Category Archives: Skills

Skills and ideas for the homesteader

Unbuilding a home

As we plan and prepare to build our house in Nevada this summer, I feel that we are quickly unbuilding our home here in Oregon. We already sold off a lot of the larger pieces of furniture.

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Emptiness

We are having a yard sale this weekend to hopefully get rid of the bulk of everything else we have stacked in the garage.

The girls’ bunk bed is dismantled in the garage waiting to be sold. Princess Girl took the whole thing apart with very little help from us. She is going to be such a huge help when we build!

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She even patiently let Flower Girl help with a couple things.

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So now the girls are sharing one dresser (the other is being sold) and sleeping on their mattresses on the floor.

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Toys have been downsized to a few favorites. Some have gone into storage, most have been donated to charity (No, I don’t want to fight with a three year old over selling her toys in the yard sale. Better that they are just out of sight, out of mind!)

The living room has a couch and coffee table in it. Nothing else. And the coffee table is going bye-bye this weekend. The dining area has a table, but no chairs. The family room and kitchen are the most furnished rooms in the house, since we do still have to live here. But even they are sparse.

And it feels good! Not just the knowing that we are returning home soon, but the emptiness itself. The space. The uncluttered feel. When our family of 4 moved in with Bachan and Pagee, we had to fit our stuff in on top of their stuff. I needed an area for school/crafts/work, so we squeezed it into a corner of the living room. It worked, but it sure felt cramped.

Since Hubby works from home, he uses our bedroom for his office, which means his desk, etc is in our bedroom. It works, but it sure feels cramped.

And since he takes up extra space in the bedroom, there’s really no space for any of my stuff. So I keep all my clothes in the girls’ room. It works, but, you guessed it, it sure is cramped.

So as we downsize our lives once again to fit into 240 square feet, I am once again reminded that we often carry around too much extraneous stuff in our lives. And that the more space you have, the more you fill it up.

So, once again, I am finding the downsizing process liberating. And while most of the stuff being sold in the yard sale is Bachan and Pagee’s, there are quite a few item of ours as well.

And it’s all rather exciting since it means we are moving soon!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Final Daily Life Post – Deconstruction, EDC, and One Year after the Rooster Incident

February 25th.

It would have been my grandmother’s 91st birthday if she were alive. It’s also the 1 year anniversary of slicing my hand after decapitating a rooster. [Warning: if you click on the link, it has some rather graphic pictures from my emergency room visit.]

So how’s my hand doing one year later?

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Well, it’s looking pretty good. The scar is fading (and disregard that other small cut. I scraped my hand on a nail today. And yes, my tetanus shot is up to date. Got it one year ago exactly). I don’t have too much lasting nerve damage. Just a little bit of numbness in the skin near the cut. And the only time it ever hurts anymore is if I hit it on something. Like yesterday, I hit it on the edge of the table. Oh, my, GOSH, that hurt! But otherwise, I don’t even think about it every day any more. Or if I do it’s a passing thought that doesn’t really enter my conscious. Over all, I am so blessed it wasn’t more serious.

And taking a picture of my hand reminded me that I’ve been wanting to do an EDC post for forever.

What is “EDC” you might ask. It stands for Every Day Carry. My hubby watches YouTube videos of gun guys and outdoor enthusiasts and they are always talking about the things they carry on them every day.

What does my hand have to do with my personal EDC? Well, in the picture you can see my watch. Yes, that pretty bracelet is a watch.

So here is this Homesteader’s EDC and some of the philosophy behind what I carry on my person every day. Not everything is related to homesteading, and some of it applies to my particular situation, so not everything would apply to everyone.

Watch: First, as in the picture above, I always wear a watch. I know lots of people who use their phones as a clock, but I believe it’s very practical to have one on you that you don’t have to pull out of your pocket to see. What if you’ve got mud and guck all over your hands as frequently happens to a homesteader?  And it has to be waterproof! I’ve killed too many non-waterproof watches just by washing my hands or forgetting I have it on and getting in the shower. This last Christmas, one of my moms got me the one I now wear every day. It’s waterproof so it’s pretty and practical. I love it!

Hair Tie: Next, I’ve always got at least one hair tie on my other wrist (along with a bracelet that Princess Girl made for me). With three females with long-ish hair in our family , I am always in need of a band to get one person or another’s hair back out of the way. I found these extra large hair ties at the grocery store. They are actually a bit loose on my wrist, so they don’t cut off my circulation. And the three of us have thick hair anyway, so they work great. But even if one or more of us had thin hair, the convenience of always having one on hand (pun not intended 😉 ) would outweigh the inconvenience of having to twist it around a pony tail a few extra times.20160225_170709_resized

Chapstick: I’m very particular about my chapstick. I only like one particular brand and only a couple of the flavors they produce. That’s the biggest reason I’ve never tried making my own. But I always have chapstick with me. Even up here in the humid Pacific Northwest, I use it on my lips a couple times a day. And down in arid Nevada? Yeah. I think you can figure that one out.

Another reason I’ve never tried making my own chapstick is that I need it to have a good SPF in it. The ones I buy are SPF 15, and when I’m out in the sun, I slather it on. If I don’t , I will end up with cold sores on my lips. No fun. Also, it works as a quick sunscreen for noses and cheeks if we find ourselves frying out in the sun without any on hand. I buy other chapsticks every once in a while to try to find another one that I can tolerate which has better ingredients. So far, I’ve struck out.

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Flashlight: As you can see from the picture above, I also carry a small flashlight. This is something my wonderful husband got me this last Christmas. He carries one all the time and knows that when you have it, you use it. Constantly.

And he’s right. I’m thrilled that it is small enough to fit in my pocket or even clip on my wasteband, but since it’s modern LED technology, it is bright! I pull that thing out at least several times a week for one reason or another. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s purple. My favorite!

Knives: I carry two knives on me almost every day. The black folding knife is a cheaper replica of one I’ve had since I was 16 years old. I use it all. the. time. Imagine opening a box that just came in the mail. Instead of finding the scissors or a kitchen knife, I pull out my pocket knife. Or you’re outside cleaning up the chicken coop and find some bailing string tangled around the fence. Rather than leave it till later or go find something to cut it, I can whip out my knife right then and there and get the job done. I probably use it on average at least once a day. Now, it is a rather large knife (by normal standards) and I know the general public can be a bit nervous about sharp, pointy things, so I am careful when and where I whip it out. But it is a great tool to have on hand.

The other knife I carry is a mini multi tool. This is the kind that has the scissors in it as well as a few other tools. I use the scissors and knife blade the most. The scissors are great for when we’re out and about and I find a string that needs cutting, etc. Usually Princess Girl is asking to use them to cut the top off a honey straw. I use the knife blade in those situations when I don’t feel it appropriate to pull out my larger blade. But just the other day, I also used the screw driver it to tighten a screw. Worked great. Sometimes though, I’m wearing an outfit that doesn’t have the right pocket to carry this one, so it might not be worn.

Belt: Since I wear jeans 99% of the time, I have a belt on me 99% of the time. As I said in my post about making it, I decided that I would make a paracord belt so that I have tons of cordage on me at any time. Paracord can be used in thousands of ways, and I think I have about 75 feet of it in that belt. If I ever needed to disassemble the belt in order to use the cord, I would just cut a length to tie around my waist as a simple belt. And yes, this is not something I use every day – other than as a belt. It is truly an emergency item I like to have just in case.

Phone/Camera: The last thing I have on me constantly is my phone. Since we don’t have a house phone anymore, I like keeping my cell at hand. If it’s in the other room and someone calls, I won’t hear it. But more than that, I love having a good camera on me at all times. All the pictures on this blog were taken with my cell phones. I love that I can snap a picture or two (or 50) of whatever catches my fancy. And as a blogger, that means I can usually capture the moment to share with my readers later.

So these are the things that are on my person all the time. Or nearly so. There are times when whatever I’m dressed in isn’t conducive to wearing a belt, for instance. But really, the belt is about the only thing that I might leave off completely. My big knife and flashlight usually get tucked into the band of my bra so I can still wear them even with a dress. Not real comfy, but tolerable for a day. And I have chapsticks stashed in several places of the house so even if I don’t have it on me, they are easy to get to. And if I’m out and about, I will have my purse, and if it’s not on my body, it’s in my purse.

So there you go. An EDC for a homesteader.

 


So today we started a project that is intended to get the house ready to sell. Years ago, Dad and Mom had their kitchen rearranged, but never did anything with the old soffit (a dropped down portion of the ceiling that the cabinets used to hang on.) So, today, we got that torn out and Dad and Hubs went to the store and bought an over the range microwave. Win-win! We finally will have a vented hood over the stove (which it should have had all along!), and the microwave will finally be up off the counter, giving us much more counter space!

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Princess Girl was a great help!

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Flower Girl had my camera and wanted to take a picture of her “pitty pink shoes”.

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All ready to do the electrical and hang the new microwave and then put new drywall in. Yay!

So that was our very eventful day yesterday. Oh, I also finally got some boxes so we can start boxing up things for storage or garage sale. Since we’re going to be living in the trailers afterall, we have to go through the downsizing process all over again. Especially Mom and Dad who own 90% of the stuff in this house. We don’t really have much to get rid of. But we do have a lot that needs to go back into storage. But I am totally ok with having to go through all this once more since it means we are moving back!

And speaking of packing and downsizing and storing, I probably won’t be posting very often since my updates would probably be along the lines of “More boxes packed today.” But if anything happens that is out of the ordinary or is part of our building process or actually has something to do with homesteading, I’ll be sure to let you know. 🙂

Until then, thanks for hanging in there with my mostly uneventful month of daily posts. Maybe once we get the house built and are settled onto the new place I’ll do it again and we’ll see how/if our daily routines will have changed much since I’ll be a homesteader living on a homestead rather than in the city. Maybe they will, maybe not. Because at the end of it all, us homesteaders are mostly just normal people who choose to live an uncommon lifestyle. And if all goes according to plan, our life is about to get even more uncommon. And we’re soooo looking forward to it!

 

Daily Life #22 – FINAL Final candle tests

You know that scene in the movie Cast Away when Tom Hanks’ character finally manages to get a fire going?

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Yeah, that’s how I’m feeling right now!

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Ok, so my fire is not nearly as impressive as in the movie, but I’m proud of it.

I know. I know.

I said in yesterday’s post that I was done with testing. But I just couldn’t let it rest.

I hate stopping when I feel like there was more I could have done.

And this morning, something I had read jumped back into my head. I needed to try braiding my wicks!

Duh!

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So, here we go again!

Two braided wicks, one from the thinner string (black and white cotton “bakers twine”) and one from the thicker string (white cotton string).

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Both dipped in wax, straightened, cut to length, and put in paperclip wick stands.

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Then, as I described yesterday, using some rubber bands to hold the wick in the middle of the jar, and pouring the wax in two stages, I had two more candles ready to test (after cooling off, of course.)

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AND THEY WORK!!!

I’m sitting here with them burning beside me. They’ve been burning unassisted for three hours. No re-lighting needed. No straightening wicks needed. Nice tall flames with little to no smoke. And bright! I can definitely read a book by these if need be.

Because the wicks are two different sizes (thinner and thicker), they are burning the wax at different rates (and, yes, before anyone says anything, I do know that technically the wax itself is not burning, rather, it’s gasses given off as the wax evaporates due to the flame, or something like that. But you all know what I mean. 🙂 ).

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In this picture, you can see that there is a rim of unmelted wax around the edges. This is the thinner string.

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In this one, you can see that the wax is melted all the way across the jar, which means that this is actually the proper size wick for this size jar and this type of wax.

And that brings up a good point that I have not talked about. There are different kinds of waxes, with different melting points. The wax I am using is left overs from pillar candles. It is a harder wax with a higher melting temperature. This is a good thing for pillar candles since you don’t want them to melt and spill all over the place. That’s also what makes them good for taper candles. And as long as you have the right size wick for your jar, it makes an adequate jar candle, as well.

It will be interesting to see wich of these candles burn longer. The thinner wick because it’s not using up as much wax as it burns with it’s smaller flame, but is also leaving unused wax around the edges? Or the thicker wick which has a slightly larger flame, thus burning more rapidly, but also hotter to melt all the wax, thus providing more fuel?

From a survival standpoint, making candles in jars makes sense. They are easier to store since they won’t deform if they get hot, and they are harder to break.

Also, and probably more importlantly, they are safer. With tapers, you really have to be there with them at all times. If a taper candle tips a bit too much and wax starts pouring out the side, you can have issues very quickly.

So there you have it folks.

-Melt your wax in your desired method (I use a large coffee tin inside an old stockpot with some water in the pot. Kindof a double boiler effect. I also put several canning jar rings down in the bottom of the pot which the coffee can sits on. That way it’s not resting directly on the bottom of the pot which is getting direct heat from the burner. That may be overkill, but then I know I don’t have to worry about it.)
-While your wax is melting, braid your cotton twine (no special treatment necessary)
-Dip the braid in wax a couple times. Let cool and cut to size.
-Secure prepared wick in a paperclip and put it in your jar.
-Wrap three rubber bands aroud the jar (crossing the top, leaving a triangle in the middle), and place your wick in the middle of these rubber bands.
-Pour a bit of wax in to keep the wick stand from moving around.
-Once first layer of wax has solidified, fill the rest if the jar to the desired fullness.
-Let rest to cool and solidify. If desired, a bit more melted wax can be added after it has cooled completely in order to make the top flat.

That’s it. Yay! It works!

I’m so happy!

Now off yo bed!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Daily Life #’s 19, 20, and 21 – Last candle tests, a day off, and some actual work on the homestead

On February 13 (day #19 of my month of Daily Life posts), in amongst the daily tasks of cooking, cleaning, and caring for family, I did my final burn tests on the candle wicks.

Unfortunately, the wicks still fell over, even after being carefully centered, held in place, and kept straight while pouring the wax. So that theory of mine was busted. Very frustrating.

But I decided I did like my new method for reusable wick stands and keeping the wicks straight. Paperclips and rubber bands. In fact, I also used the same to use a completely different kind of wick. A popsicle stick! In the picture below, you can see how I used the paperclip to hold the popsicle stick. I did the same thing with the wicks I tried. Theoretically, once the candle is burned, you can get the stand out and use it again.

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Then, I wrapped some rubber bands around the jars and put the wicks in the middles, using the rubber bands to keep them centered. I was then able to pour in the wax. I did it in two pours this time. The first time I poured just enough that the wick base was submerged. I let that cool for a bit to solidify so that the wick wouldn’t move around when the jar was full of wax. Then I poured the jar the rest of the way with wax. This worked great to keep the wicks straight and centered till the wax firmed. Well, kinda.

One thing I learned is that when the wax cools, it will create a depression in the middle. This is no big deal with the small little jars I was using. However, when I tried to make a candle in a pint jar, the wax well was so large it pulled the wick down into the candle and rendered it unusable. This was not a problem with the popsicle stick since it is so rigid. With that one, I just filled the depression with more wax and let it solidify. I think if I was going to do a pint with a regular wick again, I’d have to keep it extra long and secure it somehow so it wouldn’t be sucked down into the well.

BUT, I don’t plan to fiddle with making any more jar candles in the near future. I was not impressed with the results. I’ll stick with tapers if I need to make my own candles without store bought wicks.

And the popsicle sticks weren’t really the answer either. True, they didn’t have problems with falling over, and they stayed burning for nearly 12 hours! So in that sense, they were great. And if you’re using the candles for ambiance or aroma therapy, then there you go. Use popsicle sticks as wicks. However, my reason for doing this testing was to know how to make candles in the event I ever HAD to make them for daily life. In that case, I’d want them as a light source, and in that area alone, the popsicle stick wicks were lacking. They burned steadily, but not very brightly.

I didn’t get any really good pictures of the burn test this time since there wasn’t anything to show. The picture below is of the popsicle stick candles (a small jar and a pint jar) when we were about to blow them out. They had been burning just like that all day. And since they burned with such a small flame, they hardly burned any wax.

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So my final thoughts on all this: if you ever need to make candles in a survival situation, use a regular cotton string (no need to treat it with anything), and dip it in melted wax over and over till you have the size candle you want.

Experiment done!

On to Day 20 (February 14th). After church, we drove some friends out to a resort near the coast (they don’t have the transportation), and decided that since we were going to be so close anyway, we’d just keep going and spend some time on the beach.

Well, as usual on the Oregon coast in winter (or any time of the year really), the weather did not cooperate. But we came prepared and still had some fun.

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Once it got dark, we stopped at a seafood place for dinner. Normally I stay away from breaded items since wheat affects my arthritis, but as a once in a while treat, I can tolerate it. We were going to get their clam chowder since we know it is dynamite, but they had run out. 😦

But let me tell you, The Fish Peddler has some killer fish and chips (well, fish, anyway. Their fries are good, but normal)!

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I love the breading on the fish. Mmmmm…

It was sooo delish. And so far from what I typically eat that it really did feel like a treat.

It was a good day.

Day 21  (yesterday, February 15) was a momentous day, but also filled with frustration.

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Know what this picture is?

That’s a backhoe.

On our property.

In Nevada.

Work has commenced!

We were so excited to finally be getting something done. My dad rented the hoe and tried to dig us our needed trench.

“Tried” being the operative word.

We knew it was rocky up there, but sheesh! He worked for a while with that thing and wasn’t able to get deeper than 3-4 feet deep. The trench needs to be 13 feet deep. Grrrr….

So now we have to have some engineers come up to the property, take a look around, and help us figure out what to do. And by “us”, of course, I mean my parents. Stinks to live so far away! But awesome to have such a wonderful support system down there.

So that’s where we are with the building. Can’t get our plans submitted for our permit until that trench is dug, and can’t dig the trench till we figure out how to do it.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

In the mean time, I’ve started the project of documenting our food consumption.

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I figure if we’re ever finally in a position to finally grow most of our own food, we should know what we normally eat and how much. It’s staggering to look at these lists and think of producing all that ourselves. And the picture above is just the veggies! BUT, aside from the olives and avacados, I was pleased to see that we can theoretically grow all that food (eventually) on the homestead.

My next step is to start quantifying how much of each item we typically eat. Some things, like asparagus, we love, but only eat it when it’s cheap at the grocery store. So it shouldn’t be too hard to grow as much as we might eat in a year. Other things like green beans and especially onions…yeah, we’d have to grow (and successfully store) several hundred onions to keep us in a year’s supply. Definitely worth more data collection.

And lucky me, I love that kind of work. 🙂 And it helps me feel like I’m actually working toward our goals for the homestead, even while sitting here in Oregon.

So that’s it for the last couple of days. It’s now been three weeks of me blogging about my everyday life. Only one more to go. 🙂

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Daily Life #’s 17 &18 – Groceries and Even MORE Candle Testing

Yesterday, February 11th was grocery shopping day. And it was a doozy! 4 hours and over $400! And there’s still a few things left to get at a different store.

But, it feels good to have the freezer and storage shelves filled up again. January is always a lean month as we recover financially from the holidays.

And our shopping trip came just in time since a good friend and her 4 kids joined us for dinner. Plenty of food to go around. Might not have been that way the day before. 🙂

Today, February 12 –
More candle testing today and I’m thrilled! We burned the taper/dipped candles we made the other day.

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You like my make-do candle holders? We do have a couple of taper holders, but since I didn’t know how much/if these candles would melt all over the place, I decided to use these jars with foil. It worked remarkably well.

The three wicks I used were the 48 hour borax soaked (middle), the skinnier string untreated (right), and the thicker string untreated (left).

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The girls wanted to burn the candles they made, as well. I don’t know how many times Flower Girl blew hers out then re-lit it by holding it up to one of the others.

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It was immediately obvious that the borax soaked wick was not going to work very well. You can see from this picture the way the crystallized borax builds up on the wick. I don’t know if it was the borax alone, but this candle burned 4 times as fast as the others.

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This is after just one hour. The borax wick candle is all but gone. The others, however, are doing great!

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I needed my little jars to make some more candles, so I transfered these to taller jars. By this point (3 hour) burn time, all I had done to these candles is trim the wicks at hour 2. You can see in the above picture that the candle on the left (the thicker wick) has a taller flame and even though the candle started out taller, it is now shorter. The bigger wick is burning faster. It also smoked more.

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By hour 4 it was just down to the candle with the smaller wick. It lasted a total of 5 1/2 hours. And I only trimmed the wick twice. There was very little smoking with this one, even when the wick was longest.

I think we have a winner!

And, yes, the only thing I did to this wick was dip it in wax. How’s that for minimalist candle making? 🙂

I made five more jar candles to test my theory that the main thing that affects the burnability of these wicks is that they are centered and straight rather than anything they may or may not be treated with. If they are straight, maybe they well stay upright easier. I figured out a way to keep the wicks centered and straight. I also figured out a new wick stand that is easier to use as well as reusable. But more on that tomorrow. For more, I’m tired and off to bed!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Daily Life #16 – Volunteer work and More Candle Testing

As a family, we believe is very important to give back to the community. Since we are so blessed, we have no reason not to. One of the things the girls and I do is help to pack lunches for a homeless shelter every month. That’s what we did this morning.

We packed 50 lunches. Each lunch had a sandwich, a bag of chips, a piece of fruit, a dessert, and a bottle of water. Also, we add a note of encouragement, often made by the kids, to hopefully brighten someone’s day. I love that because we homeschool, Princess Girl is able to help out on days like this. The lessons she learns while helping those less fortunate is just as important, as book learning.

Today was also day #2 of candle testing. And after the standout results from yesterday, I was rather disappointed in how they performed today.

Today, I used one wick made out of a different string material only coated in wax, one wick made out of the same salt solution as yesterday, and I made a wick from the 48hr borax soak, only I twisted two strands together before waxing them.

So, let’s get this party started!

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Lighting them up

 

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One hour burn time

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2 hrs burn time, after re-lighting the salt wick

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two and a half hours burn time – all three wicks are falling over 😦

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4 hour burn time. Had to baby them quite a bit the last two hours or so to keep them burning.

I think the pictures speak for themselves. I think the main reason is that the wicks keep falling over. As the wax melts there is not much support for to hold the wick upright. I was hoping that the thicker string wouldn’t fall over as easily. Or the doubled borax string. And since the salt wick did so well yesterday, I was disappointed to see that it did not do that well today. It actually did the worst today.

As I experiment with these and work on them, I am figuring some things out. Like it may depend more on the straightness of the wick more than what it is soaked in. I have a hard time getting the wick to stay in place when I pour in the wax. Yes, I know there are things you can buy to keep the wicks in place, but remember, I’m trying to do this with the minimum possible supplies. And namely things I might have around the house. And so far, I’m not seeing any real difference in how the wicks burn according to smoke rate and/or flame height and/or burn time. As long as the wicks stay upright, they all seem to burn the same.

So, in the next couple of days, I plan to work on the problem some more. I have a couple of ideas, so I’ll keep you updated.

Daily Life #15 – Candle Wick Testing

February 9

I’m am so pleased and surprised with today’s tests results.

To recap, my Man and I have decided that it is a good idea to practice some of those skills which we have a theoretical knowledge of, but have never really learned how to do ourselves. Such as making candles.

I started researching how to make candles when you can’t go out to the craft store and buy supplies. The basics are wax and cotton string. But I got to reading that you should treat the string with something in order for it to burn properly.

Most sources I found with a quick internet search said to use a solution of Borax and salt. I did find one or two which said just pre-soaking in the wax would do. And at least one source which stated that a salt solution would work.

Well, I wanted to see which one worked best. So, I pre-treated four lengths of string and another to use un-treated.

I made a solution of borax and salt (1 Tbl Salt, 2 Tbl Borax, 1 cup hot water). I soaked one length of string in it for 1 hour, one length of string in it for 48hours (was only supposed to be 24, but I forgot), and one length of string I soaked for 1 hour once the solution had cooled off.

I also made a salt solution (2 Tbl salt to one cup water) and soaked a length of string in that for 24 hours.

I then took those four strings (once dried), plus the untreated one and dipped them in melted wax 3-4 times and laid them out on foil to dry.

Yesterday, I cut the strings to size, put foil feet on them and put them in little jars, then poured hot wax into the jars.

Overnight, the wax solidified, and voila, I had candles!

Today was the big burn test.

At 10am we lit the five candles.

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10 minutes later it was obvious that we were going to have troubles with the 48hr borax soaked wick.

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I it wouldn’t stand up straight and I had to baby it along, as well as the other two wicks soaked in the borax solution. Every 10-15 minutes, I had to either straighten the wicks or relight them altogether.

At the thirty minutes mark, I trimmed the wicks down a bit on all the candles since they were all smoking quite a lot (except for the 48hr borax soaked one which was barely burning as you can see).

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Finally, after about an hour, the 48hour soaked one seamed to be doing fine after being re-lit several times, but the other two borax ones still had to be taken care of every so often.

By two hours into it I had just about given up on the two candles with wicks soaked for an hour in the borax solution (the middle and far right). The 48hr soaked one was better than those two, but not by much. And the cold soak versus hot soak for an hour didn’t seem to make any difference at all. As for the candle with the untreated wick, I had straightened the wick and re-lit it once. And hadn’t touched the salt treated one even once!

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By 12:30, after 2.5 hours of burning, I gave up on the borax treated ones.

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However, the untreated one was still hanging in there, and the salt treated one was turning out to be a champ. Finally, after 4 hours of burning, even the candle with the non-treated wick gave up the ghost.

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So, it’s the salt treated wick for the win!

I’m fact, it burned for a solid 6 hours without me having to do a thing to it! Eventually the wax liquefied enough that my poor aluminum foot couldn’t hold the wick in place any more and it fell over.

And, no, that is not what was happening to the others because they never burned enough to liquify to that point.

So, what now? Is this a definitive answer? Well, no. I want to try replicating the results. Because as any good scientist knows, if you can’t replicate it, it doesn’t count. So, while all this burning was happening, I made three new candles. One has a 48 hour soaked wick, but it is doubled up so maybe it will be stiffer and not fall over as easily. One has the same salt treated wick. And one had a wick from a different cotton string which I found. It is thicker and again, I’m hoping it will keep the wick from falling over as easily, which seemed to be the biggest problem. I also knotted the bottom of the string before making the aluminum foil foot, so the feet should hold the wicks better.

I will do another burn test tomorrow and let you know the results.

And today we also made taper candles.

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I used some of the same wicks and want to do the same type of burn tests with those, too.

I’m having fun with this and hope you find this information useful.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Daily Life #14 – Candles

February 8th

I made candles!

Yes, I have made candles in the past. The waaaaaaay past. Like, I was a kid and it was a school project.

And as I mentioned last week, I wanted to try making candles from scratch, including the wicks. So today’s project was to finish the wicks, and get the candles made so that I can do the burn test tomorrow.

Over the last week or two, I’ve been soaking and drying string in several different solutions. Today I dipped them in wax, let them dry, cut them to size, made little feet for them out of aluminum foil (worked with mixed results), put them in labeled jars, and poured in the hot wax.

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Waxing the wicks

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Homemade wick with homemade stand

A couple of these little feet fell off the string when they came in contact with the hot wax being poured into the jar. I have and idea of how to fix it next time.

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Homemade candles - I used the aluminum foil to hold the wicks in the middle of the candle.

It’s a good thing to put down some sort of protection on the counter, because candle making is messy!

I’m excited to see how they do tomorrow. When I get the results of the burn tests I will post a full report.

As for today, we enjoyed some rare sunshine and warm weather. So nice to get outside and soak up some vitamin D.

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Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Daily Life #6 – Crafty Goodness

Ok, so I can’t show you all the fruits of yesterday’s labors (day #6 of my Daily Life posts) because they are a surprise for some of my family and friends. But I’m willing to show you a couple of them. I got this idea out of the blue the other day and am pleased with how well they turned out.

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For Princess Girl - she loves My Little Pony

I made bookmarks!

The short of it is that I printed pictures onto cardstock paper, cut them into appropriate sized strips, and covered with clear packing tape.

But a lot more went into it than that.

First I did some test bookmarks a couple weeks ago to work out the bugs. I learned that using cardstock it essential. Even with the tape, regular paper is too flimsy. I also learned the best way to get the tape onto the paper without wrinkles. Static cling’s a pain!

Step one: plan your bookmarks
I made a simple template on my computer so that as I planned pictures, etc they would be the correct size. My clear packing tape is 2 inches wide, and I learned that you want some space on the sides, so I made my columns on my template about 1.6 inches wides. With my paper in “landscape” configuration, that gave me 6 bookmarks with a bit of space in between each one.

Step 2: print your bookmarks
Arrange your chosen pictures on the page and printed them. Now, our printer only prints in black and white, so I had to get creative. Some pictures look better in black and white than others.

Step 3: cut out your bookmarks
Carefully cut them out (oh, where’s one of those old fashioned paper cutters when you need one?).  I used a ruler and a pencil to get straight lines.

Step 4: add decoration if desired
Now I channeled my inner child and started coloring. Remember, they were all in black and white. Some only had one picture to color, others I didn’t want colored, prefering to leave them as printed. On nearly all of them, however, I added some sort of hand written message.

Could I have typed something up on the computer instead? Of course, but I wanted it to be more personal than that.

And of course, if you are an artist, you can skip the printing stage and just draw, color, paint, sketch, design, etc something freehand onto appropriately sized pieces of paper.

Step 5: put your name on it
If you’re putting time and effort into making these, don’t forget to put a maker’s mark of some sort on it! I put mine on the back.

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Then comes the tricky part. Putting the tape on.

Step 6: “laminate” it
Once you have your bookmark decorated to your liking, tear off a piece of tape that is a couple inches longer than your bookmark.

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Then you are going to hold the tape sticky side up and tuck each end under about an inch and tape it to the table top. Hopefully  the picture below will show what I mean.

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Then position your bookmark above the tape, centering it on the tape as best as possible. But don’t let it touch the tape yet!

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Once you have it centered, let one end touch down. Then, holding the other end slightly above the tape, smooth along the length of your bookmark, starting with the first end you stick down and working toward the end you’re holding.

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This will prevent the tape from bubbling or wrinkling underneath. Don’t ask how many bookmarks it took to come up with this technique! Wrinkled tape ruins all that work you just did!

Next you’ll tear off another piece of tape that is a bit longer than your bookmark and put it -sticky side down – over top the bookmark in the same fashion of how you applied the paper to the first piece of tape. (Center it, stick down one end while holding the other end up a bit to stop it from sticking, and smooth down from the stuck end toward the other.)

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Smooth it all over and trim all around it with scissors.

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And there you have it. Fully customizable homemade bookmarks. Easy enough to make for all your book-loving friends.

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And, yes, with planning, printing, cutting, coloring, amd writing, my bookmarks took me all of yesterday afternoon and evening. But then, I made quite a few of them. Once I started, I didn’t want to stop! 🙂

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Daily Life #2 – Chicken Run Repairs

Earlier today I posted a picture on our Facebook page about doing something very homesteaderly today. I think I was inspired by yesterday’s post!

I finally went out and bought the supplies I needed to fix the chicken run roof.

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Yup, some clear corrugated roofing.

When we built the chicken run last year, we put up a cheap tarp to keep an area of the run dry (because it rains here ya know. A lot!). As you can imagine, after a year out in the elements, that tarp was rather worthless.

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So, I prepared my tools, strapped on my belt, and got to work.

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First I cut down the ratty old tarp.

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Then I measured, marked, and cut the plastic roofing.

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While I was working on that, Princess girl was being a great help by removing the nails from some boards I took out down from the chicken run.

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And yes, that is Flower Girl up in that tree. She has just discovered that she can climb it with no help.

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Look at that face!

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Meanwhile, back in the chicken run… I then screwed the cut panels in place, making sure to overlap the edges so that the rain won’t drip through. And, voila! new roof on the chicken run!

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This post is proof that you don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment to get work done around the homestead. My toolbelt is not a fancy or totally expensive one, but it gets the job done, and I’ve had it for years and not even absolutely necessary. The drill I used to screw the panels up is a simple little cordless thing, that we again have had for years. And if I didn’t have it, I could have used a hammer and nails. The only specialty tool I used was the tin snips, but again, I could have just used a sharp knife. I didn’t even have a ladder(because it was too big for the job and I didn’t want to drag it into the muddy, mucky chicken run)! I used a combination of a step stool and a sturdy plastic chair we had in the back yard.

With a little ingenuity and the willingness to get dirty, you can accomplish a lot.

And speaking of getting dirty, I decided that since I was already icky from working in there and because it needed to be done, I would clean out the coop and spruce things up.

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It looks so nice and bright with the clear panels. I’m looking forward to having dry space in the run again.

We already have to take measures to keep their food dry.

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We put their food in a tray to keep it off the soggy ground.

And give them sand to “bathe” in.

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I keep their water out in the open rather than under the cover. This serves two purposes. When I fill it and if they spill it, it doesn’t get the protected area all wet. Also, since it is exposed to the rain, God often fills it up for me. 🙂 By elevating it on a cinder block, the girls don’t fowl it nearly as often (pun intended). 😉

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Hubby and I are rather proud of our chicken run and coop. We hardly spent any money to put it together. And I realized that I’ve never really shown it off. The coop itself is a cabinet we bought at the Habitat for Humanity Re-store for $2.50. Yup, two dollars and fifty cents!

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As you can see from the above picture, I cut a hole in the bottom of one of the doors for the chickens to enter. Inside there are a series of levels and ladders and roosts for the hens to sleep.

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There is also a cut out at the middle level where they access the nest box, which is the brown box attached to the side.

We keep the food in a kitchen trash can with a lid. It is the perfect size for a 50lb bag of feed. We also keep a bale of straw wrapped in a tarp under the eve of the house.

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Other than the straw, cabinet, and nails and screws (and now the clear roofing panels) we didn’t spend anything to build our run and coop. It is nearly all recycled materials. Even one of the doors is an old screen door.

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So, now the coop and run are clean and dry once more.

Do you think the hens care?

Nope.

They are over in the compost corner.

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You do what you can with what you have. You start where you are. And nearly everyone, if they’ve got any land at all and it’s legal where they live, could find enough space in their life for a few chickens.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121