Sunday, May 29, 2011

Am I Becoming a Thrifty DIY Junkie?

“It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project. ~Napoleon Hill

Over three years ago I made my own sourdough starter from scratch with the plan to bake organic sourdough breads. One loaf of organic whole wheat costs between $5 and $6 where I can find it. I do get a employee discount at a co-op health food store because I regularly submit articles for their bi-monthly newspaper, but still that brought the price to about $4.50 unless it was on sale. So, I got the idea that I would make my own and I wanted to do sourdough for two reasons--well, maybe three: (1) I really like the taste, (2) I would never need to buy yeast, and (3) it would be a challenge. Making sourdough breads, I have come to learn, is an art. The flour, the weather, the temperature, and scheduling, all still challenging, but I have enjoyed it enough to continue to do it.

Then I added making my own yogurt regularly. More recently I added granola. I am planning to make my own mayonnaise and ranch dressing soon, very soon as I think we just finished the mayo at lunchtime.

I tried making butter this past week, and I must say that I did not plan that one out so well. Next time will be better, hopefully. What I produced was a laughable glob with strains of cheesecloth mixed in--please, don't ask. I really could not explain how that happened even if I wanted to do so.

I have been wanting to make homemade soap and I have gone so far as to purchasing lye, which is not so easy to find these days, but I have not decided on a recipe or even if I want to try hot or cold processing. I will get there if only out of necessity, because the woman from whom I have been getting soap has quit the business and has just a small inventory left over.

Last week I played around with a homemade weed killer made of vinegar, salt, and water, but even though it is not toxic to people and animals, it is very bad for all plants and must be used carefully. I painted the formula on various weeds to see how each did and may use a few drops from a dropper this week on some others. I have to say that the poison ivy is the most resistant it seems, but I am still determined to take it out, hopefully without killing off the English ivy, which is entwined with it. I may try cutting it and using the formula on the fresh cut to see how that works.

On my errand day, when I saw we had just enough laundry detergent for a couple more loads, I bought a box of borax, washing soda, and three washing soap bars called Fels-Naptha. (It should be noted that Fels-Naptha is also good for washing off the oils that cause poison ivy rashes on clothes and skin, which I will probably be needing.) Yesterday I made a very small batch, about ten to twenty loads worth of "powdered" laundry soap, because I used a fine grater for the Fels-Naptha. I washed my first load, all black clothes, in my front loader on cold to see if it would all dissolve. We have pretty soft water here and it did very well. When I run out of fabric softener, I will use vinegar and baking soda formula for that--I know, I also thought that was just impossible without a science project volcanic reaction, but there is a way to do it, they say, and many people think it is the best.

I am psyched now with all the DIY and frugal information I can find online!

Months ago I bought several boxes of dishwasher soap on sale, but as soon as it is gone, I am going to make a homemade version of that too with borax, baking soda, and citric acid with vinegar for the rinse. That might happen sooner than later now because my husband fixed the dishwasher and was put back in place last night.Thank you, Honey! Our lunch dishes are waiting for more to join so we can run it fully loaded.

I just learned that citric acid is great for sprouting seeds, because it prevents bacteria and mold growth. I like sprouts but I stopped doing them because even with regular rinsing they can have problems like that. Plus with all the gardening I am doing and the more I plan to do next year, I am thinking citric acid could be a very good thing to have on hand for more than dish washing.

My latest thing...cutting hair. I used to cut my own hair for years. I had something like the Farrah Fawcett shag. (Yes, I do have really thick, wavy hair with lots of body just like that.) The thing about my hair is a mistake is pretty easily hidden and it grows really fast so no big deal. In the last fifteen years, I had a style that was not so easy for me to cut myself, especially in the back, but I always shape a bit around the face and top for six months between appointments. Usually, the Princess and I only get a haircut twice a year, spring and autumn just before her recitals, however we skipped last autumn because of finances. She did not mind because she wants very long hair, but the ends now are very old and dry, sorely need of trimming off. She told me that our neighbor cuts her children's hair (curly hair) so she thinks I should cut her hair myself too...her thick but ultra straight, silky hair. I appreciate her thinking I am talented, but blunt cutting straight hair to a nice, even, well-shaped "U" is something that I did not have confidence in doing, until this morning...I searched online and found Feye's method for self trimming long hair, which uses hair bands so that you can actually cut your own long hair into a straight blunt, a V-shape, and a U-shape. Yes, I am now confident I can do this, so within a few days the Princess will have a $12 haircut for free in just minutes, if all goes well.

I also made homemade lemonade for the very first time this week. I cannot believe I have never done it before! The secret to making it very good is in the skin. Yes, I put the whole lemon minus seeds (but I missed a few) in my Vita-Mixer blender with sugar and water and just a pinch of salt to counter any bitterness. Very yummy, but I am not sure if it was cheaper than buying the organic lemonade we usually get...when it is on sale, that is. Mine was definitely better though.

What should I do next? Any suggestions?

Oh, and did I tell you that I am seriously considering beekeeping next year too?

~ My Lord, help me to use my time and talents wisely and frugally, but help me to be sure that what I do is not only cost effective but not time wasting. Help me manage my time and my priorities well too. ~


  1. Wow girl.. you can color me impressed. Seriously! I'm gonna have to ask you for hints and tips. I want to make yogurt this summer and I've never had much success with that endeavor. By the way, would that homemade weed killer work on tree stumps, do you think? I have some which simply will not die.. they keep sending out shoots and suckers and I am thoroughly sick of it. (not sick enough to use some super-duper poisonous something or other from the garden store though;-})

  2. Yogurt is really easy as long has you have a good thermometer, although I read it can be done without one.

    The vinegar-salt formula will work on most anything, but it can cause more problems because it will either remain in the roots of the tree or leech out, so I would use it sparingly to see how that does and a bit more if needed afterward. I read you can also use sugar water poured in small drill holes or saw cuts and that would be safer for the environment.


Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.