Grow Great Vegetables in Containers with these 4 Tips

Grow Great Vegetables in Containers with these 4 TipsBy Mike Podlesny

Do not let the lack of space keep you from growing some great tasting fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs at home. Regardless of whether you have a balcony at your apartment or a small backyard in the city, it is possible to reap a bountiful harvest every gardening season.

CHOOSE WISELY

The first thing to consider when growing fruits, vegetables and herbs in containers is choosing varieties that make sense for the amount of space that you have. You might think there is nothing out there that fits your need, but that would be the furthest from the truth. There are plenty of determinant vegetable varieties that will work.

For example, if you love fresh home grown beans like I do, go with some heirloom bush varieties such as royal burgundy or golden wax, as opposed to pole beans that would require trellising and take up a bit more space.

If cucumbers are your favorite, you are in luck, because the determinant heirloom bush crop variety is perfect for your space, and grows very well in small containers. I am growing bush crop cucumbers this year and have nine plants in a three foot by three foot raised garden bed. You can squeeze plenty of these varieties of cucumbers in a small space and still get prolific production.

THE CONTAINERonions_growing_in_container
After you have decided what to grow, you now need something to plant your vegetables, herbs and fruit in. A good container will have a diameter of at least sixteen inches and a depth of no less than twelve inches, although much deeper is always better. If you can afford a bigger container for both price and space, I would highly recommend it.thyme_growing_in_an_herb_box

Because you are growing vegetables, fruits and herbs in containers, there are some things you have to remember.

Use a good potting soil that is loaded with plenty of plant food. The key here is potting soil.  Do not use a garden soil. Garden soil is too dense for a container application. There are a lot of great organic choices available, or you can make your own by combining homemade compost, a little perlite and some coir.

You will need to water your plants more frequently. Your container will dry out quicker, so watering daily will be a part of your routine, and if you are in an area with extreme high temperatures, twice a day is not out of the question. Just keep an eye on them.
Your container should have plenty of drainage. I would highly recommend drilling a few more holes into the bottom of your containers. This allows excess water to drain better. The last thing you want is excess water sitting around the roots of your vegetable plants. That will cause a condition called root rot.

pumpkin_growing_in_a_pot

LOCATION

Your plants should receive at least 8 hours of sun although you can get away with less if you are growing leafy veggies such as kale, lettuce or spinach. The beauty about containers is that you can move them around. So if you are growing a container variety of tomato, which requires a full day’s worth of sun, and the sun hits 4 hours on one side of your balcony, and 4 on the other, simply pick the pot up and follow the sun. It really is not that much work once you get used to it.

You may also want to consider adding artificial light, such as grow lights, if your apartment, condo, house etc., sits on the side that receives more shade than sun. They are very inexpensive, available at any giant home center, and do not cost that much to operate.

bush_cucumbersFEED YOUR PLANTS
Finally, don’t forget to feed your plants. Because your vegetables, fruits and herbs are growing in confined quarters, they are going to use up the nutrients in the soil much faster. If you start with a good potting soil as mentioned earlier, you can easily get away with feeding your plants once per week after the first month.

I would recommend a good fertilizer like fish emulsion or even adding some compost to the top of your container and allowing it to work its way down, which it will eventually do. You can also use that compost to make compost tea, which makes a great elixir for your plants.

Just because you have a small space to work with does not mean you cannot be big on growing your own food. With a few tips and a little work, you will be well on your way to filling up those pantries with plenty of fresh beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and more.

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person as well as the creator of the Seeds of the Month Club where members receive non gmo, heirloom variety seeds every month. You can listen to Mike each week on the Vegetable Gardening Podcast where he interviews gardening industry experts.

 

 

Make Your Own Moisturizing Salve

Make your Own Moisturizing Salve

I have been looking for a homemade moisturizer recipe in a long time when I came across the recipe for Miracle Healing Salve over at Backdoor Survival.

But I delayed in trying it out right away because I first had to gather up the ingredients (I’m on a budget) and I had a little mishap with essential oil that made me a bit shy about proceeding.

After reading up on the proper ways to use essential oil, I was finally ready to give it a try. A few notes:

  • I went the “bargain” route by using pure olive oil instead of extra virgin. I also skimped and did not pick up any glass droppers, although later I realized it would have made it easier than pouring straight from the bottle (live and learn!).
  • I planned to make a few different variations by following the instructions for Miracle Salve, Eczema Salve and plain salve.

Homemade Salve IngredientsMaterials and ingredients:

1 cup coconut oil
1 cup pure olive oil
5 tbsp organic beeswax pastilles

Essential oils that I used:
-lavender
-peppermint
-rosemary
-tea tree oil
-eucalyptus oil

Other:

2 ounce jars
large measuring cup
Cooking pot large enough to boil water and accommodate the cup
labels
sharpie pen

Directions:

Salve dissolving

1. Add water to the pot, and set it on stove to simmer.
2. In the large measuring cup, add 5 tbsp organic beeswax pastilles, 1 cup coconut oil, 1 cup olive oil. Set the measuring cup in the pot. Leave it alone until it starts to melt and stir it every once in a while. This will take around 20 minutes.
3. While you are waiting for the oils to dissolve, start labeling your jars.
4. For the Miracle Salve: add 5 drops of lavender, 5 drops peppermint and 5 drops rosemary oil.
5. For the Eczema Salve, I used 5 drops of lavender, 5 drops peppermint and 5 drops rosemary oil, 5 drops tea tree oil, as mentioned in Gaye’s article.
6. For Eucalyptus Salve, I just added 5 drops of eucalyptus oil.  I like eucalyptus oil because it helps with nasal congestion and it makes everything smell like a spa.
7. For plain salve, I just labeled the jar and added nothing.
8. Check the oils and if they are completely dissolved, they are ready to pour into the jars.  The glass cup will be extremely hot so use an oven mitt and carefully pour the melted oils into the jars.Salve ready to pour
9. Find something to cover the uncapped jars and leave them alone overnight. I just used recycled paper bags but you can use paper towels, or cloth if you prefer. The salve does solidify in an hour, but you should leave them alone overnight.Salve in containers

Salve coveredThe next morning, I checked the jars and the salves were ready for use.

Moisturizing salveResults:

Moisturizer:  I used the Miracle Salve as a moisturizer for my face.  Althout it felt a tad oilier than normal moisturizer, but it was absorbed quickly and felt great on my skin.
Lip Balm:  I first tried the Miracle Salve on my lips but because of the peppermint you get a tingly feeling.  I then tried using plain salve as a lip balm, and I liked it a lot.
Leg and Foot Moisturizer.  The Miracle Salve really works on softening rough heels and knees.
Pet Hot Spot Reliever:  I used Miracle Salve on the dog’s hot spot. Our dog is super obsessive and cannot stop licking once he gets started, the vet even put a cone on him. We have tried everything but after I used Miracle Salve on him, he does not seem to be licking the same spot.
Eczema Salve:  I gave the Eczema Salve to the family members who suffer from eczema.  So far I hear they are getting good results.

I am convinced the salve is very effective and will replace many skin products.  I just haven’t tried all the possible uses yet.  Even with the initial cost of the ingredients, using this homemade moisturizer will save a fair amount of money.  My thanks to Gaye Levy of Backdoor Survival for sharing her recipe!
I’m convinced essential oils really work, so I joined Spark Naturals, a trusted name in the field, as an affiliate.
Essential4Pack

Use coupon code APARTMENTPREPPER for a 10% discount.

 

 

 

 

Hydroponics – A Small Garden with Big Benefits

(Editor’s note:  Today’s post is about a subject that interests me greatly:  hydroponics, because it works well in small spaces.  The post is written by Chris Wimmer, who writes at Health Smart Living

What is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is generally translated from the Latin and Greek languages meaning “working water”.  The Greeks and Romans described this farming technique this way because the water was always in motion. A more modern way to explain hydroponics is growing plants without soil.  A variety of mediums are used in place of soil which is soaked in a nutrient rich water solution.

Benefits of hydroponics

I could probably list well over a dozen benefits but I’ll just list the most important:

  • Improved food independence
  • Shorter growing cycles
  • Improved yield
  • Less space required

The reason you are able to basically grow more food, faster, and in less space is due to the direct exposure of nutrients to the roots.  Traditional soil based gardening requires the plants to seek out the nutrients in the soil which actually takes a lot of effort which could be used to grow more vegetation, flowers and fruit.

The basic parts of a hydroponic system

Hydroponic systems come in many different ‘flavors’ but all have a few key common components. 

Grow Tray:  The plants grow in a tray that is filled with an inert media which acts as a soil substitute. Common media includes coconut fiber, gravel, and rockwool.  The media provides root stability and the right mix of oxygen and water.

Reservoir:   A holding tank for the nutrient rich water which is pumped onto the roots of the plants.

Pump:   A small pump to push the water from the reservoir to the grow tray

Timer:  The real beauty of hydroponics.  A timer can help automate your system which can make it virtually maintenance free.

Ideal crops for hydroponics

Almost anything can be grown hydroponically however some plants do better and are simply more practically.  Stick with compact plants that you harvest above the ground.

Some great examples include:

  • Herbs (Basil, oregano, Thyme, etc)
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach

 How hydroponics can be done in small and creative spaces

Hydroponic plants can be planted twice as close as compared to soil based planting as they will not compete for soil nutrients.  They only need enough vertical space to grow up.

hydroponics1

Another great way to maximize your plantable space is to be creative.  Do you have an outside empty wall?

wall hydroponics

Photo credit: Plants on Walls Blog http://plantsonwalls.blogspot.com/2010/06/aquaponic-garden-tower.html

  What about a sunny window?hydroponics2

  A few final tips to simplify getting started and ensuring success…

  • Start small.  You’ll learn a lot from your first experience and can apply that to your next planting.
  • Use seedlings from the local nursery if you have never germinated seeds.
  • Ensure the location you select will receive at least 12 hours of sunlight and maintain a temperature in the low 70’s.  If this isn’t possible than plan to have supplemental light and heat.

Now that you have heard the basics are you interested learning more?  You can read more at my personal blog Health Smart Living  http://healthsmartliving.com/hydroponics or I’d recommend checking out instructables (http://www.instructables.com/id/Hydroponic-Soda-Bottle-System/).  Both have some very detailed hands-on ways to set up a hydroponic garden.

About the Author: Chris Wimmer is an urban hydroponic hobbyist who grew up in the Oregon country side enjoying the open spaces. Chris shares how he uses hydroponics to maximize his small Chicago urban garden space on his blog:   http://healthsmartliving.com/hydroponics/

 

 

Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living

Sustainable LivingI was excited to receive a review copy of Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living  by Stacy Harris.  Stacy has written several cookbooks and writes the Game & Garden blog.

I am always interested in ways an apartment dweller living in the city can adapt a sustainable lifestyle so I asked the author, Stacy Harris the following question:

What activities do you recommend for apartment dwellers living in the city who what to take small steps toward sustainable living?
Stacy’s response:

“First, I would like to encourage apartment dwellers to find a local source of organic vegetables. This seems obvious, but many times, it is overlooked. Once you buy an abundance of seasonal vegetables, you can preserve (canning or drying) those vegetables and fruits then store them in cabinets or even under beds to eat in the off season. If your apartment has room for an extra freezer, you can even freeze your produce after blanching it.

Even better, if you have a small balcony or fire escape, much can be grown vertically in those small spaces. I would begin by planting things that you would regularly eat, like salad ingredients and herbs. Most climates will afford lettuce, cabbage, arugula, carrots, bunch onions, beets, and radishes. In the summer, a planting of cucumbers would be beneficial for making pickles as well as adding to salads. This can be replaced in the winter with other greens such as collards. Collards can be canned for use in the summer. A container of herbs such as basil, cilantro, parsley, and rosemary would give you sufficient flavor for much of your food. Keep in mind that cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green peas, and pole beans are fantastic vine plants for planting vertically.

If your apartment has a South facing window, there are small greenhouses that herbs and lettuces can be grown in as well.

I would like to encourage people to start where they are and to enjoy the process of growing or at least preserving local harvests for health and for preparation reasons. There is really nothing better than using organic fresh produce and organic meats. The flavors of these foods cannot be matched by that of corn fed beef and genetically altered vegetable products.

I encourage using heirloom seeds if you are able to plant in that seeds can be saved in times of need. Genetically altered seeds do not always produce another plant and if they do, they only produce once or twice more and take the genes of only one parent (they do not produce a plant that looks like the previous one).   Enjoy.”

Looking through the book I indeed found a lot of tips and recipes that are easily done by anyone.  Sure, certain activities like bee-keeping or poultry raising are not doable in the immediate vicinity, but you can easily obtain fresh honey and farm fresh eggs from a farmer’s market.  I visit one near me a couple of times a month.
The instructions in the book are straight-forward and easy to follow.  The high gloss pages are inviting and the recipe photos look appetizing.  My family tends to be on the picky side, but we were delighted to find many recipes we can try out.  The recipes for wild game can be substituted with beef.   The flagged pages you see in the book are all the recipes we are planning to cook.
Dill Pickle RecipeThe first one on the list is the recipe for Refrigerator Dill Pickles, which I will cover in another post.

I highly recommend Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living  by Stacy Harris.  Whether you live in a spacious homestead or a small apartment, you will find this book offers something for everyone.

GIVEAWAY!

Win a Copy of Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living

One copy is reserved for an Apartment Prepper reader.  Just add your comment below, describing what sustainable living activities you currently do, or what interests you.

The winner* will be chosen at a random drawing on Thursday, Oct. 31st at 8 pm Central.

*Winner will be notified via email.  Winner must reply to email notification within 48 hours or another winner will be drawn.

 

 

For easy ways to become more prepared, read my book:

For low-cost ways to prep:

 

Sourdough Bread Project

Sourdough breadmachine bread

Bread making is good skill to have; I’d already made an artisan bread, and regularly make sandwich bread in the bread machine so I wanted to branch out.

An established sourdough starter can last for years and years, and can be passed from generation to generation.  In the old days, people even packed sourdough starter with them when they traveled, to avoid having to buy yeast.  However, since I don’t know anyone nearby who has tried this, I purchased my San Francisco sourdough bread starter from Amazon.

San Francisco Sourdough starter

San Francisco Sourdough starter

The packet contained dehydrated sourdough starter.  The instructions stated it needed to be activated by adding the the contents to a one quart wide mouth jar -  I used a large recycled glass jar.

Still following directions, I then added 1/4 cup water, plus 1/4 cup flour and stirred, making sure to add a lot of air into the mixture.  Then, I used a coffee filter with a rubber band around it as a cover.

Jar of sourdough starter on counter (1)

Jar of sourdough starter, covered with a coffee filter

Directions said to leave it alone in a warm area for 12-18 hours.  I left it inside the oven with the light turned on.

After 12 hours I repeated the process by adding 1/2 water and 1/2 cup of flour, mixing well and allowing air into the mixture.  Once again, I left it inside the oven with the light turned on.  This time, I placed a paper towel underneath, in case it bubbled over.

After another 12 hours, the directions said to discard all but 1/2 cup of the mixture, but add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour all over again.  The discarded mixture can be used to make pancakes.

Growing Sourdough starter

Growing Sourdough starter

The goal is to keep the process going until the sourdough mixture keep growing until it looks light and bubbly.  It took about three days of repeating this process before it looked “light and bubbly” to me.

Jar of sourdough starter on counter (2)

Sourdough starter is getting bubbly

More and more bubbles appeared as the days passed.  The mixture also kept increasing.  It had a pleasant, faintly yeasty smell.   Extra starter can be stored in a jar in the refrigerator for use later.  I had plenty.  But once refrigerated, before you can use it, it has to be left at room temperature and mixed with water and flour to get bubbly all over again.

When I made the bread, I followed the instructions by adding fresh sourdough starter to flour, water and salt.  Then you had to leave the dough to rise for 4-24 hours.  At this time I was starting get impatient.  This sure takes a lot of time!  I did exactly that but there was a problem.  The dough did not rise to bread size.  I baked it anyway and it came out flat and hard.  But I was not ready to give up.

I checked online for an easier recipe that can be used in a bread machine.  I found one in the King Arthur flour website.  The difference is, you had to add yeast, while “real” sourdough breads should not require yeast.

I just wanted to see if I can make a loaf with a sourdough taste so I tried the King Arthur flour sourdough bread recipe

It worked and the resulting bread was very tasty, with a mild sourdough taste.  I admit I “cheated” a bit, but I was pretty pleased with the result.   It had the right amount of crust, and a fluffy texture on the inside.

Sourdough breadmachine breadUnfortunately for my sourdough starter, after a couple of weeks in the refrigerator, the mixture started to looking brackish and had a metallic odor.  I ended up throwing it away, but at least I got one good bread loaf out of it.  I’ll have to order another starter soon so I can try it again.

 

The Government Expects YOU to be a First Responder During an Emergency

There have been several large disasters in recent memory – Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, tornadoes, ice storms, where hundreds of people lose vital infrastructure, or are displaced, taking weeks or longer to recover.  A state of emergency is declared, sometimes even ahead of the event, and in the aftermath, people bemoan the fact that the government wasn’t around to provide much needed help.  Well, the truth of the matter is, the government does realize emergency services will not be around to provide immediate assistance as soon as a disaster happens and they actually rely on people to be able to help themselves and their community.

It’s true, the FEMA website states the following:

"Following a major disaster, first responders who provide fire and 
medical services will not be able to meet the demand for these services.
 Factors such as number of victims, communication failures and road 
blockages will prevent people from accessing emergency services they 
have come to expect at a moment's notice through 911. People will have 
to rely on each other for help in order to meet their immediate life 
saving and life sustaining needs.
One also expects that under these kinds of conditions, family members, 
fellow employees and neighbors will spontaneously try to help each 
other. This was the case following the Mexico City earthquake where 
untrained, spontaneous volunteers saved 800 people. However, 100 people 
lost their lives while attempting to save others. This is a high price 
to pay and is preventable through training."

They actually provide classes so you and I can handle ourselves in the event of a disaster, called CERT.

What is CERT?

CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team.  These are a series of classes provided in many counties all over the country, to train people in disaster preparedness.

Some additional background from the FEMA website describes CERT:

"The CERT course will benefit any citizen who takes it. This individual 
will be better prepared to respond to and cope with the aftermath of a 
disaster. Additionally, if a community wants to supplement its response 
capability after a disaster, civilians can be recruited and trained as 
neighborhood, business and government teams that, in essence, will be 
auxiliary responders. These groups can provide immediate assistance to 
victims in their area, organize spontaneous volunteers who have not had 
the training and collect disaster intelligence that will assist 
professional responders with prioritization and allocation of resources 
following a disaster. Since 1993 when this training was made available 
nationally by FEMA, communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico have 
conducted CERT training."

I picked up a flyer in our community that showed upcoming classes on:

-Disaster Preparation

-Fire Suppression

-First Aid

-Incident Command

-Search and Rescue

-Disaster Response

-Hazardous Materials

Classes are usually held in a fire station or other community meeting place.  Some of the supplemental classes cover

  • Amateur radio operation
  • Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  • Automatic External Defibrillation (AED)

These skills can certainly come in handy in a disaster.  Start searching for classes in your area here.  

You’ll need to search around a bit – some of the community sites are not the easiest to navigate.  You may have to copy and paste your area’s website into your browser in order to reach it.

The government knows they can’t be around to help in a big disaster, and they implemented a program to help people learn disaster preparedness skills.  Whether you’re watching your pennies or have a big prepping budget, learning these skills can be valuable.  And since we’ve already paid through our tax dollars, you can’t beat the price – free.

 

 

 

Experimenting with the Easiest Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I had been wanting to try making my own homemade laundry detergent, but wanted an easy one.  Many recipes require grating soap, or boiling the soap mixture, which I wanted to avoid.

Then I found a super easy laundry detergent recipe over at Backdoor Survival.  Survival Woman’s recipe, found in The No Mess No Fuss Method of Making DIY Laundry Detergent did not involve grating soap or boiling ingredients.  The best part was, I already had these materials on hand.

Ingredients of homemade laundry detergent

You will need:

1/2 gallon container (recycled juice bottle will do)

3 TBSP Borax

3 TBSP Washing Soda

2 TBSP dishwashing detergent (Dawn Dishwashing Liquid was recommended in the article and that is the one I used)

8 cups water

Directions:

  1. Boil 2 cups water (out of the 8 cups).
  2. Using a funnel, pour the Borax and Washing Soda into the bottle.
  3. Carefully pour in the 2 cups of boiling water.  Shake well until powders are dissolved.
  4. Add the dishwashing liquid and mix some more.
  5. Finally, add the remaining 6 cups of water and mix well.  That’s it, you’re done mixing.
  6. Use about a quarter to a half cup of this laundry detergent to a load of wash.

The Test

First, I washed a load of colors with the homemade dishwashing liquid, at the cold water cycle.  Our machine is just a regular washer.  I noticed the mixture is more watery than store bought liquid laundry detergent.  It is also odor free.

The second load consisted of whites.

The Result

The load of colors came out clean, with surface dirt removed.  I did not have any heavily stained clothes but any dusty pants and minor dirt came off.

The whites were clean enough, but because I did not use bleach like I normally do for whites, they are not bright white.  To be fair, the homemade laundry detergent results were about the same as store bought without bleach.

If you are used to heavily fragranced clothes, the unscented mixture may be an adjustment.  For myself, though I like the scent for fresh laundry, I used to get an allergic reaction when using too much Downey or heavily scented detergents.  I think we get conditioned to store bought products and expect cleaners to be extra sudsy and fragrant.  They do not need to do these to clean properly.  I believe the homemade laundry detergent worked as well as commercial detergents but is certainly much cheaper to make.

This homemade detergent experiment was certainly a success!  Thanks Survival Woman!

 

Check out the Legacy Premium line of storage foods carried by one of our sponsors, PrepareWise.

Don’t let those expiration dates get past you.  An inexpensive but helpful tool to keep track of supplies (Iphone or Ipad users):

 For beginning preppers

Save some Money: Make your own Homemade Dishwashing Powder Detergent

Homemade Dishwashing detergent

Trying to free up money to for emergency supplies means cutting back on expenses elsewhere.  One thing I am trying is to cut back on commercially made products, and replace them with homemade substitutes.  One project that turned out well was to make homemade liquid soap.  I found a good recipe for homemade dishwashing powder over at Survival Common Sense.

Most of the grocery and Target stores in my area did not have Borax or washing soda but I found them at Wal-Mart.   They can also be found on Amazon.

Ingredients for homemade dishwashing detergent

You will need a clean empty jar (I used a recycled plastic jar), a measuring cup and a measuring spoon.

Here are the ingredients I used:

1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

1/4 cup store brand kosher store

2 packets of lemonade flavor unsweetened Kool-Aid  (1/4 cup citric acid can also be used but Kool-aid was easier for me to find)

White vinegar (as a rinse aid)

Mix all together in a jar.  Measure two tablespoons of the mixture into your dishwasher’s  soap compartment, along with three drops of dishwashing liquid.  Important:  do not put more than three drops of dishwashing liquid, as this will overflow your dishwasher with suds.

Add vinegar to the rinse aid receptacle to make sure your glasses are spot free.

I ran a dishwasher full of dirty dishes at the normal cycle.  After washing was completed, I checked the glasses.  They came out clean.  I had one that had chocolate milk stains all over it when I put it in:

Dirty glassThis is how it came out.

Glass washed with homemade dishwashing detergentNo chocolate milk stains were left in the glass.  They were not completely spot free, about one to two spots appeared in some of the glasses; but for everyday use, I’d say the homemade dishwashing powder worked just fine.

A note about storing homemade dishwashing powder:  I  initially stored the powder mixture under the sink with the rest of the cleaners.  The next day, I took it out to use it for the next load, I noticed the powder was starting to clump.  I think the humidity may affect the powder and cause clumping if left too long.  This does not have chemicals to keep it free flowing.  I shook the jar vigorously and most of the clumps disappeared so I will be able to continue using it.  If you live in a humid area, you may want to cut the recipe in half.   I moved it to another spot that has less humidity.

I consider this experiment a success and will continue to use the homemade dishwashing powder.

 

For more preparedness tips, read my book:

Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure

Bernie’s New Book:  Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure

Homemade Liquid Hand Soap (from a Soap Bar)

Homemade hand soap

I tend to get itchy, chapped hands so I wanted to see if I can make an inexpensive liquid hand that is gentle and non-drying.  I am a big fan of Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Magic Soap, as you can see from this review.   So I used the soap bar version as a base for my liquid hand soap.  Here is what I did.

Ingredients:

1 bar of soap – I used Dr. Bronner’s Almond Bar Soap      Main ingredients Homemade hand soap2 tbsp glycerin (can be found in most personal care sections at groceries or drug stores)

12 1/2 cups of water

You will also need:  cheese grater, large pot, large funnel, liquid soap dispenser (I used recycled empty ones)

Directions:

Grating soap

1.  Grate the bar of soap using the cheese grater.

2.  Boil 3 liters of water.

Adding grated soap to water

Adding grated soap to water

3.  Add the grated soap and stir well.

4.  Add the glycerin.

Adding glycerin to mixture

Adding glycerin to mixture

5.  Continue boiling until the soap melts.  The water will be a bit bubbly but overall somewhat clear.

Mixture of grated soap, water and glycerin

Mixture of grated soap, water and glycerin

6.  Let stand overnight.

Mixture of grated soap, water and glycerin after leaving overnight

Mixture of grated soap, water and glycerin after leaving overnight

 

6.  When I checked it the next day, the liquid had become filmy.  It needed to be mixed so I used a fork to stir it up.

 

 

 

 

 

6.  Using a large funnel, pour the liquid soap into a large empty jug for storage (best done over the sink.)  The liquid tends to pour in large quantities so do it very slowly.  Once it’s in a more manageable container, fill up a recycled soap dispenser.   Don’t forget to wash your cheese grater and all other utensils before using for food.

I estimated how much this whole project cost:  $4 for the soap and a few cents worth of glycerin (it was $3 for the small bottle of glycerin):  $7 total initial outlay made 3 liters of liquid soap, which equates to about $40 of liquid soap.

More importantly, did it work?  I had never tried this before so I wasn’t sure if it would turn out well.  I tested the new hand soap:  it lathered up just enough and smelled clean.  It felt a lot like store bought liquid soap but not as strong and drying.

Additional Notes:  This was my first try so I am not sure how other soaps would work.  I would think other soap brands would work just as well, as long as they are not overly moisturized such as Dove soap, as that would change the consistency.  I also thought adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil would work.  If you like it extra sudsy, use a foaming soap dispenser. 

 

 

Self Sufficiency Project: Preserving Eggs

Mineral oil and eggsI like eggs for breakfast, especially “over easy” eggs.  Dehydrated eggs are great for scrambled eggs but I have not found a dehydrated egg product that can make eggs over easy.

After a bit of research, I found out that making eggs last longer is very easy.  All you really need are fresh eggs and mineral oil.  Mineral oil is found in the first aid section of a pharmacy or even the grocery store, next to stomach remedies.

Here are the steps that I took:

  1. I found out that you can check an egg’s freshness by dropping it in a jar of water.  If it sinks, then it is fresh.  If it floats then it is no longer fresh.  So I tested the egg prior to oiling it.
Testing egg for freshness

This egg sank so it is fresh.

2.  I dried the egg and put on some gloves.

3.  I poured about a quarter size amount of mineral oil into my palm and rubbed it all over the egg, and repeated the process on six eggs.

Rubbing mineral oil to preserve egg

That’s it!  I am leaving the eggs on the counter and I will check them weekly.  I will turn the container over once a week to ensure the coating stays even.  I am not sure how they will turn out.  It is starting to get humid and warm around here.  With air-conditioning, the temperature in the kitchen is around 75-78 degrees.  I will test the eggs for freshness in two weeks.  In the meantime I will do some more research on other ways to preserve eggs such as pickling etc.

I will definitely keep you posted!

Update after two months:  So far the eggs are still fresh.  No unpleasant odors or changes; I tested one and it sinks to the bottom of the cup of water so it is still good.