DIY

Do-it-yourself projects and plans for anyone who can swing a hammer.

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1/11/2016

With the chilly winds and cold air sweeping against our skin, it's time to give some extra tender loving care to your body's largest organ. And believe me, your skin will thank you.

Just a month ago I tried a sugar scrub for the first time. I massaged it into my legs and arms and rinsed it off with water before shaving. Not only did my skin feel tingly and clean as if it could finally breathe, I did not receive as much shaving burn due to my newly smooth, exfoliated skin.

As someone who's been on a mission to try out all-natural beauty products in hopes to transition into a green beauty routine, I've found that making your own toxin-free, environmentally friendly products is super easy. Additionally, it's likely that you already have most of these ingredients in your home!

homemade lavender salt scrub

The epsom salts in this scrub exfoliate the skin while the coconut oil nourishes and moisturizes. Epsom salts have also been known to soothe aching muscles. Lavender essential oil is known to be a calming agent in aromatherapy that can help with stress and anxiety. This homemade scrub is perfect gift for a loved one to enjoy a relaxing at-home spa-day.

Here's how to make your own Homemade Lavender Salt Scrub:

Materials:

• Epsom salts or organic granulated sugar
• Organic coconut oil
• Sprigs of fresh lavender
• Lavender essential oil
• Recycled jar

Directions:

1. Spoon out about two tablespoons of organic coconut oil into a microwave safe dish. I like to use Trader Joe's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, but any oil such as olive oil will do.

homemade lavender salt scrub

2. Microwave the coconut oil for 2-3 ten second intervals stirring each time until the oil is translucent. The oil gets hot very quickly, so remove the dish carefully.

homemade lavender salt scrub

3. Next, spoon about a half cup of epsom salts into the coconut oil and mix well. Depending how wet and conditioning you want your scrub, you can add more melted coconut oil.

homemade lavender salt scrub

4. Take a couple springs of lavender and chop into small bits. I picked my lavender from my backyard, but you can also find lavender at most herbal and natural food stores.

homemade lavender salt scrub

5. Place the lavender bits into the oil and salt mix. Add 5-10 drops (depending on preference) of lavender essential oil.

homemade lavender salt scrub

6. Spoon your scrub into a small jar. I tied a bow from some twine for an extra touch. Enjoy!

homemade lavender salt scrub

homemade lavender salt scrub

Until next time, you can find more eco-friendly DIYs and sustainable fashion tips on Sustainable Daisy.

Karen Housel is a fashion designer and DIY enthusiast. She would love to see what types of trinkets you repurpose into cheery magnets! If you share on social media, use #sustainabledaisy so she can take look. Follow Karen on Twitter, Instagram, or subscribe to her blog at Sustainable Daisy for more eco-friendly lifestyle tips! Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



12/30/2015

 

I made my first batch of soap about 15 years ago. It was a big deal since I decided to render beef tallow myself, just for the experience. It added a lot of work and time to the soap making process, but for me was worth the experience. The soap turned out nice­—but not terribly exciting. Next I tried a recipe that used olive oil. The soap turned out nice, but again, not terribly exciting. Then, after years of thinking my soap making days were over, I found a recipe that had a combination of rich, emollient nut and vegetable fats, plus coconut milk. This is a very creamy, fine-bubbled moisturizing soap and also doubles as a shaving bar. I'll share the recipe below, but first a little history, science and basics about soap making.

History

An excavation of ancient Babylon turned up evidence of intentional soap making around 5,000 years ago. It was made from fats boiled with ashes and the resulting soap was used for cleaning fibers used in textile manufacturing.  More history of soap can be found on the Today I Found Out web site. Trivia: Ever wonder how soap operas got the name? It's tied to the excessive amounts of money Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Lever Brothers spent advertising their soaps on such TV programs. They had the perfect audience!

Chemistry

You must be very specific when measuring soap making ingredients: saponification is a chemical process that requires the correct balance of fats and alkali. Fats (vegetable/nut oils and animal fats) are triglycerides. When triglycerides come in contact with a strong base (e.g. lye), the molecules are split and fatty acid salts and glycerol are released, making what was once oily fat into a water-soluble hygroscope (attracts and holds water molecules from the surrounding environment).

Soap-making Basics

Melted oils and fats are combined with an alkali (sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye, mixed in water or other liquids). The lye has a chemical reaction with the fats, called saponification. The resulting mixture is placed in a container for 24-48 hours to harden (incubation), then removed and cut into bars and set out to air-cure. The lye eventually deactivates during this time and the fats/oils are turned into soap. The curing process takes about 4-6 weeks to complete.

Tools You’ll Need to Make Soap

• Digital scale
• Non-reactive pot, spoon and spatula
• Bowls of various sizes (for ingredient measuring and lye mixing)
• Plastic or cardboard shoebox, wax paper & tape
• Sandwich baggie
• Hand-mixer or submersible blender
• Thermometer (digital is best; 2 are even better)
• Towels for incubation
• Some sort of drying rack

Warnings - ALL Are Very Important!

1. Soap recipes are generally given in weights, not volumes (as stated above, this is chemistry so proportions have to be specific). A scale is necessary.

2. Use only non-reactive containers, pots and utensils when making soap. Glass, stainless steel and plastic are all fine.

3. Lye can be scary. If the crystals become damp, they will burn through anything. Safety glasses and dishwashing gloves are recommended. ALWAYS pour the lye into the water, not the other way around, to avoid damp lye particles from being disbursed. It's best to mix the lye and liquids outdoors if possible‑there's a gas given off by active lye that you don't want to inhale. Finally, the lye will heat the water to about 200 degrees F.

4. Both the melted fats/oils and the lye/water need to be as close to 100 degrees as possible to get them to emulsify properly when mixed together. Any additional ingredients (fragrances, essential oils, abrasives, oatmeal, spices) are added after the fats/lye/liquids are emulsified.

 

This is tracing, see 6 below.

Making Soap

1. Prepare your soap mold by lining with wax paper (tape helps)

2. Weigh all ingredients carefully (even liquids!) and set aside. Place the weighed lye into a sandwich bag. 

3. Place weighed liquids in a non-reactive container (Pyrex works fine), take it outdoors if possible, and gently pour the lye into the water being careful not to splash. Mix gently with spoon. Do not inhale the fumes! The mixture will get very HOT. Throw out the empty bag. 

4. Place fats/oils (not fragrance or essential oils though) in a pot and melt, then remove from heat.

5. Check the temperatures of both the melted fats and lye/water mix. When they are both as close to 100 degrees as you can get them (it may take a little juggling back and forth to get them to both the same temp at the same time), carefully pour the lye mixture into the pot of melted fats. Mix together with a non-reactive spoon.

6. Blend with the hand mixer or blender for about 5 minutes, then stir by hand for 5 minutes, back and forth until "trace" is reached (the contents will thicken like pudding and eventually you will be able to make traces of the mixture onto itself. (See photo.) You can stir in your fragrances, etc. now.

7. Pour/scrape the mixture into your mold. Wrap the mold with towels and keep for 24-48 hours in a temperate place. 

8. Pop the soap block out of the mold, peel off the wax paper and slice with your favorite cutting tool. Place bars of soap on a rack and let them air-cure for 4-6 weeks. You MUST do this since some lye will still be active. Bars may lighten in color over time.

 

Soap bars on a cookie rack for curing.

Enjoy! The printable recipe for my favorite moisturizing soap can be found here.

Deb Tejada is an urban farmer, foodie, do-it-yourselfer, graphic designer, illustrator and web developer living in sunny Colorado. When she’s not in the kitchen or garden, you can find her at The Herban FarmerRead all of Deb's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



12/16/2015

 

One of the great joys I have in gardening edibles is preserving them for use during the restful wintertime. Beside the jars of canned goodies (salsa, preserves, butters, and such), the bins of root veggies (potatoes, sweet potatoes, and garlic), the haul in the fridge (carrots and cabbage) and freezer (frozen cilantro and pesto), I dry a variety of herbs.

At the top of the list of dried, must-haves in order to survive the winter, are mint and chamomile for my tea each morning. Also high on the list is sage for those wintertime pork roasts. At the urging of a dear friend, I’ve begun to steep some of my other cooking herbs in my tea. I feel a whole new adventure in next years gardening opening up as I add more herbs to the mix!

Because I want to leave room for instructions below for making a catnip toy, I’ll tell you that my final dried herb for this blog is catnip or catmint (Nepeta Cataria). I’ll admit to having a dickens of a time growing my own. When I tried indoors, the cats nibbled it to death before it grew large enough to dry. Growing it outdoors hasn’t proven any easier since we have a fair amount of wandering neighborhood cats who insist on frequenting our wildlife-friendly garden. I’ll try again, but will have to cage it to keep it safe.

This week, I’m sharing instructions on how to create a furry, catnip Mousie for your cats. This is a fun, quick, and easy project to do with children. I heartily recommend it as a way for them to create something for their own cats or for gifts to others with cat family members. Warning: you should NOT do this with your cats nearby unless you want their undivided attention throughout the process! I have had to track down mousie parts, before they were completed.

I’m sharing the dimensions for two sizes of Mousie. The larger size may be easier for some children. My cats love both sizes, but slightly prefer the smaller version.

Herbal Mousie

Supplies needed:

• pattern (see instructions below)
• 1 piece of faux fur (large: 4-1/2" square, small: 3" square)
• 1 piece of batting (large: 2-1/2” x 5”, small: 1-3/4” x 2-3/4”)
• 1 tail (5” of leather cord, or anything else you think might work and last)
• 1 small lump of fiberfil (you can use a cotton ball)
• 1 pinch of dried catnip
• rattle (large: 2 bottle caps, a rubber band, and a bit of dry rice; small: 1-1/2” piece of plastic drinking straw, tape, and a bit of dry rice)
• needle and thread
• scissors (both paper and fabric)

Instructions:

1. Create your pattern from a piece of card stock. For the large Mousie, draw and cut a 4-1/2” square.

2. Measure the center point on three sides of the square and mark with a dot.

3. Connect the dots so they form a “V” (on either side with the centered dot between the opposing sides) and cut the corners off creating a shape that looks like the silhouette of a house (see photo above). For the small Mousie, follow the same directions given but use a 3” square.

4. Use this pattern to cut a piece from the faux fur.

Prepare rattle

1. For the large Mousie, take one bottle cap and fill about two-thirds of the way with dry rice. (You can use something else, if you prefer. I simply use rice because I always have it and it’s relatively inexpensive. It also rattles nicely.)

2. Place the other bottle cap on top and rubber band them securely together.

3. For the small Mousie, cut a 1-1/2” section of plastic drinking straw (I use the slightly wider-holed variety).

4. Wrap tape around one end of the straw then fill it halfway or less with rice.

5. Tape the other end to contain the rice. (You can test your shaker for your preferred sound before sealing.) When happy, attach tail to the shaker. I tie it on the rubber band, or tape it on the straw.

 

Assembly

1. Flatten and slightly stretch the fiberfil and place the catnip in the center.

2. Wad the fiberfil around the catnip and place on the shaker.

3. Take the piece of batting and wrap it around the shaker and the fiberfil.

4. Sew up the seam and the ends of the batting to encase the shaker (this keeps kitty’s teeth safer). The tail should be sticking out one end.

5. Fold your faux fur (previously cut into the house shape) in half, furry side in, along the long center point.

6. Holding short (non-angled) sides together, sew along that short edge only. This will produce a tube.

7. Turn right side out. Stuff batting Mousie innards into the center of this tube with the tail hanging out the end opposite the point.

8. Fold in edges of each end and whipstitch both openings. For extra padding, you can fold the point up and tuck it in before stitching this end closed.

Your Mousie is now ready for play. Shake, rattle, and throw for your cat to capture! If you’re like me and prefer visual instruction, I have created a page just for you!

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



12/8/2015

repurposed magnets craft

I have lots of small treasures hidden within the drawers of my armoire, or dwelling within depths of my bed-side storage. They are collections of trinkets from my childhood; pretty jewelry that have lost a few gems and bags of sea-glass that I've picked up from the beaches of my college-town. I wanted to think of ways to place these types of special items into the open instead of hidden in boxes that I only occasionally open and come across. That’s when I decided to place them on an appliance I frequent daily — the refrigerator!

I chose to repurpose two groups of precious pieces into repurposed magnets. One, a collection of stones and geodes that I have picked up over the years from road trips. The other set of magnets I created are glam holiday-inspired fridge décor made from an old brooch and two clip-on earrings that had lost their mates.

I think that these magnets turned out great! They also act as a cute gift to give someone just in time for the holidays!

Some other things you could repurpose are: seashells, broken keychains, Polaroids, spare buttons, holiday ornaments, baby pinecones, small plastic toys, puzzle pieces, extra markers from jumbled board games, pogs, bottle caps, old keys, and dice.

Follow along for this super easy do-it-yourself project!

Materials:

• Glue gun
• Magnets
• Small knick knacks
• Gold oro (optional)
• Paintbrush (optional)

repurposed magnets craft

Directions: 

1. Place a generous amount of glue on to the back of a magnet.

repurposed magnets craft

2. Place the object on to the glue and hold for 10-15 seconds. Depending how large and heavy your knick knack is, you want to make sure that the magnet is strong enough to hold a magnetic force with the added weight of the object. I chose the thickest nickel-sized magnet for my largest geode.

repurposed magnets craft

3. An optional route is to paint your repurposed magnets. I planned to paint a thin gold strip along each rock, but I opted out at this stage. I really like the simple, all-natural look of the geodes on their own. Gold oro has a shiny metallic sheen which can give a nice finishing touch to your magnets, depending what objects you chose.

repurposed magnets craft

4. Enjoy! My two batches, an earthy grouping of gorgeous geodes and a glam batch of diamond bursts, can be swapped out throughout the year to change the décor of the room. The two looks are created from the same concept of repurposing small treasured doodads scattered around my home! Repurposing allows you to feel good about making previously owned items useful and treasured again.

repurposed magnets craft

Karen Housel is a fashion designer and DIY enthusiast. She would love to see what types of trinkets you repurpose into cheery magnets! If you share on social media, use #sustainabledaisy so she can take look. Follow Karen on Twitter, Instagram, or subscribe to her blog at Sustainable Daisy for more eco-friendly lifestyle tips! Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



12/1/2015

Something is very satisfying when a person can complete a project from reused items so that they don’t end up in a landfill while saving money in the process. Last year, we constructed a goat barn using mostly reused building materials and it cost us less than $1,000.

The barn is 16 feet square and of pole construction. The posts used were of Rocky Mountain juniper (locally known as cedar) that had been killed in a wildfire. Several years ago, we obtained a permit from the Forest Service and harvested the dead trees. This particular species is naturally resistant to rot and, for added protection, a layer or roofing tar was applied four feet up from the bottom.

All the holes were laid out and then dug by hand. One difficulty with using this type of post is the natural taper of the tree. The posts were plumbed only toward the outside of the building to ensure the walls were straight.

Next, the roof beams and rafters were installed. The beams are lodgepole pine that was harvested in western Wyoming. The trees were standing dead and had been killed by mountain pine beetle. A very inexpensive post and pole permit was obtained from the Forest Service to harvest the trees. Lodgepole pine is extremely strong and makes excellent roof support beams.

The roof purlins, wall girts and rough-cut siding were all purchased from a local sawmill. The lumber was cut from beetle-killed ponderosa pine. The barn was sided in the board-and-batten style. The battens were cut on a table saw from rough 2-by-8-inch boards to reduce the lumber needed and reduce project cost.

The base boards that make up the bottom perimeter are 2-by-6-inch and green-treated. The boards were acquired from a rancher friend and had been salvaged from snow fence in Wyoming. Areas of Wyoming have very severe winters and many miles of snow fence have been constructed to reduce snow drifting on state highways. The snow fence is occasionally repaired or rebuilt and sometimes the landowners are allowed to salvage the old fence materials.

The two windows were acquired from a friend who had gotten them from a neighbor after he had replaced all of the windows in his home. My friend was tired of moving them and organizing around them, so he was glad to have someone get them out of his shop.

The only materials that were purchased new consisted of the corrugated roofing steel, screws/fasteners and the electrical wiring and boxes. The barn was wired for lights and outlets. It was to be used for milking and kidding in addition to shelter and hay storage, so power was needed for water tank heaters and heat lamps.

A weatherproof outside outlet was also installed to provide power to the adjacent chicken coop (a DIY chicken coop, which happens to be a salvaged oil/water separator building from a local oil field).

Shortly after completing this barn, we purchased several thousand linear feet of roofing steel that had been salvaged from a warehouse, which had hail damage and was replaced with new. We found only a few hail dents in the entire lot of steel roofing. We sold a majority of the steel for over twice what we paid for it and now have large supply for future projects and it cost us virtually nothing. We regret not having this supply of steel when we built this barn.

 

A DIY tip: A person must preplan and be willing to purchase reused materials when they become available at a reduced price. Many times larger lots must be purchased to get the best deal but like in the steel purchase, we were able to resell much of the material for a profit while retaining what I needed.

The barn was built completely by us with no outside labor and the final cost was around $1,000.  The methods that we used to acquire the materials for this barn will not work for everyone but if the builder is imaginative and keeps a look out for affordable cheap building materials, it’s amazing what can be found. Classified ads, Craigslist and Restores are excellent places to find building materials for reuse.

Another DIY tip: Don’t be afraid to pursue materials that may not be for sale yet. It’s always shocking what people will sell if you just ask.

Our DIY experience shows that buildings constructed from reused materials can look as nice as buildings constructed with new materials for much cheaper and come with a great story.

Jason, Amanda and their two daughters live on 20 irrigated acres outside of Cody, Wyoming. Jason has more than15 years of professional natural resource, vegetation, rangeland management, invasive species management and rangeland restoration experience and Amanda has more than 9 years of experience in prevention and wellness program and nonprofit management. Together they own The Happy Cowgirl, where they blog and offer freelance writing services and small acreage consultation.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



11/6/2015

A fun task after moving into new housing is the hunt for quirky recycled home décor to liven up the space. Looking for a way to brighten up my own apartment, I brainstormed how to repurpose a dusty, but useful lamp shade that I bought for a couple dollars at the Goodwill. I wanted to transform it to be a cheerful statement piece, so I tested out my own decoupage do-it-yourself project. I am happy to say it was a brilliant success! The best part? It only took an hour, start to finish.

Whether you're looking to brighten up your new space or give your home a mini makeover, this quick repurposing project will add some playful character to any room.

DIY lamp shade home decor 

The ability to transform a plain lampshade into a beautifully decorative, functional piece that brings joy to a room shows the value in secondhand materials. It’s an ecochic approach to room renovation that’s affordable, and more often than not, very easy to do! A little imagination, a creative spirit, and a few tools you can find around the house are all you need to give a used lamp shade a fresh lift.

3-Step Upcycled Lamp Shade

Materials

• plain lamp shade
• patterned paper
• Mod Podge
• sponge brush
• scissors

Directions:

1. First, find patterned paper that will fit the decor of your room. This could be magazine clippings, stationary, or even gift wrapping paper. I chose this swirly stationary I had been storing by my desk for months.

2. I cut the paper in a funny design to add some geometric dimension.

 DIY repurposed lampshade home decor

3. Place the paper on the lamp and play around with shapes and spacing.

4. When you think you’ve found a good start, use Mod Podge and your sponge brush to adhere the paper to the lamp shade. 

 DIY repurposed lampshade home decor

5. Finish gluing the paper to the lamp shade, then use a final coat of Mod Podge to seal the design for a smooth finish. This type of adhesive is great for this DIY because it dries clear and allows light to shine through.

DIY lamp shade home decor

Place the shade on a simple stand and place a baby succulent or neon flower nearby for a finishing touch. Wha-laa! A stunning bedside table with light for those cozy late-night reads.

Until next time, you can find more eco-crafts and sustainable fashion tips on Sustainable Daisy.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



11/6/2015

 

Children's bedrooms are areas of the home where you can truly let your creativity take over. However, while you could transform this space into a dream come true for your kids, many kids' bedrooms unfortunately are rather dull and boring. This simple, affordable, do-it-yourself project can be just the flare of improvement your child’s room needs. This project can also be customized based on the style or theme in your child's room.

A Chalkboard Wall

Kids love chalkboards, and you can easily add a fun chalkboard wall to their room. Follow these easy steps to creating your own chalkboard wall in your child’s room.

Tools Needed

• 100-grit sandpaper
• Putty knife
• Paint roller with an extension handle
• Safety glasses
• Drop cloth
• Gloves
• Pole sander
• Ladder
• Paint tray

Materials

• Painters tape
• Respiratory protection
• Latex chalkboard paint (writable and erasable)
• 3-inch paintbrush

Directions

1. Move everything away from the wall that you don’t want paint on. Remove any nails from the wall and place the drop cloth on the ground in front of the wall you’re painting. Also remove the baseboard. Using the pole sander and sandpaper, sand the wall from the ceiling to the floor, wall to wall. If you’re painting around a window, be sure to tape around the edges using painter’s tape. When done, be sure to vacuum up any dust residue.

2. Pour the paint into container that you will use to cut in around the window trim, ceiling corners and edges of the wall. Apply two coats of the chalkboard paint to the edges of the walls, around the window and in the corners.

3. Once you have finished painting the corners and edges, pour the rest of the paint into the container. Using the paint roller, apply one coat of the chalkboard paint onto the wall. After two hours the paint should be dry enough to apply a second coat. Be sure to not over soak the roller with paint.

4. Once the second coat of paint has dried, pull off the painter’s tape and throw away. Be sure to clean the roller and container with warm soapy water. If needed, touch up any trim paint. Replace the baseboard, and any nails. Let the chalkboard paint sit over night before writing on it.

You can add an open picture frame or even tack molding around the painted area to give definition to the chalkboard feature. If you don’t want to paint an entire wall, you can also create a chalkboard by painting a piece of flat, sanded wood with chalkboard paint and tacking that board to a frame. Be sure to add a chalk tray or other storage compartment for the chalk nearby to keep mess to a minimum. As a side note, you can also add some sliding barn door hardware to help preserve your child’s imaginative creations while adding a rustic flare befitting a room with a chalk wall.

With these couple of DIY projects, you can transform any child’s room into a more fun and inviting space.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.









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