I am a wooden utensil and cast iron kind of cook. These reliable, wonderful tools don’t require electricity and they last a remarkably long time if cared for correctly. I especially love the butcher block, cutting boards, and wooden spoons my husband has made over the years, and it’s important to me to take care of them so they last. My dilemma for a long time was how to condition them. Vegetable oils like olive oil, grapeseed oil, etc. are wonderful, but are not shelf-stable and can experience “rancidification” over time, which can make wood smell funky and leave a bad flavor on chopped foods. The standard go-to oil is food-safe mineral oil, sometimes called liquid paraffin. But mineral oil is generally a petroleum product and I don’t care how “food-safe” it is; I don’t want to cut my home-grown vegetables on a board coated with a petroleum-based oil. So, obviously, I had to figure out a DIY way to get around this dilemma and take proper care of my wooden kitchen utensils.Read More
If you’ve ever tried to make candles before, you know it can sometimes be a messy and frustrating process. Getting the wick to stand just right requires a bit of practice and patience. This is one of many reasons I prefer making wax melts. Not only are they more forgiving to make, they are less expensive than candles, and you can make customized scents, shapes, and sizes to suit your preferences. It’s also easier to make smaller batches of different blends so you have more options to choose from as various moods and situations arise.Read More
Taking care of your mouth does a lot more for your health than simply preserving your bright smile—a healthy mouth is an important part of a healthy body! There are more and more studies showing how good oral hygiene helps to improve your overall wellness, yet the majority of mainstream oral care products contain a slew of synthetic, and sometimes even harmful, ingredients.Read More
I have to admit, it was really difficult for me to believe that soap nuts could actually work. My skepticism caused me to walk by them at my local natural grocery store for years. I liked the idea of an all-natural laundry solution, but I figured soap nuts would not be effective enough to take on the stains and scents of my active lifestyle and dirty gardening clothes.
If you ask herbalists, botanists, and body care enthusiasts, most say that building a library of reference and recipe books is one of the most important steps in becoming an expert. Gathering books from professionals who offer their experiences, philosophies, and expertise gives you a strong foundation on which to build your practice. Here are some of our favorite books on herbal education, aromatherapy, healthy eating, skincare, and growing and foraging plants.Read More
The 4-leggers in my household are not entirely pro-bath. Our terrier mix loves life after a bath; she runs madly about the house with pure joy. During the bath, however, she looks like we’re torturing her. We’re just grateful she stands still for it because her “little brother” is a corgi-mix built for escape. He is slippery and wily when wet and groans out his woes the entire bath time. And then there is the big queen-to-rule-them-all kitty who needs regular brushing and occasional “spot cleaning” assistance with her thick double coat because one cat tongue is simply not enough to manage it all. This crew loves to sleep on the foot of our bed, so whatever dirt and smells they’ve tucked away throughout the day end up on my handmade quilts. Simple answer: regular baths, right? The double-conundrum is that good pet shampoo is ridiculously expensive, and I am also on a quest to stop buying plastic packaging (apparently, there is a rule somewhere that dog shampoo must be sold only in plastic bottles that I cannot recycle here in Oregon). Fortunately, it’s easy and inexpensive to make good homemade dog shampoo with gentle, sustainable ingredients I always have on hand.Read More
On Tuesdays in the spring and summer, I step away from my computer and into my own version of paradise. Pulling my car into a bustling central Pennsylvania farmers market, I head directly to the Jade Family Farmstand. These ambassadors of all that is local and delicious fill my bag with bright rhubarb, fragrant sorrel, and oddly delicious kiwi berries—all certified organic and grown by farmers whose growing practices are summed up in four words: First, do no harm.
But farming practices are as broad as pepper varieties, and not all market stands are created equal. Some resell produce bought wholesale: not exactly what we envision when we fill our canvas bags with “local food.”
How does a savvy shopper identify the highest quality farmers market finds while supporting their local food system?Read More
A lot of people are discovering the benefits of using natural DIY household cleansers—not only are they crazy-easy to make and dramatically less expensive than over-the-counter cleansers, they also give us the ability to choose ingredients we know are safe for our families and pets, and to customize the scents we’d like to have lingering in our homes. However, not all DIY cleansers are equal.Read More
I have been on a big “DIY swap” kick lately. It all started with a growing interest in leading a more sustainable lifestyle, which for me, meant finding ways to eliminate single-use and non-recyclable packaging. The DIY aspect of this project was born out of necessity. I knew the easiest way to avoid purchasing products packaged unsustainably was to just make them myself. There were some growing pains of course. I will be the first to admit that I am not always the best at planning ahead, so adjusting from simply buying an item in a store to carving out the time to make the product did not always go smoothly. However, since I have embraced the process, I’m finding it deeply gratifying to craft my own products, especially my own body-care products.Read More
Lately I have been thinking a lot about how to reduce the presence of plastic in my life. With the recyclability of plastics becoming more and more of a question mark, and a disheartening one at that, the place that I keep arriving at is to just try as hard as I can to remove plastics from the equation altogether. The kitchen was the first place I started with my sustainability makeover. I slowly began to change my shopping habits so that I would wind up with less leftover single-use plastics at the end of the week. It wasn’t easy but it was incredibly liberating; it eased my conscience a bit to know that I was able to take steps toward a greener lifestyle. As my interest in living more sustainably snowballed, I began seeing problems everywhere I looked in my house, particularly with my cleaning products, and especially with my bathroom cleansers.Read More