Tag Archives: Urban Homesteading

Homemade Laundry Soap

Soooo….I’m a horrible blogger. I made about a year’s worth of laundry soap a couple days ago. I meant to take pictures so I could post step by step photos. The last time I intended to do a DIY tutorial, I ended up in the Emergency Room. This time, I got half way into the process and forgot to take pictures.

I’m horrible, I tell ya!

But enough about me. Let’s learn how easy (and cheap!) it is to make your own laundry soap.

There are about a bajillion different diy laundry soap recipes out there. I’ve been using this particular recipe on our clothes for at least two years now. Why did I choose this one?

Because it was the one my cousin gave me back before I really got into this diy journey.


And because it’s simple – only 3 ingredients besides water. Washing soda, Borax, and Fels-Naptha soap (all can be found in the laundry isle of most large grocery stores).

That’s it.


I know, right?

And the process is just as simple.

Step #1: put 4 cups hot water in a pot.

Step #2: grate the Fels-Naptha into the water.


Step #3: stir and then gently (gently!) boil until the soap is all melted. Don’t vigorously boil unless you don’t mind suds all over your kitchen.


(And that’s all the pictures I got till the next day.)

Step #4: add in 1/2 cup borax and 1 cup washing soda (this is not baking soda – there’s a difference!) to the pot and stir till dissolved. (Note: this time around I doubled the amount of borax and washing soda to see if there is any difference in the long run.)

Step #5: fill a 5 gallon bucket half full with hot water. Pour the soap contents from the pot into the bucket and stir well.
Step #6: fill the rest of the bucket with hot water, stir and set aside until the next day to let it set up.


See, told you it would set up.

Step #7: now stir, stir, stir! It would be awesome to have one of those paint stirring attachments for a power drill. That would make this part super easy. I thought we had one of those somewhere. Hmmmm… it’s probably still in our shed back on the homestead. Since I didn’t have one of those stirrer thingies, I just used a big slotted spoon.


And eventually I even just used my hand to reach in and mush up all the gloppy clumps. It was strangely satisfying.


Step #8: fill a container such as an old laundry soap dispenser or large jar half full with your soap, fill the rest of the way with water and shake. Use approximately 1/4 cup for a front loading washer (you lucky folks) and about 3/4 cup for a top loader. Shake with each use.

That’s it. See, told ya it was simple. And yes, with 4 people in our family and a top loading washer, this amount of soap will last us approximately a year.

So, how does it work? You know, I have to be honest, it’s not the greatest on stains. But it does a good job keeping things generally clean.

It is gentle enough that we used it on Flower Girl’s clothes when she was a baby and suffering from bad eczema and it did not irritate her condition.

It does tend to be clumpy when I pour it, but then, I’ve never taken the time to really, really stir it up well either. I’m sure that would make a huge difference.

As we travel on our journey toward all natural products, I like that the majority of ingredients in this laundry soap are all natural. I did however, read the ingredients on the Fels-Naptha soap and it does have some perfumes and unpronounceables. It’s diluted quite a bit in this recipe, so I went ahead and used it this time. I think by the time we need another batch, I will try to find a more natural soap. I have heard you can use Ivory soap in place of the Fels-Naptha. I will have to look into it more.

But, I’ve got a year to do it. πŸ˜‰

Have you ever made your own laundry soap? What’s your favorite recipe?


“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

Fresh salad!

Fresh salad, straight from our garden/yard. Yum! I needed to thin out the lettuce from the small garden, I picked some of the over-wintered-but-not-doing-so-well spinach from the big garden, and I found some dandelion greens in the yard. I had a head of purchased iceburg in the fridge and add to all that some borage flowers which just started blooming and you have a gorgeous salad almost too pretty to eat. Almost, but not quite. πŸ™‚


I love that dandelions are considered a weed, yet they are edible and good for you. And the borage is a volunteer which comes back every year.

Edit: For the health of you and your family, be sure if you are harvesting any wild edibles that they come from a trusted source not treated with any harsh chemicals! We don’t use any herbicides or pesticides or even any fertilizer on our lawn, so I know the dandelions are safe to eat.

The city…grrr (And a garden update)

City living can get me down sometimes. Sure, there’s beauty here. I run across it all around. Like this lovely little scene just down the street.


Looks like a beautiful spot to explore and maybe have a picnic. Until you look to the side. And see this.


I understand why they have to set boundaries and protect the natural places. But the limits can be stifling to this country girl. So, I come home to my little garden and try to shut out the sounds of the city and dream of the day we’ll be back at Castle Rock.

And speaking of my garden, here’s some recent pictures. It’s just about time to start thinning the radishes and lettuce. I actually picked and ate a couple of the lettuce seedlings which had somehow* gotten planted amongst some of the carrots. It was a delicious foretaste of the salads we’ll be eating in just a little while.

*somehow – like maybe because a two year old was helping me plant? πŸ˜‰

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Seeing my little garden and how well it’s coming along helps me to better endure our time here. Gives me a purpose outside the house. And will eventually give us healthy food to eat. A win-win situation.

Garden Plot Update #2

20150217_101044Our first garden visitor!

So, I mentioned before that we planted our seeds on Feb 17th. What I didn’t show are our garden markers. I have used popsicle/craft sticks before with so-so results. Oh one hand they are cheap and easy to use. You write the veggie on the end and stick it in the ground. But I found that the sun and rain fades the lettering after a couple months. Just fine if you only want to know which row you planted your carrots vs onions in until they grow and you can tell them apart by their leaves. Not so good if you want to permanently mark your 4 different varieties of tomatoes so you can remember which type is which when it comes time for harvest. So, I thought I’d try a little experiment.

20150217_114825First, I wrote the info on the stick as usual. I used both sides. The front has what it is. The back has the expected harvest date so I can remind myself when I’m out in the garden and don’t have to refer back to my packets or journal

20150217_114854Then, I coated the end of the stick in clear nail polish. The polish soaked into the stick and dried very quickly, so I am hoping it will keep the letters from fading. At least until I can remember which variety of lettuce I planted where! I guess we’ll just have to see how it does.

20150217_123501And there’s the newly planted (and marked!) garden.

A friend of mine expressed some skepticism about planting so early in the season, but here’s one of the reasons I wasn’t concerned. I have shower doors! And they fit almost perfectly on my new bed. I guess this means I have a cold frame. I’m still working on a system to cover the gap in the middle, but for now, they work admirably.

20150221_132523They help heat up the soil during the day to give my little plants a boost, and they hold in just enough heat at night that the slight frosts we’ve had don’t touch the seedlings (even though everything that I have planted right now can tolerate lights frosts.)

20150221_184551And, if it gets really cold, the doors make it a cinch to cover the bed.

20150305_140335They are easily propped open so that I can work in there or to let out excess heat in case we have some really warm sunny days (hahaha! warm sunny days in the springtime in the Pacific Northwest? I crack myself up!)

20150304_103200Wait, what was I just saying about warm, sunny days??

At any rate, the shower doors also serve two more VERY important roles. One, they keep the free-ranging hens out of my seedlings!

And two, they provide the perfect table for a two year old to play with her dinosaurs and a pail of water. πŸ™‚20150305_141309-1

Stay warm everyone. And God bless!

Garden plot update #1

March is here and today was absolutely beautiful out. I so enjoyed going out and watering my little seedlings. Today I noticed that the brussels sprouts and kale had sprouted. I figured it was high time to finally write a post about my little garden plot. My father-in-law has his usual plans for the “big garden” and said that I could have a little space next to the back deck for a garden of my own. About a month ago, here’s what my little space looked like.


Yep, that area piled high with bags, buckets, and junk. I started cleaning it up with eagerness.


See, looking better already.


I found the buckets a new home and gave the honeysuckle a haircut because I planned on hanging some containers on the fence. Then I used some of the fence wood I found on freecycle.org (which we also previously used for our chicken run) to construct a raised box for the garden bed.


How did I ever do construction without pneumatic tools?!


It was sooo easy. Bam, bam, bam and it’s done!


The box ended up being 5 foot square. Twenty-five square feet of garden goodness. Not much when I’ve been used to at least 5 times that amount, but I’ll take whatever I can get. I also have grand plans for a bunch of containers. We’ll see how those turn out. I have never done container gardening before.

So, the evening I got the garden box built I ran out to the store and bought bags of garden soil to put in my box. I hated to spend that kind of money on it since I know there are far cheaper ways to obtain soil, but I was too impatient to figure it out. I was even too impatient to wait for the next day to empty the bags into the box. So I rigged up a light and worked into the dark.


A nicely filled garden bed waiting for seeds.


It was such a mild night out, that I was able to kick back and put my feet up for a little while and enjoy my endeavors.


And speaking of feet…I am loving gardening in my rain boots. I loved that I didn’t have to worry about dirt getting into my shoes as I spread it around. I know this may seem like a no-brainer to you all, but I’ve never had good rain/much boots before.

And here’s the prepared bed (along with containers on the fence and you can see a few on the table – more on those later.)


Watch this space. A couple months from now I’m hoping it will look vastly different, namely greener! πŸ™‚

The very next day (February 17th) the girls and I got busy planting.

20150216_150117 20150216_150304 20150217_114938


Such good helpers!

Well, that’s enough for now. I have several more pictures about my garden, but it’s late and I’m tired.

Until next time.


I have yet to write up a post about my garden plot and container garden plans, so I know I’m jumping the gun by showing you these pics, but I just can’t help myself. Is there anything as exciting to a gardener as the first sprouts?





Do you have anything growing where you’re at yet?


“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.” Ps 121:1-2

Misadventures of an Urban Homesteader

So, this is how my day started:


“Taco” our 4 month old cockerel who is destined for the crockpot.

And this is how it ended:


Yummy chicken tacos

You can guess what happened in the middle. Or can you…?

I started out the day expecting to slaughter a chicken, take some pictures, and load up a tutorial of sorts, What I ended up with is some important lessons in homesteading, preparedness, and emergency first aid. Yes, first aid. Now you might have an inkling that things did not go so well.


So, this morning, the rooster, affectionately named “Taco,” finally found his voice and gave several full fledged cocka-doodle-doo’s. We were able to sell his brothers through Craigslist, but this guy, for whatever reason did not sell. So, before we got a neighbor complaint and ended up with a fine from the city, we decided to turn him into his namesake.

I set the stock pot on the stove to boil and got to girls to tear some old phone book pages into a bag in a bucket (to soak up the blood during the butchering.)


Then, I grabbed Taco and got prepared. 20150225_095836


And this is where it all went wrong. Well, kinda.

I successfully detached the head, he started wiggling, like I knew he would, and I brought my other hand around to hold him still. The hand which had forgotten to let go of the very sharp knife.

Speed forward about an hour, and there I am at the Emergency Room.


Hmmm… what’s under the gauze?












The worst laceration I’ve ever had. Seven stitches. Oy!


All bandaged and splinted up. The splint is so I don’t bend my hand and pull on the stitches.

So, what have I learned from all this?

First and foremost, DROP THE KNIFE! I should have immediately put the knife down as soon as the head was detached. This oversight comes from not thinking through the process well enough from beginning to end. It’s been a while since we’ve done this and it would have been good to walk through the entire process in my mind first. Think it through. This goes for any new thing you are attempting. Not everything will have Emergency Room potential, but even just mitigating mistakes and re-do’s will be worth the time it takes to think things through in the first place. And, of course, avoiding a trip to the ER is preferable in all situations.

Secondly, have a wound care nurse on hand in the event of an emergency. If you don’t have a nurse hanging around (because, who does?), at least know updated first aid practices. Yes, we did have a nurse in the house, she was here tending to my mother-in-law. But the Hubby and I did all the right things and knew all the information. Don’t panic, apply immediate pressure, rinse the wound if it got dirty, cover the wound, don’t take bandages off to peek, wrap the area applying pressure, and seek immediate professional care. I took a 1st Aid course less than a year ago and was rather gratified that I knew what to do (once I got over the shock of it happening). I don’t know many people who would dispute that knowing first aid is a good thing. But when you are a homesteader, I believe it is even more important. The potential for accidents is exponentially greater the more you get up off your couch – you know, when you do all your homesteading chores. And, if you are aiming for self-sufficiency, knowing how to do as much as you can is important, as is knowing when you need to head to the ER and when super glue or steri-strips will do the job. Obviously today necessitated a trip to the ER.

Third, while I was rather proud of myself that I had the correct knowledge in my head to take care of myself, all the knowledge in the world isn’t going to help me treat myself if I don’t have the correct supplies or can’t find them. It was brought to light that we don’t have a good first aid kit put together. We have most of the things we need, but they are scattered in different areas of the house and vehicles. Could we have improvised? Certainly. Should we have needed to? No.

And that brings up my 4th point. Every adult and child old enough living in the house needs know where the first aid kit is and how to use it. This is another area that I am lacking in. Sure, I have the knowledge, but if Hubby is the one who knows where all the supplies are and he’s not available, then what? And Princess Girl is old enough now that she needs to know 1st aid for herself. What if something happens and the adults are incapacitated? Or, as in the case of a bad laceration such as mine, it’s hard to do what needs to be done with only one hand. Sure, I can direct if I’m able, but having a helper with the knowledge is preferable, and Princess Girl could be that helper if she was trained.

Lastly, don’t be surprised when you pencil things out and raising your own food is more expensive than buying the cheap stuff from the store. We fed “Taco” for nearly three and a half months. We got one good meal and some leftovers out of him, plus his bones will go into the next batch of bone broth I make. It doesn’t add up financially. Add in ER costs and those were some of the most expensive tacos I’ve ever eaten! But the monetary costs aren’t important. Sure, it’s prudent to cut costs and save money where you can and not get in over your head financially, but I truly believe this way of life is good, it’s valuable, with benefits far above what the markings on a piece of paper can tell you. As embarrassing as it was too have to tell my story over and over at the ER, there is a part of me that is proud that I sustained this injury from something as uncommon and awesome as slaughtering my own “farm raised” chicken. I’ve heard other homesteaders say that one of the things they love about this way of life is that they can tell the story of their food. Boy, do I have a story to tell! And I’ll have the scar to prove it.

Well, I think that’s it. This has been a long post to type with one hand. πŸ™‚ In fact, I’m finishing this up the next morning because I got too tired last night. And guess what I had in my scrambled eggs this morning. That’s right, left over taco meat. It was yummy.

On my walk…

The other day I came across these structures in a yard in the neighborhood:


They are over what look to be berry bushes (blueberries?). I thought at first they were for covers for unexpected late freezes or to create greenhouses in early spring. Until I looked closer.


They are covered with a fine netting. Birdproofing the berries! I have not stopped long enough to see how you might enter them to get to the berries, but it seems like a rather simple and ingenious design.

What about you? Do you do anything to protect your harvest from the wildlife?


“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.” Ps 121:1-2

Ok, Now I’m excited

I found this graphic through a Pinterest pin. Now I’m excited. I really could garden year round here in Portland. I need to get some seeds in the ground! πŸ™‚

As a comparison, here’s a graphic for where we lived in Nevada.


Zone 5 – where we used to live and will again! http://veggieharvest.com/calendars/zone-5.html

Eventually I want a greenhouse on the homestead in Nevada, or at the very least some cold frames so I CAN extend the growing season. There is a small part of me that feels as if it’s cheating to have it so easy up here. On the other hand, there’s a very big part of me that’s happy to not have to deal with all that for just a little while longer. πŸ™‚

Since we don’t have enough south facing window space here and not really any place in the house to start seeds anyway, we’ll be purchasing tomato and pepper starts, but I think most everything else we want to grow can go directly in the ground as seed. And I found out that our last frost date is March 15th, not April 15th like I previously thought. That’s a full two and a half months before the Nevada Homestead! And since even the winters are mild here, things like lettuce and broccoli should be able to survive the full winter weather even without cold frames. Oh, this is exciting!

What about you? Can you garden in the winter where you live?

I’m not ready for this!

It’s February 2nd. And Spring is starting in the Pacific Northwest. Shoots are popping up all over the place.



Grocery stores are selling blooming tulips, buttercups, hyacinths, primrose, and pansies. The trees are starting to put out buds.



And this is completely normal. Back home in Nevada, the same thing is happening, but everyone there knows that the temps will dip again and everything will die back and wait for real Spring. Here in the Portland area, Spring really is on it’s way.


It’s exciting, knowing thatΒ  our growing season is starting. My father-in-law and I were comparing seeds today. Later this week, we are going to break out the graphing paper and start plotting the garden. I may actually, finally, get a good pea harvest by starting early. But it’s a daunting task to be learning everything new. The climate here is completely different, and I have to learn a new plot of land: what’s the soil like, where does the sun hit in different seasons, where’s the best place for certain veggies, etc.


I want to take advantage of the extended growing season here. If we were planning to stay long term, I would look into learning to grow year-round. In fact, I want to do that back in Nevada, too, it would just be easier here in Oregon. But we’re hoping this is our only winter here. So, as we head into spring, I want to take advantage of living here, get some things planted early, grow things that have a hard time growing back home because of the climate. But it’s only February 2nd and I already feel like I’m behind the curve. I’m not sure I’m ready for this. But I’m sure gonna try! πŸ™‚


“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.” Ps 121:1-2