Thursdays we have fun with art in our house and recently Jack and I created our own Green play dough.  The great think about homemade play dough is that you know and have control of every ingredient in it.  There was nothing toxic about our play dough.  I’t may not have tasted great if Jack put it in his mouth but it was safe without toxic chemical ingredients and dyes (see recipe below).  Once made, Jack enjoyed squishing and patting the play dough.  He also had fun guessing what animal, but or vehicle I was making.  Jack really wanted to drive the play dough car we made around the table but it wasn’t so hardy!  We enjoyed our art day with play dough.

 Green & Organic Play Dough:

-          1 cup Organic Flour

-          1 cup Warm Water

-          2/3 cup Sea Salt

-          2 tsp Cream of Tarter

-          1 tsp vegetable oil

-          Juice from ¼ Beet for red/pink color (*for blue try blueberry juice and for yellow try turmeric spice or curry powder.  Mix the above primary colors for additional colors.)

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a pot over medium heat.  Add in natural coloring.  Stir and heat until think.  Remove from heat and kneed until smooth.  Let cool then dig in!  Store play dough in an air tight container in your refrigerator.  Play dough will keep for quite a while.

** I have yet to try the blue or yellow yet.  If you have tried them or have another idea for all natural colors I’d love to hear about it!

Jack 20 months Halloween 010

Jack 20 months Halloween 011

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Canning Craze

Tomato Sauce & Puree

Tomato Sauce & Puree

Earlier this summer our office staff member, Sarah K. gave me a book on pickling and canning for my birthday.  I thought it was so thoughtful.  At our office cookout a few weeks prior we showed off our bountiful vegetable garden and I gave everyone a handful of cucumbers on their way out.  We probably had over 100 cucumbers this summer, and what on earth to do with them?  Pickle!

 I pulled out my pickling book and picked up some jars at the store and gave it a whirl.  I tried dill and sweet bread and butter. The dill were definitely a little easier to make, however, I have a huge sweet tooth so the bread and butter are more for me.  We made a whole shelf full of pickle jars.  If they turn out well all of our relatives will be getting them for Christmas!  It is time consuming but it also gave me a rewarding feeling of being resourceful and not wasteful of the nutritious crops made by the sun and the soil. 

Pickles, Apple Sauce, Ketchup

Pickles, Apple Sauce, Ketchup

In addition to pickles we also made ketchup, tomato sauce, tomato puree, and apple sauce.  The tomatoes came in part from our garden and also from Flying J Farm (organic).  The apples were hand pick by Jack, Greg and I at Windy Hill Apple Farm in Newark.  They too are organic!  We also harvested and froze broccoli, beets, and carrots from our garden.

 The basics of Canning:

  1.  Puree or prepare your food according to the recipe
  2. Prepare jars if necessary by boiling the jars and lids in advance
  3. Place the food in jars with 0.5-1.0 inches of headspace (space at the top of the jar) and cap them with the lids
  4. Boil for 15-30 min. depending on the acidity of the food
  5. Let cool, check lids for a good seal and store in a cool dry place

 Lessons learned

Next year I will probably not make ketchup – it took a tremendous amount of tomatoes and time for a very small amount of ketchup.  I will also plant more canning tomatoes.

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