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Redwood Mills Food City Cornmeal Recalled

Redwood Mills Food City Cornmeal Recalled

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Grain beetles were found in the cornmeal

Grain beetles were found in the cornmeal mix.

The Food City cornmeal mix manufactured by Renwood Mills has been recalled due to grain beetles, according to US Food Safety. Although the grain beetles may be unpleasant, they are reportedly benign. Food City also tested corn samples from the milling process as well as other Food City products, and they all turned out to not be infected.

In 2006, The Orange County Register reported a cornmeal recall by Albers grits due to insects found in bugs. Unfortunately, it was during Thanksgiving when cornmeal demand was high, for foods such as stuffing and cornbread.

It’s not because the cornmeal is old or the manufacturing site is dirty; cornmeal actually has a high exposure to infection. Chowhound suggests you should put the package in your freezer unless you plan to use it right away. But remember, these bugs love the grains and with Thanksgiving just a few months away we do not want to risk our delicious holiday!

Braised Cabbage and Sausage with 10-Second Polenta

My friend Nick recently traveled to a few countries in Europe, and when asked what his favorite meal he had there was, he answered polenta e casura, a specialty of Milan. (Judging from my success at Googling the dish, assuming I have the correct spelling, it is a closely kept specialty of Milano cuisine, too.) In any case, the dish sounded soothing, comforting and rustic: braised cabbage and sausage, with polenta on the side. What could be simpler yet more satisfying than that?

There may be much more to the authentic dish than that, some wine perhaps, an intricate stock. But I was tickled to realize this morning that I coincidentally had all the makings for a basic version at home. I’ve been glancing at this package of spicy chicken sausages in my freezer every time I open it for months now. I didn’t buy it. A friend of mine did, on a grocery shopping trip just before coming to a get-together at my place, and accidentally left it behind. So I stashed it in the freezer for safekeeping. I know, it’s like, who leaves groceries such as sausages in their friends’ fridges? Extremely busy people, that’s who. People who didn’t have time to stop at home. And people who still haven’t had the chance to meet up and get it back. Well, I’m sorry, Aaron, but I’m just going to eat these now.

leftover sausage finally gets a good use

nutritionally hardy, oft-overlooked white cabbage

According to Mario Batali, according to Bill Buford in Heat, celery leaves are the most flavorful part of the plant. This works out great for me because I like to eat the stalks raw, but I don’t enjoy the leaves that way. So I try to cook with them before they wilt. I ripped off a handful of leaves from my bunch and chopped them up along with garlic to throw in the sizzling olive oil.

fine yellow cornmeal + water = often expensive Italian specialty

Speaking of Heat, if you also read it and recall the part about making polenta, you might have been as surprised as I was to learn that the classic preparation for this cornmeal mush is to cook it, stirring laboriously, for several hours. Avoiding the volcanic glops that spurt from the center of the pot, as poor Mr. Buford endured. Well, the way I always cook polenta, to self-satisfactory results, is in about ten seconds. Just get some water boiling, whisk in some fine yellow cornmeal (it doesn’t even have to be labeled “polenta” or Italian), and presto! I don’t even bother adding butter or cheese, just a little salt, though these optional ingredients would make it that much more tasty.

1: brown sausages

2: wilt cabbage and tomato

3: add water, cover and simmer

What a winter warmer. And unlike most wintery stews and soups, this hot lunch took only fifteen minutes to cook. If you don’t have any fresh tomatoes around, or are sticking to seasonal fresh veggies only, you might swap the small tomato for a spoonful of tomato paste. I happened to have tomatoes due to an irrepressible craving for grilled cheese with tomato a few days ago. That was a good lunch, too.

Braised Cabbage and Sausage with 10-Second Polenta
(makes 2 servings)

about 2 cups shredded cabbage
1 spicy chicken sausage link (or any sausage you prefer), sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 handful celery leaves, chopped
1 small-medium plum tomato, chopped
1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet or wide saucepan with a lid, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the garlic and celery leaves, and stir for about five seconds. Add the sausages and stir until cooked, about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage and tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Add one cup of water, reduce heat to low and cover.

Meanwhile, bring 2 1/4 cups water to boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium, and pour in the cornmeal while whisking rapidly. Keep whisking, and in about ten seconds you should have polenta. But to continue softening the grains a little more, keep cooking on low heat, whisking, for another minute or so, adding a splash more water and whisking it in if it’s looking too dry. Season with a little salt to taste.

Lift cover from pan after about five minutes of cooking. Continue cooking excess liquid off for another five minutes or so, or until consistency is just slightly soupy. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or pepper as desired. Serve on top of a scoop of polenta.

Cost Calculator
(for 2 servings)

2 cups shredded cabbage (or about 1/3 of a small head at $1/lb): .50
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal: .25
1 chicken sausage link (guessing it was around $5/pack): $1.25
handful of celery leaves: .20
1 small tomato (at $2.99/lb): .50
1 large clove garlic, 1 Tb olive oil, salt, pepper: .25

Health Factor
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Four brownie points: The chicken sausage package says there are six grams of fat per link, which means one hearty portion of this recipe has three grams of fat plus half a tablespoon of olive oil. Not bad! Also, never underestimate the nutritional vigor of the lowly, cheap, white cabbage. Like greener greens, it’s rich in Vitamin K, and has fiber and B-vitamins and antioxidants to keep you healthy throughout the cold months and city toxins.

Green Factor

Seven maple leaves: Cabbage is in season, and I’ll probably be cooking a lot with it and its many versions over the winter. It’s very versatile, great raw and lightly sauteed and it holds up to long cooking, too. The chicken sausages my friend purchased were from Trader Joe’s, not organic and “minimally processed,” whatever that means. I seldom buy sausages, because they’re a little on the expensive side for my humble home cooking, but I can’t wait to get my next ones at the Greenmarket, to prepare for the Greenmarket sausage cassoulet fundraiser cook-off at Jimmy’s No. 43! (No idea what I’ll be making for that yet.)

When in Chicago

Like a deejay with a favorite song in regular rotation, Chicago used to get played at least once a year in my life. I would exit the McCormick Center after working the NRA show (and lest you envision me donning a rifle, those initials stand for National Restaurant Association show) set out on the Metra for downtown reveling in the architecture and the creative culinary scene in those few evening hours set aside for a bit of exploration. As things go, I haven’t had the occasion in a while to set foot outside of O’Hare or Midway airports. Recently, during a family trip, we carved out 24 hours to claim as our own. If you find yourself in a similar situation or want to take this tasting menu approach to deep diving into a city quickly, you might find it not only a fun challenge but a memorable adventure. And so, with 24 hours in Chicago at your disposal, here’s your cheat sheet of where to go and what to eat.

If you read “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain, then you know Ernest Hemingway’s early days with first wife Hadley Richardson began in Chicago. What you may not know is that his house happens to be near the waterfront at 1239 North Dearborn. Out for a leisurely stroll through the park toward downtown one morning we happened upon his house. I couldn’t believe it and had to glance at the sign in front of the house several times just to make sure it had read it correctly. Sure enough, in 1921, he and Hadley rented the top flat for four months after they first married. Standing outside the fenced in house, I wondered about this phase of his writing life, all of the utter potential that still lay before him largely untapped and how time spent in this flat as a newlywed all culminated to impact his writing.

If you want a slice of Chicago deep dish pizza, the responses vary. Call me sentimental, but only one place satiates that urge. I first happened upon Giordano’s with a local friend and stumbled upon their spinach deep dish. The steel spatula cuts through the layers to move a slice onto your plate with the melted cheese reticent to tear itself away from the rest of the pie. The thick chunky tomato sauce, paired with the buttery crust, cheese and spinach is reminiscent of SF favorite, Little Star Pizza.

Walking in Chicago can take you to unexpected places. Most people are familiar with the “Miracle Mile,” that stretch of North Michigan Avenue that puts you on the path of posh boutiques and familiar brands of clothing stores. If you have it within you to stretch your legs for a while, let them take you well past that mile and down to South Michigan. This is one of my favorite jaunts in the city because of the breathtaking architecture, the lazy river that dissects downtown and the incredible public art. So much of downtown Chicago is meant to be experienced on foot and you can miss the small details when whizzing by in a car or cab. Millenium Park with its beloved stainless steel “Bean” sculpture delights people who walk up close and marvel at their reflection or the cityscape and sky reflected that make it look transparent in the right light. Just beyond it are two tall sculpture towers that broadcast filmed facial expressions along the stonework and water streaming down the surface. If you keep going you end up at the Art Institute and then even beyond that is another sculpture garden. Chicago makes art open to all, displaying natural alongside created beauty on this long walk.

Before you head over the bridge from North Michigan to the Art Institute, stop at Argo Tea. By this point, you might be parched and in need of refreshment. This local tea company has really ramped up their national distribution of iced tea in sleek reusable glass vessels, now available in specialty stores and convenience stores but there’s nothing like going into their teahouses with their vast selection of tea flavors and varieties of presentations. I’m partial to the Mate Latte, a blend of yerba mate, coconut and cocoa that when paired with a splash of milk and served over ice needs no sweetener and gives a lift of caffeine without making you jittery. They also serve bubble tea, hot tea, snacks and small meals. Rejuvenate in the summer with their iced tea sangria or a steaming cup of Charitea in the fall.

Dirty little secret: if you head to the Art Institute an hour before they close, they drastically reduce the entry fee. If you decide to visit the museum with that approach, have a game plan in place and figure out what exhibit matters most to you, otherwise you might not get to it. I always make a beeline to visit my favorite painting of theirs: “Meekness” by Eustache Le Sueur, a gilded pastoral depiction of this virtue. I also make my way to see “The Bedroom” a fairly frenetic painting by van Gogh. Something about repeat visits to paintings that have left impressions reveals something new about the painting and the viewer. If time allows, visit the Frank Lloyd Wright pieces. But the piece de resistance, the one that is not to be missed are the Chagall windows in the basement. As one of my favorite artists, these windows are an incredible homage to America with the motifs I’ve come to appreciate from Chagall. As you leave the museum, make a pit stop in their museum store for unique finds and think about fist bumping the copper lion statues guarding the museum out front as you exit.

Choosing one restaurant to eat at for dinner in Chicago is like asking a mother of 8 which child is her favorite. It can’t be done, at least without devastating consequences for the other seven, right? Contenders for this spot included favorites like Frontera Grill for Mexican, Avec for rustic comfort food, Mercat a la Planxa for Spanish and others that came to mind. But, given that it had been far too long since the last visit to Chicago, we opted for something new with help and advice from local friends in the know. That Balena’s head chef was nominated for a James Beard award in 2013 stood out as did key selections on their menu. Then again, getting to venture down to Lincoln Park also had its perks. What I really appreciated about Balena (pronounced Balayna) is their rock solid hospitality as they had presented a printed gluten free menu for Beck to peruse upon being seated. In the end, we shared a cheese course to start and split a kale caesar salad. For my main course, the Orecchiete, Kale, Lemon, Bread Crumbs and Chili arrived well seasoned and al dente. I still crave the side dish of Sweet Onion Gratinato with white wine and grand padano, highlighting the naturally sweet quality of onions in a creamy sauce with burnished cheese atop. Balena treated us just right.

After dinner, head over to The Green Mill, which is conveniently right off of the EL at the Lawrence stop. We had made plans to spend time with a local friend, who suggested we meet up at this popular locale for Chicagoans ready for a bit of late night jazz. Arrive early as you might be hard pressed to snag one of the small tables after 9 p.m. We grooved along with the music and made friends as our table became communal. Before long, the dance floor filled with regulars who then frequented a few other tables, peppering them with “hello’s.” This is the place to go for old Chicago swing.

Seeing as I am a fan of chocolate and all things dessert, I can’t recall why I never skipped across town to check it out for myself before because, let’s face it, this is the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory of restaurants in Chicago. Mindy Segal’s playful dessert menu sidles up well with her no joke savory side. This particular day, a few of us swooped into a steaming pot of macaroni and cheese, creamy, gooey and a good side dish to share. I tried a bite of my friend’s burger because he audaciously claimed it is the best in town and I trust his tastebuds, and it was really quite amazing. I gobbled up half of the Philly-style chicken thigh cutlet sandwich with broccoli rabe pesto and taleggio on a garlic-toasted house made hoagie but didn’t leave room for dessert. How that’s possible is beyond me. But, I snuck in a sip of the signature dark hot chocolate and promptly joined the fray at the counter, wrestling over whether to purchase Mexican or Espresso Hot Chocolate, as if any choice existed for this Mexicana.

While the founders of Eataly would cringe if they heard this, now having visited both locations in New York and Chicago, I would call this the Ikea of the slow food world. First of all, the egress of Eataly pulls in would-be shoppers and diners into discovering items they didn’t know they needed. Since Eataly happened to be a short distance from my conference hotel, it proved the perfect place to steal away with a book for a quiet meal at the counter. If you dine at the counter in La Pasta, line cook Oscar will give suggestions about menu items. The Cacio e Pepe gave the requisite kick of black pepper and creamy Parmesan as I twirled the noodles around my fork. Another time, I sampled the Pappardelle con Funghi, a housemade egg pasta with shiitake mushrooms in a comforting tomato sauce. Yet another time, a small group of us wound our way to La Verdure, a vegetarian restaurant steps away from the ever-popular La Pasta / La Pizza. The notion of multiple restaurants inhabiting the open space makes for easy alternatives. At La Verdure, I ordered the Cavolo Nero salad composed of black Tuscan kale with grapefruit, pomegranate, Parmigiano Reggiano Frico that made a satisfying lunch. On yet another occasion, I opted for the Cannelloni, a decadent trio of housemade egg pasta stuffed with ricotta and spinach, sauced in béchamel. If you happen to be in the neighborhood and want a little something sweet, head to the Lavazza Café for a short shot of liquid dessert in the form of their Neve Sulla Lava, three layers of flavor and temperature. Thick Italian drinking chocolate makes up the base with espresso granita on top and freshly whipped cream. Yowza.

Situated on the corner of West Randolph, this diner does a good job of playing up its fun modern interpretations on comforting brunch fare that they call “cereal killers,” sandwiches and more. I knew I wanted to visit for breakfast. Little Goat offers a steal of a deal of $10 breakfasts in three combinations with one of them being gluten-free, if you dine between 7-9 a.m. My Simple Goat selection of eggs, hash browns and biscuit offered a lot of food for a small price. Did you miss that time window because of a late night yesterday? No worries. The menu at Little Goat is as creative as you would expect coming from Stephanie Izard. Perched up at the bar looking into the action-paced kitchen window, I watched as the “Fat Elvis” was delivered to the patron next to me, all crispy waffles with a dollop of peanut butter, banana slices, candied bacon and syrup. On my other side, the Spiced Apple Pancakes arrived as big as the plates on which they were served, garnished with oatmeal crumble and buttermilk butter. Next time, I want to try the Spanish Omelette, loaded with cheddar, pickled peppers, masa chips, tomato and sour cream. The portions here are hefty, so come with friends and share or brown bag it. Also, head over to Little Goat Bread to pick up a freshly baked Miche loaf made of wheat, spelt, rye meal and buckwheat to take home, or if you’re in a hurry and can’t wait to be seated at the Little Goat Diner, nab a housemade Onion Rye Bagel smeared with kimchi cream cheese.

What is happening at this small neighborhood outpost in Logan Square is so exciting I couldn’t help but gush with co-founder Ethan about bread for at least five minutes. The restaurant name tipped me off as to what I could expect: whole grains and solid baking. Their canneles, still warm from the oven might depose macarons or cupcakes with the creamy, custardy middles and crisp candied exteriors. I relished a hearty slice of Bordeaux spinach quiche with roasted onion so creamy and the crust so light that it made for a comforting winter breakfast. What intrigued me the most were the Levain loaves being turned out in the kitchen during our time there. The open kitchen allowed us to peek in from the communal table as Ethan turned the fermenting dough in the cambro where it rested on the shelf. CDP just opened in late February and resembles in the best possible ways the kind of rustic handmade qualities loved in San Francisco’s Bar Tartine. Had we gone for lunch instead, I would have hankered to try the tartine of kefir, charred onion, shaved radish and carrot or the beet salad with sprouted rye. They also have a black garlic sable cookie I will try next time.

One thing most of humanity can agree on is that hipsters know where to find good coffee. I’m not sure if it’s the roasting that draws them in, or theme of a genteel hunting lodge, but Gaslight was definitely the place to be seen and sipping for good reason. The latte commanded creaminess with an assertive espresso foundation. Rishi loose teas, the laid-back vibe and counter seating added to the charm.

It’s no secret that I am obsessed with biscuits. And after trying what I deem to be “the best biscuit in the U.S.” I am ever on the hunt for it to find a viable contender. The biscuits at Bang Bang Pie are just such a biscuit. Since they bake them every hour, they take freshness to a whole new level because biscuits straight out of the oven, all flaky, hot, crumbly goodness. They serve them with fresh jam and fruity compound butter- two gold stars for Bang Bang. Maybe you crave salty over sweet, their Biscuit Muffin Strata brings together squash, nutmeg and pepitas for a savory breakfast or lunch. The sweet pies boggled my mind. I logged the selection of buttermilk custard pie in a vegetarian cornmeal shortbread crust as a must-try for my next visit.

Before Katherine Anne and I had ever met, I knew we needed to be friends after trying one of her caramels. Given that I would opt for chocolate any day over caramel, hers swayed me to the chewy side. Our wedding favors came in small glassine bags of his and hers Katherine Anne caramels. I exulted to see her first storefront confiserie. Along with those ridiculously good chocolate and walnut caramels, the candy case held chocolate truffles in exotic flavors like Goat Cheese Walnut or Fat Elvis. I eyed the Stout S’more. Intriguing flavors of marshmallows included Vanilla Black Pepper. Located in Logan Square, stop here for a cup of hot chocolate with a Champagne and rose petal marshmallow.

Located on the corner of Winchester and Augusta, this Ukraine Village restaurant is tucked away and serene. Decked out in white tile and pale wooden tables, something about this restaurant feels both comfortable and modern. This holds true while perusing the menu. The shaved Brussels sprouts salad blends with shaved fennel, salty grana padano, dill and chive for an interesting salad that easily emptied. What is described as Winter Squash Curry consisted of spaghetti squash in a riff on Pad Thai, bringing together a bit of surprise in each bite, bright color, and differing textures. For a future breakfast, I’m keen to try the quinoa hash brown or the mixed grain porridge with apple, cheddar and almonds.

Think you can’t eat a delectable vegetarian meal at a sushi and barbecue bar? After exploring the extensive menu, my skepticism melted away. Cozy up to a table near the fire and pass the sake at this urban restaurant. Start dinner off with the Mushroom Salad with its savory umami notes pairing with peppery rocket leaves. Plumb the clever depths of their sushi offerings including the black rice rolls and order a Shiitake and tempura enoki roll with green onion, avocado and sesame along with their Devon roll, stuffed with sweet potato, chives, pickled radish and drizzled with curry mayo. Next time, I will be sure to try a slice of Yuzu Pie. (Update: Since returning to San Francisco, I have scoured for vegetarian sushi as good as Chicago & Portland. I’m still looking.)

Across the street from the Little Goat Diner, Nellcote is one part swanky decor and two parts eclectic menu. We dove into their assemblage of trumpet, oyster, royale and cremini wood-roasted mushrooms over warm silky polenta along with a kale salad with pecans to start off our meal. Did you know they mill their own flour in-house? Once I learned this detail from scavenging their menu online, a plate of pasta was foreseen and came in the guise of butternut squash agnolotti served in a brown butter sauce with quince, sage and Parmesan. A decadent choice for the evening, I skipped dessert but almost left with a bag of homemade dried pasta using their on-site milled flour. Be still my whole grain heart.

It grieved me to learn about the Adagio tea store on the day before leaving Chicago. Clearly, I don’t get out enough and founder Michael Cramer brews a fine cuppa. This oversight needs to be rectified next time but I peeked into the windows minutes after they had closed, marveling at the modern interior and all the selections of teapots.

Next time, I’m keen to venture over to Spritzburger because the idea of burgers, brunch and bubbles sounds like far too much fun plus Gale Gand is one of the folks at the helm. Also, and trust me it’s from the lack of not having another stomach or self to go everywhere I’d like, I’m still jonesing to visit the Purple Pig, Longman & Eagle and revisit the Violet Hour or their new bar, Analogue which I hear has a ridiculously good chicken sandwich. Next time, Chicago. Until then, I remain fixed in my regret that I don’t live closer to Chicago and the creative food being plated in that fine city.

When you’re in Chicago, where do you like to eat and what do you like to do?

Redwood Mills Food City Cornmeal Recalled - Recipes


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Our Problems with Wood Chip Gardening

Yes, we have had problems in our wood chip gardens. In every case, however, we were the problem, not the wood chip mulch itself. As I mentioned, wood chips as a mulch are not as forgiving as say, hay.

Mulch too deeply with hay, and you won’t likely have any problems. Maybe your soil won’t warm as quickly in the spring, or you’ll have a problem with slugs in a particularly rainy year.

No matter what mulch you use in a no-dig garden, it will need to be pushed aside at planting time so that you can plant your seeds, or seedlings in the soil, not in the mulch.

Deep wood chips are very difficult to push aside. Not so with hay. Hay, of course, needs to be replenished much more quickly than wood chips and for us, often comes with a dollar sign attached.

I have found that 2 – 3″ is just right for wood chip mulch. Most of our problems have resulted from mulching too deeply.

In addition, according to this source, “wood chips that heat up and partially decompose can produce volatile organic compounds that inhibit seed germination and plant growth.” I have found that to be true.

Seeds, especially small ones, that have planted in the layer just between the soil and the mulch (partially decomposed chips) don’t germinate. This can be a plus, since weed seeds also don’t germinate.


Old Bale Mill at the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park on Mill Creek in Napa is a water-powered grain mill built in 1846, predating California’s statehood. Dr. Edward Turner Bale received the land on which the mill was built in a grant from the Mexican government. While in operation, the mill was a center for social activity in the Upper Valley. Settlers came to the mill to grind local Sonora wheat and corn, two of the Valley’s major crops at the time. According to the mill’s website, the slow turning of the old grindstones and the dampness of the mill’s site gave the meal a special quality for making cornbread, yellow bread, shortening bread and spoon bread. As old timers put it, “When meal comes to you that way, like the heated underside of a settin’ hen, it bakes bread that makes city bread taste like cardboard.” The mill remained in use until the early 1900s.

After many years of neglect, the mill has been recently restored to perfect operating condition. Under the watchful eye of miller Jim Annis, grist (grains like wheat, corn and barley) is again being ground on the renovated original quartzite stones from France — and visitors are invited to watch the entire process. The grounds of the mill are open daily and tours are available on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s a magical moment when miller Annis asks for a volunteer to help him open the sluice gates to activate the big water wheel with its new redwood slats. Jeanne Marioni, outreach coordinator for the Napa Valley State Parks Association that, along with the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District, helped to renovate and now operate the mill, says that the groups are excited about the new possibilities for more community involvement and education. For more information visit or call 707.963.2236.

Monica Spiller of the nonprofit Whole Grain Connection ( supplies seeds and advice to most of the grain growers in the Northern California area. Monica has devoted most of the last three decades to the study of and experimentation with the different varieties of wheat that were historically grown in this area.

According to her, one of the most popular varieties is the Sonora that is being grown by Lou Preston, among others. This soft white wheat was probably the first wheat introduced on the American continent by the Spanish in the 1500s (although there is some debate about this). It was the variety used by native peoples in Mexico in making their staple of whole-wheat tortillas. Brought north by the Spanish friars for their missions, Sonora was widely planted in California by the early 1800s and up through the Civil War and provided most West Coast residents with their flour during that period.

Sonora is specially suited for small organic farming, as it is naturally tall, and thus able to shade out weeds and reduce the need for herbicides. It is also extremely disease and drought tolerant, capable of producing an abundant crop with no irrigation and less-than-optimum soil as compared to modern wheat varieties.

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Not only do these pollinators bring more flowers, fruits, and vegetables to gardens, they also give us honey that can be added to everything from hot tea to homemade beauty products. Bees are important to the environment, and their numbers are threatened. For this reason, outdoor lovers, gardeners, and beekeepers want to grow bee colonies.

Something else buzz-worthy: Building a DIY beehive isn’t difficult. There are plenty of free DIY beehive plans online to get you started. You’ll have your own DIY hive and busy bees at your home in no time.

What Is the Best Beehive for Beginners?

Beekeeping experts say the best beehive for beginners is the Langstroth because it promotes honey production (since the honeycomb can be reused). Honey production can be a big encouragement for beginners, and being able to serve honey from your DIY beehive is a source of pride.

Langstroth beehives are also a common hive style, so you’ll find more training information about the Langstroth, and more beekeepers who are familiar with it. That will make it easier to find support online or from beekeepers in your area.

How Do I Start My Own Beehive?

Before you start building a hive from one of these plans, start learning all you can about beekeeping. Join a local beekeeping group in your area or online. There you’ll find information on how to start your own DIY beehive and how to introduce bees to the hive.

How to Build the Simplest Beehive

The simplest beehives may be the Warre or Langstroth style. They are essentially wooden boxes with frames for bees to build combs. Free DIY beehive instructions (below) can get you started building your first DIY beehive.

Important Details to Consider When Building a Beehive

Before you get out the toolbox, take into consideration what you want to accomplish through DIY beekeeping, and also, your property, beekeeping skills, and DIY building knowledge.

Hives for honey production can be different from ones designed to encourage the pollination of nearby plants and trees. The numbers of bees desired may differ based on acreage and your beekeeping goals.

Whether you’re in it for the honey or the pollination of your garden, size does matter when it comes to a beehive. Generally, the larger the hive, the more bees you’ll have. More bees equal greater pollination rates and higher honey production — so long as you have the pollen to sustain them.

Types of Materials to Use

Most beehives are built with wood, but there are plenty of alternative hive plans that use reclaimed objects such as repurposed wooden pallets, wood scraps, metal barrels, plastic buckets, logs, and even Mason jars. Those who are beekeeping for environmental reasons may find building DIY beehives from reclaimed materials to be particularly satisfying.

You’ll also need to take stock of your woodworking and DIY skills. Many of these DIY beehive projects are easy, but all of them require the use of tools, woodworking knowledge, or both. If you need help, consider hiring a carpenter to help.

The early morning sun gets bees out and foraging earlier, so consider where the sun rises on your property as a clue for best beehive placement.

Temperature is another consideration in beekeeping and beehive placement. In the northeastern United States, hives can stay in full sun the whole season without overheating. In warmer climates, afternoon shade is a plus for keeping bees healthy.

Also, be sure to check with your city and homeowners association for beehive placement. Some areas have regulations requiring beehives to be located a certain distance from a neighbor’s property line.

Once your DIY beehive is finished, you’ll want to paint or varnish the exterior to preserve the wood and protect it from the elements.

Your DIY beehive will also need some residents. A single bee colony can include as many as 60,000 bees! Beginning beekeepers can purchase a package of bees including a queen and worker bees, or a nucleus hive, to get started. You can also attract bees from the wild to some beehive styles, such as the swarm box included in our roundup.

You’ll also need beekeeping gear including gloves, a veil to protect your face, and tools like a smoker with fuel, bee brush, and frame feeder. Classes in person or online will teach you the basics, and there are plenty of beekeeping websites, groups, blogs, and books available.

Free Beehive Plans to Consider

The three basic types of beehives – the Langstroth, Warre, and top bar – are included in our roundup of DIY beehive plans, but so are some other unique beehive options. Our DIY beehive roundup includes a few, less common beehive styles.

Long Langstroth Hive Planphoto courtesy of horizontal hive

This long model is a Langstroth which is a great choice for beginning beekeepers. Thick walls provide good insulation, and its legs put it out of reach of mice and other wildlife.

Find the plans at Horizontal HiveTop Bar Beehive PlanPHOTO COURTESY OF HOBBY FARMS

Top bar beehives date back to the 1600s and focus more on the natural state of the bees rather than honey production. This bee cabinet plan can be customized by adding a hinged lid and legs to keep the bees out of harm’s way.

This Langstroth option includes ten frames your bees can call home. It’s a good option for intermediate beekeepers and woodworkers.

Dating back to the 1948 book “Beekeeping for All,” this plan will keep a beginning to intermediate woodworker busy as a bee. This beehive is a good option for beekeepers — from beginners to experienced veterans.

Find the plans at Warre BeekeepingBudget-Friendly Warre Beehive photo courtesy of the bee space

Pronounced “War-ray,” the Warre model is smaller than a ten-frame Langstroth hive, so it should be less expensive to build.

Find the plans at The Bee SpaceLangstroth Beehive Construction

Straight from the Extension Service of the British Columbia Department of Agriculture, this link includes detailed plans for a Langstroth hive.

This Langstroth plan calls for discarded wooden pallets or skids, making it a great way to reuse and upcycle wood as a beehive project.

Find the plans at InstructablesCanadian Langstroth Beehive Plans

This Langstroth version from Ontario is a vertical stack of beehive boxes designed for the home beekeeper.

Find the plans at City Boy HensBarrel Beehive Plansphoto courtesy of foodplotsurvival on instructables

A 55-gallon drum can become a DIY beekeeping project with a little ingenuity and woodworking. Check out the plans.

This beehive cabinet is made from wood scraps, so any cost or waste is minimal. It’s in the Langstroth style and is fine for the beginner beekeeper.

Find the plans at InstructablesHolzer Style Log Bee Hivephoto courtesy of permies

The main material in this DIY beekeeping project is, ideally, a log with a solid exterior and a rotten core. If you don’t have one of those, a solid log will do, but it will mean more work hollowing out the log.

An open-source plan for a top bar beehive, this project would be suited well to those looking for pollination.

Find the plans at OSBeehivesSwarm Box Hive Plansphoto courtesy of tecwyn twmffat on Instructables

These plans for a plywood swarm box will have you attracting bees from the wild, or you could start your colony with a nucleus hive.

“Shive” or “money hive,” this easy-to-build plan is a DIY project for beginning to intermediate woodworks and budget-conscious beekeepers. Its focus is mainly on honey production.

Find the plans at InstructablesBeehive in a Bucket Plansphoto courtesy of instructables

Not a woodworker? Not a problem! This plan calls for a hive inside a plastic bucket with a PVC pipe as a center post. The bucket beehive will encourage pollination.

Find the plans at InstructablesMason Jar Beehivephoto courtesy of Beekeepclub

An innovative beehive option, this DIY beehive project starts with a pine board with holes cut into it to accommodate 6 to 8 Mason jars. A plus is that you can see the bees at work inside the jars.

Find the plans at BeeKeepClubTire Beehive Plansphoto courtesy of nathan nash on instructables

Got old tires in the garage? They can be the framework for a DIY beehive to bring more pollinators to your garden.

Find the plans at InstructablesModified OATH Beehive Plansphoto courtesy of rochedale community garden

Great for warm climates, the Original Australian Trigona Hive (or OATH) has a heat shield and ventilation to keep bees from overheating in the summer. This beehive design coupled with a little shade will keep your bee colony happy and healthy all season.

A thriving colony of bees in a DIY beehive that you built yourself is an idea that increasing numbers of homeowners have decided is pretty sweet. Whether helping bees grow in number, increasing pollination of flowers, fruits, and vegetables in your gardens, or producing honey to serve or share, the benefits of having a beehive at home are many.

DIY beehive plans are plentiful online, and many of them are free. Woodworking skills, careful planning and a little research, and reading in advance will have you beekeeping at home DIY-style quickly and easily.

Make Your Own Delicious Sourdough English Muffins

There are many things in this strange world with names that don’t suit them. Jerusalem artichokes are actually a sunflower. The peacock mantis shrimp is neither peacock, mantis, nor shrimp. The blindworm is a legless lizard that can see just fine. And don’t even get me started with the lesser broomrape. I don’t know what such a decent, lovely flower did to deserve a name like that.

In the breakfast food department, there’s the rather poorly-titled English muffin. It’s more a crumpet than a muffin, and it was actually invented in New York (though the baker in question was admittedly a Brit named Samuel Bath Thomas).

We can all agree, though, that those chewy-crisp circles are delicious even if the name is misleading. And you can make some at home that taste as good (better, I contest) than the ones wrapped in plastic at the store. Surprisingly simple to whip up, the secret to these little cranny-loaded loaves is that they are cooked on the stovetop, not the oven! Adding these English muffins to your baking repertoire means that you have one less thing to buy, and if you use sourdough, yet another way to use that fermented, bubbly goodness.

Homemade English Muffinssourdough english muffins // wren everett

I used to think that English muffins needed some mysterious process to come into being, and settled on hunting for the rare appearance of the organic, whole-wheat ones at the store. But one rainy morning, we decided it was time to figure it out, and we learned the process is neither difficult nor mysterious.

Once we “cracked the code” of English muffins in our kitchen, these tasty little breads have become a staple item. They even give us a chance to have sourdough-leavened goodness in the heat of summer. As you will see, they can be cooked outdoors over a low fire or on an electric skillet, leaving the oven blissfully off.

Using a sourdough starter will result in chewier, better textured, more authentic-tasting English muffins. But if you’re in a hurry, or you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can turn out soda-raised ones that are still mighty tasty. Just know that the soda-leavened will be a little denser and lack that distinctive tang.

Here’s our homestead’s recipe for infinitely customizable, wonderfully whole wheat, and naturally leavened breakfast goodness.

  • 3½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sour milk product: homemade yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, whey leftover from cheesemaking, or milk with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar added
  • 1/2 cup sourdough starter OR 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter or oil
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Water
  • Cornmeal for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon and 3/4 cup raisins (optional)
  1. Add flour, sour milk product, starter, oil, sugar, and salt into a large bowl, and mix well.

2. Add water a little bit at a time until it forms a soft dough. Knead for a minute or so. It should yield easily to your hands, but not be unworkably sticky.

3. Allow dough to rest 10 minutes.

4. Turn dough onto a surface liberally dusted with cornmeal. Pat flat until the mass is about three-quarters inch thick.

5. Using a biscuit cutter (I like using one about 2½ inches in diameter), cut as many rounds as you can from the dough. Collect the scraps, press together until solid, then pat flat, and cut again. Continue until all the dough has been cut into rounds.

6. If using sourdough, place the cornmeal-dusted rounds onto a baking pan and allow to rise in a warm place for anywhere from 4 to 8 hours.

If using baking soda, allow to rest for 5 to 8 minutes.

7. Heat up a DRY (that’s important!) cast iron skillet on medium or medium-low heat

NOTE: Finding the ideal burner heat may take some adjustment, so err on the side of cooking too slowly as you figure it out. The cooking of the first side should take a few minutes. Resist the urge to turn up the heat or you’ll end up with burned outsides and raw middles.

8. Carefully place the rounds in the hot pan. If cooking with sourdough, flip them so the dry side that was facing up while they were rising, is now the surface facing down to cook (this will result in more regular-shaped muffins).

9. Once the muffins have poofed, check their bottoms. They should be very toasted with the brown getting close to chocolate brown (but not burned, of course). Flip the muffins and allow the other side to also toast brown. When cooked, the outer edges should be dry, yet soft and springy. Split a few of your first muffins to ensure they’re done.

10. Carry on until all the dough is cooked.

Grab a muffin, grab a fork, and split it along that soft, edge seam. Cackle in delight as you see all those nooks and crannies revealed. Then toast your homemade muffins, slather them in good butter and jam, or top with a fresh fried egg and mustard.

Yield: RougHly 10 Standard-Size English Muffins

Breakfast for dinner, anyone?

17 Creative DIY Kitchen Cabinet Plans to Revive Your Kitchen With

Do-it-yourself projects have really become quite the popular hobby these days. Why is that? Well, there are a few reasons surrounding the uptick in DIY projects.

For starters, a lot of the time, DIY projects cost less money than they would to buy a finished product or even pay someone else to do the project. People like to save money, and DIY gives them an avenue to do so. On the other hand, DIY projects are simply fun. Some individuals like a challenge and a nice DIY home project presents that. DIY projects also often give you a chance to use something old that you may have otherwise thrown out.

Today, we’re going to help you tackle your kitchen cabinets by showcasing some awesome DIY kitchen cabinet plans. These plans take kitchen renovation to the next level, guiding you through your cabinet project step-by-step. Plus, these DIY kitchen cabinets are free.

Important Details to Consider When Building a Kitchen Cabinet

Before we dive into your kitchen cabinets DIY plans, there are a few important considerations we need to discuss. These considerations will help you pick the right plan for your kitchen projects.

Kitchen and Kitchen Cabinet Size

The first thing you need to do before starting your kitchen renovation is measuring your space. The size of your kitchen plays a critical role in determining the size of your cabinets.

Once you have measured the walls in your kitchen, you can start sketching out the type of cabinets you want and what size you want them to be. Remember, larger cabinets will mean fewer of them, while smaller cabinets will get you more.

Types of Materials to Use

There are tons of different woods available at your local hardware store to choose from, so take your time on this part and choose the lumber you like best. Some of the most popular (and best) options include:

And this is just to name a few. Some wood can be a bit pricey, so it’s important that you consider the cost against your budget.

You will also need other materials like a drill, screws, wood glue, and hardware. Most of that is easy to choose from, so make the wood your most important decision. Typically, this makes building your own cabinets cheaper than buying or having new ones installed.

Do you want cabinets over your kitchen sink, or would you prefer to put shelves there? Are you looking to install cabinets over the refrigerator? What size cabinets do you want and where?

A key component to having success during your cabinets project is to have a plan. Decide where you want your cabinets to go, how you want them aligned, and what type of cabinets you want and where.

Having a plan can save you a lot of trouble in the long run, so hammer out these details before you start building.

Free Kitchen Cabinet Plans to Consider

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some free kitchen cabinet plans for you to consider following. These easy kitchen cabinet projects will guide you through your DIY project step by step.

Domestic Imperfection is a blog that does a great job walking you through the cabinet building process, along with installation. It showcases clearly drawn plans that work best for a large kitchen and takes you through step-by-step.

Find the plans at Domestic ImperfectionKitchen Base Cabinets Planphoto courtesy of ana white

Ana White has a passion for building and sharing DIY projects and has been doing so for over ten years, so we love sharing her projects with our readers. Ana’s kitchen base cabinets tutorial walks you through the steps of constructing a base cabinet for your kitchen. The plan uses clear diagrams and even takes you through terminology so you can understand what she’s talking about the whole time.

Find the plans at Ana WhiteUp-to-Ceiling Cabinet Planphoto courtesy of thrifty decor chick

The Thrifty Decor Chick, Sarah, offers a DIY plan that lets you build your cabinets all the way to the ceiling, rather than leaving that gap of space up there. The project includes a header piece along with some upper molding to really tie everything together.

Find the plans at Thrifty Decor ChickBarn Wood Style Cabinet Planphoto courtesy of upcycled Treasures

Mountain Modern Life gives us an excellent tutorial on how you can transform any old cabinet into a beautiful barn wood design. Not only can you repurpose old wood for this project, but you can give your kitchen a serious upgrade on a budget. This is a great project plan for anyone who’s not looking to completely rebuild and install new cabinets but would rather upgrade their existing ones.

This Hometalk blog by GrandmasHouseDIY walks us through a kitchen cabinet project that lets one person do it all on their own. These simple cabinets don’t have a lot of personality to them, but they’re easy for beginners and only require 2x4s, 1x4s, beadboard plywood, and some paint and hardware of your choice.

Find the plans at Home Talk Fridge Enclosure Cabinet Plansphoto courtesy of Young house Love

Young House Love shows readers a great way to include your fridge during the cabinet building process. With this plan, you can build an enclosure around your bulky fridge, making it blend in more. Plus, you can also add a cabinet on top for extra storage space using plywood and pine trim.

Find the plans at Young House LovePull-Out Shelves for Kitchen Cabinet Plans

Who doesn’t like functional storage? This step-by-step plan shows you how to remove your old shelves and build and install new, pull-out shelves. While this project is a bit more advanced in the world of kitchen cabinets, it does break things down quite well.

Find the plans at Ron HazeltonWall Kitchen Corner Cabinet Plansphoto courtesy of ana white

We’re back again with some more Ana White content (we did say we love sharing her stuff). This time, we’re looking at a plan to construct your own wall kitchen corner cabinet.

This plan works best with wall cabinets that use 11 ¾-inch width plywood rips so that the face frames will match up perfectly. Again, in true Ana fashion, we’re looking at a plan that has detailed diagrams and clear instructions, so it’s a great free plan to check out.

Are you looking to increase your kitchen storage? This DIY plan adds convenient space using simple rollout bins that you can make yourself. This shows you how to size your rollouts, choose your materials, cut your pieces, assemble your boxes, and install them – all in one place.

Find the plans at Family HandymanOpen Shelving with Crate Cabinetsphoto courtesy of Omer O on instructables

You can use crates in your home for a wide range of uses, from decor to functional pieces. This Instructables plan shows you, with pictures, how to create beautiful, rustic open shelving using crates.

If you’re looking for a simple, straightforward plan on constructing kitchen cabinets, this is the one to choose. Wood Magazine shows you everything, from measuring and planning to materials and the actual building process. Everything you need to know is in this plan, and then some.

Find the plans at Wood Magazine18” Kitchen Cabinet Drawer Base PlansPHOTO COURTESY OF ANA WHITE

Apparently, you can just never have too much Ana White! The DIY queen herself delivers another superb kitchen cabinet plan – this time, with a focus on cabinet drawer bases. This advanced plan walks you through building an 18” cabinet drawer base using mainly plywood.

Find the plans at Ana WhiteShelves Above Cabinets Plansphoto courtesy of family handyman

The Family Handyman shows you how to make every inch of space count in your kitchen with their plan for shelves above kitchen cabinets. With just an 18-gauge finish nailer, a cordless drill, a miter saw, and a nail set, you can utilize that empty space for an easy upgrade to your kitchen.

Find the plans at Family HandymanReady-to-Assemble Cabinet Plansphoto courtesy of blivert on instructables

True DIYers might find ready-to-assemble cabinets as cheating, but the truth is that it’s a nice middleman between building from scratch and paying a contractor. This plan gives great steps to guide DIYers as they build their ready-to-assemble cabinets.

Corner cabinets can be a bit tricky, and there are several ways to tackle them. This plan from Designs by Studio C gives you a comprehensive list of supplies and materials, along with clear steps and straightforward diagrams to follow.

You can never learn too much about designing and building base cabinets. This plan explores a wide range of cabinet styles in great detail before jumping into the actual project. We find the attention to detail extremely helpful, and the installation diagram at the bottom is ideal.

Find the plans at Canadian Wood WorkingKitchen Cabinet Sink Base Plansphoto courtesy of ana white

What better way to wrap things up than with one last Ana White recommendation? This last plan comes with the signature Ana diagrams and instructions, but it also includes a 3D model upload to help you even further to build kitchen cabinets specifically for your sink base.

20 Fun and Useful DIY Paracord Projects

Paracord is a lightweight nylon kernmantle rope that is actually a parachute cord. At one time, it was strictly used by the military during World War II (it’s pretty versatile).

It was even used by astronauts during the 82nd Space Shuttle mission to make a repair to the Hubble Space Telescope. Since then, the uses have evolved from military to personal, and now it’s used by people everywhere.

These days you’ll see paracords used for all sorts of crafting projects. It is durable yet lightweight. A lot of survivalists and homesteaders make use of paracord because it’s easy to work with. Let’s check out some fun and useful DIY paracord projects to try at home.

Paracord Survival Braceletphoto courtesy of backpacker

I love dual-purpose items. This paracord survival bracelet looks good, and it serves a purpose. If you’re out in the woods and find yourself in need of paracord or rope to help you out of a situation, undo the shackle and you have a length of cord. All you need is a shackle and paracord. They require about 12 feet of rope for the example in the instructions.

Find the project at BackpackerParacord Cobra BraceletPhoto Courtesy of Instructables

This cobra bracelet uses the cobra knot. You’ll need about 12 feet of paracord, a buckle, or clasp that can be plastic or metal. You will also need a scissor, lighter, and a paracord fid. There are only four simple steps to follow. Repeat the steps until your bracelet is finished.

Find the project at InstructablesParacord Keychainphoto courtesy of instructables

This keychain is one of the best paracord projects for beginners. All you need is some paracord, keychain rings, scissor, and a lighter. There are different variations that allow you to add flare to it, but overall, it’s a simple project that’s great for those who are learning.

Find the project at InstructablesParacord Bullwhipphoto courtesy of instructables

This bullwhip project isn’t recommended for beginners. There are several items you will need besides the paracord, but the instructions list them all. Whether you want a bullwhip for target practice or just to play, everything you need to know is included.

Find the project at InstructablesParacord Lanyardphoto courtesy of homemade gifts made easy

A lanyard can be handy for holding your keys, work IDs, and small pocket knives. This specific lanyard project calls for 13 feet of 550 paracord, a metal clip, ruler, rubber band, scissor, and a lighter. These paracord projects are fun and make great gifts for adults and kids.

Find the project at Homemade Gifts Made EasyParacord Beltphoto courtesy of diy projects

Is it just me, or does this belt look really durable and comfortable? This belt also serves as a survival tool in the event that you need cord. It will give you about 50 feet of paracord rope if needed. All you have to do is untie the knot, detach the buckle, and pull the end of the cord.

Find the project at DIY ProjectsParacord Dog Leashvideo courtesy of paracording around

So, a 4-foot dog leash will require 8 feet of paracord. This dog leash paracord project is pretty basic, but it will take a little time since it’s kind of long. Further down this list, you’ll find the instructions to make a paracord dog collar. I’ve also heard you can make dog toys using paracord and that it’s safe for pups to chew.

Find the project hereParacord Monkey’s Fistvideo courtesy of EVeryday knife guy

The monkey’s fist has a history that dates back to the 1800s. I read that at one time, these were used as a weapon but mostly, making this monkey fist project is fun. You can use it as a weight at the end of the rope (depending on how big you make it) or as a decoration. I sometimes fidget, so it’s great for that, too.

Find the project hereParacord Crafting Knotsvideo courtesy of paracord planet

This video will show you how to make several of the basic and common knots used when creating paracord projects. For those of you out there just getting into paracord, it might be a good place to start. The more you practice, the faster and more efficient your crafting becomes.

Find the project hereParacord Zipper Pullsvideo courtesy of
The Weavers of Eternity Paracord

Zipper pulls are usually the first thing that break. If you have little ones, this project is a great idea for them. Coats and bookbags are easier to open and close if they have a zipper pull. You don’t need much cord since they’re small, but if you want a long one, I won’t stop ya!

Find the project hereParacord Walletphoto courtesy of instructables

I have to say that this is one of my favorite projects on the list. You will be using gutted paracord, and if you don’t have a fid, you may want to get one, or you can improvise by using an aluminum tent stake or something of the sort. The method is a basic over and under technique. A good project for beginners.

Find the project at InstructablesParacord Snake Knot Multi-Tool Belt Pouchvideo courtesy of The Weavers of Eternity Paracord

Carrying around a multi-tool in my pocket can be annoying. Some pockets won’t hold them as well as others, so having something like the multi-tool belt pouch made in this project might be awesome. This project uses paracord and stretch cord so the pouch is snug enough to hold the tool, and stretchy enough to hold different sized tools that may be larger.

Find the project hereParacord Drawstring Pouchphoto courtesy of instructables

This drawstring pouch requires 100 feet of paracord, something hard and sturdy as a base while creating, a scissor, and a lighter to seal the deal. This specific pouch isn’t very big, but you could always use more cord. It would make a good beach bag or a laundry bag.

Find the project at InstructablesParacord Poseable Army Menphoto courtesy of instructables

OK, so a few items up on the list, I mentioned a favorite. I must also add this one to the favorites list. What an awesome way to make toys for your little ones. The project is fun, and although some kids might think these army men are not as good as the real deal, they’re still cool because they’re made at home. You’ll need some paracord and thin wire (and something to cut them). Bonus: They’re easy on the feet when stepped on, unlike plastic army men.

Find the project at InstructablesParacord Hammockphoto courtesy of Instructables

What’s better than hanging a new hammock in the backyard? Hanging a homemade hammock in the backyard. This is a much bigger project, and it requires more than paracord and scissors. You have to build a hammock loom before you can begin looming. If you’re up to it, I’d definitely try out this one!

Find the project at InstructablesParacord Cell Phone Casevideo courtesy of The Weavers of Eternity Paracord

I’ve seen a lot of cell phone cases and holsters, but this one looks amazing. I feel like my phone would be protected and have some padding to keep it safe. The amount of paracord needed varies depending on the size of your phone. You’ll want the pouch to hold the phone snug, so it doesn’t fall out, and you can make it with or without the belt loop.

Find the project hereParacord Dog Collarphoto courtesy of DIY Projects

Here is the dog collar project that you make to match the leash listed above. In order to make a 20-inch collar, you’ll need 19 feet of one color paracord and another 19 feet of a different color. You’ll also need a buckle, a D-ring, scissor, and a lighter. You can use either plastic or metal for the buckle. I think it’s super cute, even if the dog doesn’t know the amount of work that went into it.

Find the project at DIY ProjectsParacord Adjustable Chairphoto courtesy of Instructables

A little woodworking knowledge will be needed for this project. The chair is adjustable with a wooden frame, and the backing and seat are made of paracord. The instructions have all the details on supplies needed, and it’s totally easy to modify this as you wish. I think a larger seat would be a good idea, but that’s just my opinion.

Find the project at InstructablesParacord Laced Hanging Chairphoto courtesy of instructables

Here, you will be upcycling some wood from a pallet to create an awesome hanging chair. This project only uses the paracord to lace through the wood. I imagine it is totally possible to create a hanging chair completely out of paracord, but I’m not sure how. Any ideas?

Find the project at InstructablesParacord Snow Shoesphoto courtesy of instructables

This project uses paracord to create traditional snow shoes using paracord as the webbing. With all the snow that fell across the U.S. this winter these would’ve come in handy. The instructions are divided into two groups: The first being the frame for the snow shoes and the second being the webbing. You’ll need some basic tools for the frame, but other than that, just the basics of any paracord project.

Paracord is a versatile material, making it great for all sorts of projects from DIY crafting to repairs. There are a lot of great ideas to try. What are some of your favorites?

Homestead Stories: Snowdrops, the First Flowers of Spring

Did you know there’s a flower that pokes its bud through the snow, impatient for spring? They’re called snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and they’re one of my favorite flowers, especially since they’re a sure sign spring is on the way. And did you also know there’s more than one type of snowdrop? And there are snowdrops that actually grow in autumn?

My memories of snowdrops date back to my mother’s garden. She had a lovely spread of snowdrops that popped up, quite literally, even before the snow had totally disappeared. The effect was like a delicate, white carpet of tiny, 3-petalled flowers that dropped from the stems. The white bloom associates it with snow — hence, the name. There’s also the fact that the flower looks like a snowflake, dropping from the sky

Snowdrops in spring // Emily-Jane Hills Orford

We never had to plant snowdrop bulbs as they were already proliferous around the property. But Mom always warned never to touch the plant or the bulb with bare hands.

“Very poisonous,” she warned. “Even touching it can result in an unpleasant reaction. Wear gloves when planting or moving bulbs to a new location.”

Much like poison ivy, I reasoned, and heeded Mom’s warnings.

My current research confirms them. Snowdrops are toxic to both animals and humans. If eaten, the result can be dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, and, yes, even death. However, mashed snowdrop bulbs have apparently been used as a remedy for chilblains (swelling due to extreme cold and poor circulation) and frostbite and can be effective as an analgesic for headaches. I’m not sure if this idea is worth a try, as it contradicts the fact they cause skin rashes.

There is a plus side. Since snowdrops are toxic, there is no concern of wildlife like deer, squirrels, and chipmunks devouring either the plant or the bulb — as animals tend to do with other spring flowers.

When snowdrops appear depends on the region, usually in March or early April though sometimes as early as February. Ours were really early this year in the beginning of March. Probably due to global warming and the shortest winter I can recall. The plant fares well in our sunny areas which have some shade when the surrounding trees have sprouted their leaves. It enjoys the extra moisture of the melting snow and thrives for several weeks before the flowers fade.

Different Types of Snowdrops

My snowdrops are the traditional snowdrops (sometimes referred to as common snowdrops) that most people enjoy in their spring gardens, but there are others. In fact, there are at least a thousand different types of snowdrops. Here are a few of the most commonly recognized.

The giant snowdrop, or greater snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii), grows twice as tall (about 1 foot) as the common snowdrop. The nodding white flower has a double green mark on the inner petals and is another hardy, late winter/early spring plant.

The Spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) is about the same size as the giant snowdrop. The small, white flower has green spots on its tepals and it’s lightly scented.

The summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) is a similar size to the spring snowflake. It has 4 to 8 white, bell-shaped flowers and almost looks like lily of the valley. This one blooms in late spring.

The magnet snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis‘Magnet’) is 8 to 10 inches tall, grows well in woodlands, lawns, rock gardens, and under deciduous trees. It has nodding white flowers with outer tepals twice as long as inner tepals. The inner tepals have a V-shaped green marking on the tip. It’s another late winter/early spring plant.

Flore Pleno Snowdropphoto by ellen on flickr

The next snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis ‘Flore Pleno’) is an attractive, double snowdrop with dainty, fluffy flowers. It is wider, fuller, has more tepals than the common snowdrop, and is slightly fragrant. A late winter (sometimes as early as January)/early spring plant.

The plicatus variety (Galanthus plicatus), like the common snowdrop, is a plant that only grows about 5 to 6 inches tall. The flower has six white tepals, the outer three all white and the inner three shorter, notched, and with a green mark from just above the notch to the middle of the tepal. Another late winter/early spring plant.

Snowdrop S. Arnottphoto by amanda slater on flickr

The S. Arnott snowdrop (Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’) is tall at 6 to 8 inches and sturdy. This robust plant has flowers with big tepals that open into beautiful, rounded blooms (1-inch wide) and gives off a lovely scent. It has V-shaped green markings on inner tepals. Like the ‘Flore Peno’ above, it sometimes blooms as early as late January.

The green snowdrop (Galanthus woronowii), mostly found in Turkey and Russia, is very leafy. The leaves grow up to 10 inches in length and are supervolute (one leaf tightly clasping around another at the base). These flowers a bit smaller than other snowdrops with a U-shaped green mark on the tips of the inner tepals, but it is less bold than on other snowdrops. Another hardy, late winter/early spring plant.

There are many other spring varieties, but here’s one that intrigues me: autumn snowdrop.

Snowdrop Reginae-Olgaephoto by tim waters on flickr

Queen Olga’s snowdrop (Galanthus reginae-olgae) is native to Sicily, the Balkans, and Greece and has pendant white flowers, three larger outer tepals which are pure white, and three smaller inner tepals with different green markings at the tips. It usually appears in autumn, but can also bloom in winter and early spring. It typically prefers a warmer climate to the other snowdrops.

With all the varieties of snowdrops to choose from, it’s nice to know there’s a variety suitable to just about every region. I’ll stick to the common snowdrop as it appears to be the most resilient in my growing area. For me, the best part (other than it’s an early promise of spring) is the fact that wildlife like deer avoid it. I’ll have to plant more bulbs.

DIY Worm Composting Solution for Under $20

Living off the grid – whether by choice or by chance – is all about efficiency. You need to learn to make the most of your land, your water, and even your food waste. That’s where worm composting comes in. Worm composting makes use of mealworms and earthworms to create a valuable soil additive called vermicompost. This “worm tea” is made up of the worm’s waste as your compost exits the worms’ “tail”, called a “worm casting”. The worm tea that worm compositing generates is a very effective fertilizer, and is perfect for greenhouses and potted plants.

Before we get too far with this: don’t drink the worm tea.

That said, let’s go over a basic list of the materials you’ll need to make your own, DIY worm composting solution:

Install the faucet/water valve into the bottom of one of the buckets. This is where the worm tea will come out, so you want it fairly low to make the job of extracting the tea easier.

Remove the handles, then drill a number of holes into the bottom of the 3x buckets that do NOT have a water valve. Once the worm composting is actually happening, the tea will drop down from layer to layer through these holes, so they should be relatively small. Smaller holes are better for the tea, but take longer to make and are a bit more high maintenance, since they can clog.

Draw a line 8″ from the bottom of the 3 buckets you drilled into. That’s the fill line, and approximates the same 1:3 proportions of the “minimum cavities” left in pre-manufactured worm composting kits.

To make the lid for your DIY worm composting rig, drill two holes into the “Homer” lid about an inch “in” on either side of the lid. The diameter of these should be just large enough to fit the crimped ends of one of the bucket handles you pried of in step 3. Next, drill (or cut) two more holes on the outer edge of the “Homer” lid. You should now have a lid the slides down most of the way into the bucket, covering the food while still allowing some air flow.

Cover the bucket’s holes with enough crumpled newsprint to cover every hole, then spray the paper with water. You should get a “coffee-filter” effect from this one-time process, which is meant to keep the worms from falling down into the bottom “tea bucket” while the colony is establishing itself.

Fill the bucket with a small layer of torn or shredded paper as bedding, then add a layer of topsoil and (of course!) worms. The paper helps to aerate the soil and keeping the worm bin aerobic (as opposed to anaerobic, which not only smells bad but is bad for the worms). Next, add another layer of paper strips and start adding food scraps like banana peels, apple cores, etc. to the bucket. Cornell University’s post on the subject says you should use “only raw fruit and vegetable scraps. Stay away from meats, oils, and dairy products, which are more complex materials than fruits and vegetables.” In addition, they recommend not using citrus fruits, which could attract fruit flies. Place another layer of shredded newsprint in between layers of food waste.

With enough worms and shredded paper your DIY worm composting kit should smell more rich and earthy, not rotten and gross. That’s especially good if, like many urban homesteaders, you have to live close to your garden on hot days.

I would love to give proper credit to the photographer in this post, but they’re listed as “Guest” on a three-year-old post. That said, there a number of more detailed, high-resolution images where I found them, and you should definitely check them out if my instructions are too vague. If you want to skip the DIY worm composting angle and pick up a ready-made worm composting kit, the Worm Factory kits are all-inclusive, and can usually be found for about $100 and up.

Cornell University, Pittsburgh Permaculture, the Worm Factory.

20 Free Pole Barn Plans

If you’re ready to take on a new project, why not consider constructing a pole barn? This type of building can add some much-needed storage space and covered area to a residential property. Unfortunately, due to the scarcity of information regarding pole barns, few individuals take on such an ambitious project.

Anyone who digs a little deeper will realize a pole barn has the potential to add versatility to your life. With so many iterations and strategies to choose from, conducting proper research is half the battle.

This post-frame construction has been around for centuries. With a dependable history, pole barns are a proven structure. What distinguishes this structure is the fact that it relies on posts as a framing member. The posts are buried in the ground and act as a solid foundation.

The reason people choose this type of structure is its cost-efficient and time-saving assembly. Pole barns, also known as pole buildings, are structures even beginners can execute to perfection. Omitting a concrete foundation will save you a ton of money, and allow for placement flexibility.

Important Details to Consider When Building a Pole Barn Pole Barn Size

We’ve established that pole barns are cost efficient, have a simple construction method, and offer placement flexibility. The next aspect to think about is size. Figuring out the appropriate size is tricky. Due to differences in land availability and usage, there is room for interpretation.

Identifying square footage is the key. Pole barns effectively cut down costs. However, this is only true if materials aren’t wasted on creating a larger space than needed. On the other hand, you do not want to end up with a lack of space. Identifying the proper square footage based on usage is highly recommended.

The 12-by-24 pole barn plan size is relatively standard. It is ideal for anyone looking to use the structure as a workshop. We can certainly see this size expanding if the structure is used for robust items. For example, fitting a trailer or a few horses will require a 40-by-60 pole barn plan. The good news is that you can always expand on your structure (of course, expansion will eventually cost more).

There are two primary materials used in constructing pole barns: wood and metal. You can use one of these two types exclusively, or you can decide to implement both. Using pole barn kits can facilitate the construction process.

Essentially, pole barn kits are packages that come with most of the material you’ll need to set up the barn. Pole barn kits make construction easier for beginners. As we all know, not everyone has a knack for building pole barn kits come in handy.

What You’ll Use the Barn For

Perhaps the most significant feature of pole buildings is the versatility of use. Truthfully, we can use pole barns for just about anything. These structures are essentially an extension of your home. Sure they can be used for storage, but they can also be utilized for many other things.

Suppose your hobby requires a dedicated space. Using a pole barn as a workshop is highly creative so why not build one? Artisans will have ample room for tools and equipment, and musicians can jam out in peace for hours on end. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

We can also use pole barns as garages. That may be a less traditional option, but due to the depth and height, pole barns can be the perfect option to house a car or large RV. Another great idea is using a pole barn as a horse stable. Your horses will find joy in how warm this structure can be during the winter months.

Sticking to the idea of offering a warm place to stay, pole barns can also be used as a place to hang out. Due to the ample amount of space, these structures offer a proper getaway for anyone in need of a break. For this purpose, individuals will want to seek out pole barn plans with living quarters. Ultimately, pole barns are incredibly versatile. It’ll be up to you to decide how to make the most of the structure.

Free Pole Barn Plans to Consider

Building a pole barn can cost a lot of money so it is always lovely when the plans are free. Below there are 20 different free pole barn plans that may just work for you.

University of Tennessee Multipurpose Barn Plans

These PDF plans provide accurate details. As a multipurpose barn, it is meant to be large enough to offer fantastic versatility.

Find the plans at UTKDairy Barn Plansphoto courtesy of Barn Geek

This plan is ideal for housing a small number of animals (it isn’t big enough for numerous cows). Extra room for feed is also taken into consideration. You can even find a nifty hardware kit to facilitate the process of post application.

The hay barn is one of the larger structures on this list. Its majestic beauty is unrivaled and offers an ample amount of square footage. The plans are incredibly detailed — and a little challenging to read.

Find the plans at Cobble LumberNorth Dakota University Pole Barn Plans

The directions may seem a bit complicated due to the format of the document. However, you can benefit from creating a wonderfully designed, 2-story barn to meet your needs with some added effort.

Find the plans at NDSUDrop Down Barn Plansphoto courtesy of BuIld your own

This pole barn is unique in that the dropdown plans detail a barn with less cover than traditional pole barns. It is recommended to utilize this type of barn for agricultural purposes.

This option is evidently storage based. Suppose you’re having trouble maintaining an organized living space. A run-in shed can provide additional storage. Removing the clutter from your existing area is always a great idea. With these simple plans, storing things like hay or grain is relatively easy.

This is quite a large barn with a post side shed included in the plans. Contrary to traditional PDF plans, the instructions are incredibly legible.

Find the plans at Tools For SurvivalOpen-Front Clear Span Barn Plansphoto courtesy of cps

This style is perfect for housing animals especially in warm climates. Due to the barn’s relatively open nature, anyone operating in cold temperatures may want to consider a barn that offers additional protection from the weather.

This appropriately-named barn utilizes simple pole barn plans. The plan is as straightforward as it can be, and the instructions are highly detailed and in depth. You’ll have a great looking barn up in no time. Consider purchasing pole barn kits to make assembly even more manageable.

When crafting a DIY barn, this may be the ideal post size for beginners. This 16-by-20 pole barn is sure to fit everyday surroundings. Opting for this plan will save you the hassle of having to find additional space.

Find the plans at My Outdoor PlansRon Fritz Pole Barn Plansphoto courtesy of 3d warehouse

This plan requires the use of a free program called SketchUp. Downloading this program is certainly worth it. You’ll be rewarded with the floor plan to a uniquely beautiful barn. You can even make changes to the look via the program.

This miniature barn is ideal for anyone working with limited space. The barn occupies a 12-by-16 area which will cost considerably less than the average-size barn we’re used to seeing with 12-by-20 pole barn plans.

Find the plans at My Outdoor PlansLSU Barn Plans for Heavy Snow Areas

There is no better barn to choose if your climate offers persistent snow. Being prepared for these conditions is always a smart idea.

Find the plans at LSUGarage Livestock and Grain Plans

This style will please those looking for something less barn-like and more home-like. The lack of a traditional aesthetic is a welcome change of pace, and the modern barn has a great look to it.

Find the plans at The Barn ToolboxLean-To Shed Plansphoto courtesy of my outdoor plans

If your wish is to maximize square footage, this is the plan for you. With this shed being 12-by-16 feet, the plan details a spacious design. Unlike other large barns, this one keeps its visual appeal.

This plan specializes in the storage of large vehicles or tractors. Machinery storage is made simple with these beautiful barn plans. Storing animals and grains alongside machinery is also recommended.

Find the plans at CSBEIowa State University Barn Plans

These 15 plans offered by Iowa State University, focus on utility barns. ISU is an excellent resource because they share plans of different sizes. Whether you want to build a large or a small barn will be entirely up to you.

Find the plans at IASTATETraditional Pole Barn Plans

The traditional barn plan keeps it simple. The design is basic and avoids any flair, but it does get the job done. Each post can be mounted firmly on the ground.

We know that pole barns are incredibly versatile. However, we still see them implemented for a specific use from time to time. This unique barn is used for storing tractors.

This small barn can be used to store equipment or can be utilized as a workshop. There are plenty of high-quality photos that will inspire you with the end product. Put your spin on the barn by choosing a unique exterior finish.

How to Pay Off Debt by Thinking Like a Homesteader: 20 Practical Ideas to Try

“The borrower is slave to the lender.” – Proverbs 22:7

Even if you’re not familiar with the book of Proverbs, when you have the burden of debt hanging over your life, you know this to be true. Living paycheck-to-paycheck, coasting by on minimum payments, and playing hot potato with your credit cards is not the way anyone wants to live.

It can feel like you’re stuck in a dead end rut, working hard at a job for nothing — like the numbers from your paycheck flit away on yet another payment and vaporize like mist. You may feel you totally lack control over how you want to live your life, and like you are wage-slave. But you don’t need to. There is a way out. It’ll take grit, but you can do it.

This article is particularly aimed at younger people mired in debt from their lifestyle choices and college loans, and especially single people or those without children. For those that are in debt due to tragedy, medical issues, or other out-of-your-control events, this article is also for you, but know that we understand it can be really challenging to get a whole family on board with a huge lifestyle change, and that personal tragedy comes loaded with spiritual and emotional terrains to navigate and heal.

Hopefully, I can provide all of you (no matter where the debt started) with some inspiration as you figure out how to take steps toward a better life. Surprisingly, a lot of that inspiration comes from an unlikely source … homesteading!

Read on to learn more about how to pay off debt the homestead way.

Now, you certainly don’t have to be an old-timey homesteader to get out of debt, but it can help you to think like an old-timey homesteader to get out of debt. I’ve often said that homesteading is like a crash course in reality, and that a practical, get-it-done-type attitude is also absolutely crucial to learning how to pay off debt.

If you’ll allow me to extend this metaphor through the whole article, I think you’ll see my point. To illustrate, let me give you four key mindsets that I believe are necessary to both homesteading and breaking free from debt, and then support the ideas offered later in this article.

1. Debt Doesn’t Have to Be Normal

If you’re an American, you’ve likely spent your entire life living in a country buried in debt, and the toxic financial culture reflects it. Every major purchase comes with financing options.

You were probably told that college was the only way to progress after high school whether you could afford it or not. You are offered credit card opportunities at every turn. It’s easy to think that buying things with money you don’t have is just the way things are.

Credit cards are a huge source of debt for many people.

But if you don’t want to live this way, you don’t have to. Debt isn’t natural, or normal, and you can break free from the lifestyle even if it is encouraged in every email promo, store banner, and commercial. Homesteaders didn’t live the life initially handed to them. They set out to make their own. Emulate that free-thinking with your finances, and stop believing that debt is the only option.

2. You Can Leave and Stake Your Claim

With the dissatisfaction of life in the city, homesteaders of the past wanted a new life in the forest, the prairie, the mountains. They left what was familiar and set out for new territory at the expense of their old ways of life, old habits, and old friends.

When you decide to leave the debt lifestyle for good, you’re setting out toward new territory in much the same way. If your past lifestyle created the debt, it’s time to leave it behind and start fresh. Because you can! Don’t despair. You’ve only got to muster some hope for yourself — that same hope that drove wagons west. Read “O Pioneers”, and take a deep breath.

Once you start this process, you’ll find that giving up the things that are familiar is an uncomfortable process. Homesteaders of the past and present have had to deal with discomfort at many points in their day.

The woodstove needs to be lit on a subzero morning. The animals need to be tended, even though it’s a downpour. The fertilizer needs spreading, even though the sun is blazing hot. Things need to be done, whether you like it or not. Laziness and lack of motivation just don’t fly.

The water won’t pump itself! Wren Everett / Insteading

But if you are headed towards a goal with motivation and purpose, the discomfort may start as an annoyance, then become a companion, and eventually, be so normal you forget to notice it. The same can come from the lifestyle change of giving up the things that put you in debt in the first place. Embrace the discomfort. It means you’re making an effort to change.

But if you want to stop the slow hemorrhage of money, it’s time to embrace discomfort. You’ll have to get used to saying no. You’ll have to deal with awkward situations. But you can stop caring what people think about your choices if you know you’re doing right.

You can also stop getting carried along with every trend that social media is screaming at you to buy. It’s okay to be outdated. Or be the weirdo who did it an alternative way. You can learn new things and create new habits. As you shirk the comfort that you formerly depended on, all the tiny little money leaks that have also been sapping your strength will disappear. We’ll get into some specifics later in this article.

Debt can feel like a bully mocking you behind your back, lurking around every dollar, prowling around the perimeter of your financial decisions. If you feel like the victim of debt, whether the debt is the result of poor financial decisions or sudden financial tragedy beyond your control, it’s time for a role reversal. Stop being a victim and fight for dominance.

When herd animals are deciding who is the leader, there’s a fight. The strongest animal establishes itself as the leader, the head of the group, the one who makes the decisions and directs everyone else. If you’ve never watched this process, it sometimes looks brutal. The up-and-coming leader takes every opportunity to put the others in line, pecking, butting, and shoving others aside to put itself in control.

To manage your herds, however, a homesteader needs to establish that they are more dominant than that head, bully animal. Whether it’s a rooster, ram, dog, or bull, the herder needs to always be aware of the animal’s position, remain calm and confident, and never allow the animal to push them around. A human who acts afraid of the herd leader will always struggle for control of their animals.

You need to approach your debt the same way. Fight for control, and win. If you can stop placing yourself at the mercy of this financial beast and start telling it who’s boss with good, strong, game-changing decisions, you’re on your way to being in control of it, rather than having it control you.

This mental fortitude will make you strong enough for some of the decisions coming up on this list and will also help you see them as strides toward independence, not a wallowing pity-party. If ever you start feeling sorry for yourself, you’re cowering. You need to stop that attitude immediately before it allows the debt-fear to become “herd leader” of your life again.

How to Pay Off Debt: Some Ways to Make It Work

If you look at online lists about how to get out of debt, you’ll hear excellent suggestions and methods: snowball (or avalanche!) your debt payments, make and keep a budget, and reduce debt by getting smarter with how you handle your finances and interest rates. If you’re serious about this, you should also check out the links in this paragraph. They are loaded with options and advice from experienced advisers.

But I’m an off-grid homesteader, not a financial consultant, so this list is instead comprised of practical, immediately applicable ideas that come from my backwoods side of the spectrum.

Living an alternative lifestyle gives one ample opportunity to try out options and ideas that may not fit into the mainstream idea of life. But they work, and I’ve seen them work personally. They won’t make you fit snugly into the roles expected of you by society, but they can streamline you as you charge toward debt freedom. That’s worth it in my book.

So that said, here’s a nonexhaustive, yet rich list of how to put all these ideas into play. Some are huge, others are tiny changes that can accumulate in impact when combined with others. Some of these may seem extreme when contrasted with my advice from an earlier article on living frugally but that’s on purpose.

These are line-in-the sand fights where you are going to face off with debt and decide who wins. Be tough, be brave, and be resolute. Getting free of debt sometimes means making short-term, drastic decisions to get control of your finances and get the beast slain. Once you are out of this dungeon, however, you’ll be wiser, freer, and able to start thoughtfully adding more colors back into your life again.

1. My Most Important Tip: Exchange Your Smart Phone for a Dumb Phone

This might be one of the most important, most crucial, and yet most difficult items for a modern, well-connected person to understand. But going old-school with your phone is an incredible tool in defeating debt.

A smartphone is a portal to constant streams of information, advertisements, entertainment, and opportunities for comparison with others. It is a huge drain on your available time and mental energy (while it is also sucking away funds, of course). The phone itself can cost hundreds of dollars and needs monthly payments to function. Smartphones are also directly linked to your bank account, making instant, in-app purchases and tapping-to-pay all too easy.

Try this radical, potentially game-changing challenge: sell your smart phone, and replace it with a phone that can merely text and call (yep, they’re still out there). Amazingly cheap pay-as-you-go plans are available for these phones if you forgo all the bells and whistles which gives you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars back every year. You can also try getting a much cheaper, internet home-phone to ease your mobile use. You may need to totally change your phone habits, but you can do it.

You’ll have to relearn how to plan a route or function without all those apps, and some of your flakier friends won’t interact with you like they used to. But it’s kind of part of the journey. Homesteaders of the past knew that contact with their old life would be spotty once they went to the frontier. They would have to set their own schedules and use literal legwork to connect with other humans. That didn’t stop them.

2. Get Rid of Your Subscription Services

During this debt-killing spree, cut all expenses that keep you from your goal. Cancel premium memberships, cut off streaming services, stop your gym or club memberships, get rid of nonessential monthly item deliveries — can it all! You may be shocked once you see how many income leaks you’ll stop up during this purge.

3. Stop Paying for Entertainment

Use the funds that went toward sports games, movie theaters, concerts, races, festivals, or any other entertainment event, and knock out more of that debt. Remember, they’re not gone forever. You’re choosing to put them on hold so they don’t keep you from achieving your goal.

4. Stop Buying New Clothes

Fashion is a relentless, comparison is cruel (and somehow Mom jeans are inexplicably vogue). Just stop playing the game and make do with the clothes you have right now. I bet you have enough. Try going at least a year without buying new clothes.

Why buy new clothes when there are thrift stores full of cute stuff?

In the real spirit of homesteading, if any clothes torn while you’re mending fences or working on the garden, patch them instead of tossing them. Your chickens don’t care what they look like.

If you do need something, try to get it from the thrift store. They’re loaded with barely-used, perfectly wonderful clothing. And if it damages your pride to darken their door, perhaps your pride needed the blow.

5. Stop Going Out to Eat and Learn How to Cook

Somewhere, the lie was started that eating healthy is more expensive than eating cheap, fast food — and people believed it. Perhaps this is true for processed foods, but it is absolutely not true for whole foods if you know how to cook them.

If you can read this article, you have access to the internet. And if you have access to the internet, you have access to literally millions of recipes, tutorials, and videos on how to cook.

Learning how to successfully cook peasant staples like brown rice, dried beans, cabbages, and potatoes is a great place to begin. Don’t worry if your attempts are less-than-impressive. The more you cook, the better you’ll get.

6. Kill Your Consumable Addictions

The obvious addictions are huge financial drains: drugs, alcohol, tobacco. The not-so-obvious ones are just as significant a drain: soda, fancy café beverages, energy drinks, shakes, smoothies, and extra-meal snacks. During this debt-slaying quest, identify what you are buying due to cravings, and fight to find freedom from them as well.

A practical way to put this idea into play is to go on a 30-day (or longer) fast from any beverage other than water or homegrown/foraged tea. Actually keep to it, and I think you’ll be shocked to see how much you save from that tiny change alone.

An affordable option to a fancy cup of coffee? Foraged coffee! wren everett / Insteading

And perhaps once you surface from this adventure, you can reintroduce some of the things you enjoyed more responsibly, turning them back into the occasional treat they should be, rather than your daily water substitute.

7. Hardcore Downsize and Sell Things You Don’t Need

This objective is totally dependent on you, your current belongings, and their current value compared to your goal of getting out of debt and the free life waiting for you beyond it.

Start with reselling some designer clothes or sports equipment, and move through your possessions until you can make harder choices like deciding to sell the riding horse that you don’t ride all that much, taking a temporary break from college to stop increasing your debt, or moving from the house you bought that’s bigger than you need.

8. Go to Salvage Grocery Stores

Did you know that many “best by” dates on packaged food are not indicators of how safe the food is to eat? Where does all the unsold grocery store food go when a new item doesn’t sell well? Where does perfectly good food go when the boxes get banged up in shipping? The salvage grocery store, of course.

You can save big on groceries and take the strain off your wallet.

If you’re willing to not see it as “lowering yourself” to shop there, and you can look past a torn label or two, you can find amazing healthy (and often, organic) food at ridiculous prices.

Once your home-cooking game is strong and you know what materials you use often, save money by buying in bulk. Our homestead buys 50-pound bags of organic wheat to grind for our daily bread, as well as our other staples such as beans, oats, whole spices, (and importantly, chocolate). We’ve used the Azure Standard program for years, and can confirm that it’s a great resource for whole, organic food — particularly for people living far from the diversity of foods offered in city grocery stores.

10. Put up a ClotheslineWren Everett / Insteading

Have you ever calculated how much energy your clothes dryer uses? It isn’t pretty. A clothesline is simple to string up, and it doesn’t add a penny to your electricity bill.

11. Read Propaganda by Edward Bernays

This is no “conspiracy theory” book. Published in 1928, Bernays used this book as a means to explain his public relations methods to his clients — clients such as the President of the United States, Procter &Gamble, CBS, the American Tobacco Company, and General Electric.

If you want to lift the veil, you may see what big corporations, food companies, and governments have done to “engineer your consent” (their words, not mine). Be prepared to start understanding how you have been actively manipulated to believe you need to buy the things They want you to buy and think the way They want you to think. And maybe you won’t fall for their tricks any more.

12. Start Your Own Seeds and Grow a Garden

Planting from seed rather than starts gets you hundreds more plants on the dollar, and teaches you a lot about gardening along the way. There are few feelings more satisfying (and delicious) than eating produce from your own land.

Grow a big enough plot, and use good-ol’ manual labor and natural methods that don’t depend on garden store purchases (we have tons of suggestions in Insteading’s Gardening section), and you can reduce a significant amount from your former food budget.

If you’ve decided to stop paying for entertainment, or if you’ve gotten rid of your smart phone, you’ll probably find that you suddenly have more time than you did before. What a great time to add to your skillset and relax without numbing your mind in front of a screen.

If you’ve wanted to learn to crochet or knit, make soap, carve wood, or any other if-I-only-had-the-time desires, grab a knowledgeable friend or an online tutorial and get started. If you get good, you may be able to turn your new interest into a source of income, too.

Every little bit helps, and if you can figure out how to generate some income on the side, you’ve added another element to your debt-slaying arsenal. Whether you offer handyman services, are amazing at crocheting amigurumi, rent out your goats as a brush-clearing service, or write articles for websites, you can find a niche for your product if you make a few calls and get motivated.

15. Show Your Affection With Something Other Than a Gift

If you have a habit of always sending or bringing a gift to the people you care about, this might be a surprisingly hard pill to swallow. But it can be easy to overspend when you justify it as affection.

Instead, write a loving letter, make a homemade gift, share a home-cooked meal, or give your time, rather than a forgettable item. And don’t let the holidays set you back from your debt-freedom goals.

Cooking with the ones you love is so much more valuable than buying something.

Delete Instagram from your phone so that you stop comparing your family’s celebrations with others, and try to enjoy the time with family, not merely what you can buy. If you can get the whole family on board, imagine what would happen if you skipped gift-giving for a year.

You can rent movies, read magazines, borrow books, use the internet, and take classes for the low, low price of free.

Though they may seem like a big initial investment since they’re more expensive than a pack of disposables, reusable diapers can last through multiple children. Using 10-ply prefold diapers inside a snap-close cover is a super-effective combination.

18. Learn How to Cut Your Own Hair

There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube to get a look that works well enough, even if it’s not as stylish as you’re used to. And if you have a family, the savings are exponential.

19. Pay for Everything in Cash

After you’ve cut up your credit cards, go old school and pay for everything with cash. This makes you physically see the money you’re spending, forces you to plan ahead, and curtails thoughtless spending. You can only spend as much as you bring into the store. As a bonus, you can make purchases without your personal data being tracked and sold to the highest bidder.

As you can see, making huge changes to get free of debt isn’t just a matter of dollars and cents. It can become a total lifestyle overhaul. It can force you to take a different sort of responsibility for your choices and actions, and in many ways, seek self-sufficiency for your time, your decision-making path, and how you use your money.

Cash is king when it comes to learning how to pay off debt.

And it may well make you more like a homesteader than you realize. Though this journey may start out as a desperate attempt to free yourself from the burden of payments and loan cycles, it can “end” in a new beginning.

Because when all these choices and decisions result in the day when you’re no longer a slave to your former lenders, you might be a changed person with a different way of looking at the world and a different way of living. So much so, that you may consider my final suggestion seriously. And that is …

20. Sell Everything, Pay Off the Debt With the Funds, and Start Over as an Off-Grid Homesteader

Too extreme? I obviously don’t think so. Becoming a full-time homesteader is a HUGE lifestyle change, but it could be the refresh button you need to push. When you throw away the whole Keepin’-Up-With-The-Joneses Game (the Joneses are deeply trapped in debt, by the way), frugal opportunities begin to present themselves as a lifestyle, and a wonderful one at that.

Just be sure to save up and try to pay for your homestead in cash (it is possible). Once you’ve fought so hard for your freedom, you’ll not want to give it up easily again.

How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Habitat loss, climate change, and pesticide use have decreased butterfly populations.

Unbeknownst to many butterflies do not live on nectar alone, some species prefer, even require, overripe fruit to feed on. Decaying fruits have carbohydrates and minerals, necessary to most butterflies. Supply them with flowers, fruit, water, and plants for their caterpillar stage, and you will hopefully have a large and happy, diverse population.

Best Food for Butterflies

Watermelon turns rather rapidly, feeding overripe fruit to butterflies, seems like a perfect purpose for it. There are approximately 20,000 species of butterflies in the world. About 725 species can be found in North America/north of Mexico, approximately 2000 species in Mexico, 3500 in Peru, 275 species in Canada and 440 in Europe. Photo by Toshio, Flickr.

Fruit dehydrates and seals up, therefore slices need to be cut into the fruit daily, making more juice available. A Blue Morpho drinking banana juice at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.

Watermelon on a stick. Monarchs can live up to nine months. Monarch larvae only eat milkweed, see bottom of page.

This picture was found on Visit Gainesville.

Making cuts across the fruit allows more juice to be available.

Photo by Charley Chrizzy, originally found at Charley Chrizzy has since de-activated their account.

Fruit salad for butterflies.

More photos of butterflies can be found on HubPages.

A butterfly enjoying some dragon fruit.

This photo can be found at the faq.gardenweb on Houzz.

Many species seem to love watermelon. Unlike bees, butterflies can see the color red.

The insidestorey.blogspot has more pictures of the visitors that came to this home, including a Black Swallowtail.

A Question Mark butterfly eating kiwi in a saucer set on a post.

Photo by Santa Barbarian, Flickr.

Butterflies love red, orange, purple, and yellow. Butterflies have good color vision, sensing more “wavelengths” than either humans or bees.

Butterflies are particularly fond of oranges, grapefruits, cantelope, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, kiwi, apples, watermelon, and bananas, especially mushy bananas that have been stored in the freezer and then thawed. Some species love a “brew” of rotting fruit, molasses, beer, and brown sugar. Some like moist mushroom compost.

Hummingbirds and some species of butterfly like simple sugar syrup: mix 4 parts water to 1 part sugar, boil mixture just untill the sugar dissolves, then be sure to allow the sugar mixture to cool before feeding butterflies. Adding soy sauce gives a dose of minerals and salt. Do not feed butterflies this sugar mix or honey during very cold or very dry weather as the sugar could re-crystallize inside them before being digested. Fructose is the safest bet for those times as it does not crystallize. A recipe: Lots of recipes here: faq.gardenweb, although I question the long term effects of the food coloring in the Gatorade that so many people have success with.

Flowers with Nectar that Butterflies Enjoy (partial list) View this post on Instagram

Aster, Borage, Butterfly Bush, Calendula, Cosmos, Delphinium, Lilac, Lupines, Sweet Alyssum, Verbena, Yarrow, Zinnias. See the Pollinator Planting Guide:

Remember Monarch larvae only eat milkweed

Plant some milkweed in your garden, and don’t pick off the caterpillars! ‘Milkweeds and nectar sources are declining due to development and the widespread use of herbicides in croplands, pastures, and roadsides. Because 90% of all milkweed/monarch habitats occur within the agricultural landscape, farm practices have the potential to strongly influence monarch populations.’ Spraying Round-Up and herbicides on roadsides reduces monarch populations. More information can be found at Monarch Watch.

    You can purchase seeds online from this California-based company. Free seed! This company is from Florida, but you can reach them on their site. Find out how to plant Milkweed in this article.

Black Swallowtail larvae eat the leaves of dill, parsley, carrot, and fennel. Painted lady larvae eat thistle leaves.

Make A Successful Butterfly Feeder This photo can be seen at 8 WGAL.

Putting a plate inside a larger plate or saucer that is filled with water will keep ants away from the fruit. Butterflies have a good sense of smell, they have scent receptors at the ends of their antennas, and taste receptors on the bottoms of their feet.

Make your own or purchase a butterfly feeder. Originally found for $25 at

To attract butterflies add neon pink, red, and orange plastic scrubbers to your plate or bowl. Butterflies are restricted to an all-liquid diet due to their straw-like proboscis.

These butterflies are wasting no time to drink from these orange slices. The sign behind them is a great reminder to be gentle with these delicate beauties.

Painting flowers on a tray helps the butterflies locate the fruit. This picture features a portion of the Munich Botanical Gardens from hollyopnshk.blogspot.

Increase your chances of the butterflies finding their offering by having flowers close by, or paint or tape colorful flowers (real or fake) to the plate or hanging apparatus. To hang, cut three holes in a saucer, string with wire or chain and hang.

Male Butterflies need extra minerals and enjoy mud puddles. The extra sodium and amino acids are transferred to the female along with the spermatophore during mating. This nutrition enhances the survival rate of the eggs. The minerals also help in the production of pheromones which attract females. To make butterfly puddles, bury a container and then fill with sand or gravel. Fill with water, a sweet drink or stale beer.

At night and during wet weather, butterflies take shelter underneath leaves, among grass blades, or in a crevice of a rock.

When not in use, butterflies keep their proboscis coiled up, then unfurl it to suck up nectar, pollen, tree sap, rotting fruit, dung, or other foods that are in a liquid state. The proboscis is discussed further in the article by AskNature, where this photograph was found.

When unwound their proboscis acts as a straw. A Purple Duke extends its proboscis deep into the fruit of the Singapore Rhododendron. At Butterflies Of Singapore you can discover more about the relationship between the butterflies and the Singapore Rhododendron.

Close-Up of a butterfly’s proboscis (coiled straw) coated with pollen. Due to their long legs, nectar eating butterflies pick up only small amounts of pollen on their visits to flowers. Many moths are actually better pollinators than butterflies.

Due to the butterflies’ fragility to ecological change, they are an excellent indicator of an ecosystem’s health. Malachite butterflies feeding at a butterfly farm in Germany,

Two Tailed Pasha drinking from an orange.

More pictures of butterflies can be found at Inside Storey.

Butterflies taste with their feet. A Black Swallowtail drinking watermelon juice.

Because butterflies are cold blooded, they cannot fly if their body temperature is less than 86 degrees, so keep the fruit in the sun and out of strong winds. If your thinking about adding flowers to attract butterflies, Buena Vista Butterfly Farm has a great list of plants that you can look at.

Ground Rules for Foraging Safely

Foraging is more than a hobby. It’s a means of sustenance, and for some of us, it really is a way of life. Pretty much everyone has an idea that some wild plants are edible whether they work in a city high-rise or hoe weeds on the farm. Even in this strange modern age, many of us have childhood memories of finding a cache of wild strawberries, chewing on sour grapevine tendrils, or getting scratched while picking blackberries.

But when you become an adult, life becomes complicated. We learn about liability and risk, we try not to trespass on land that’s not ours, we hear about ecology and threatened species, and some of us eat out for every meal because we’ve found ourselves living a hectic, stress-filled life. We end up distant from understanding the plants that surround us. And suddenly, if your young child grabs your hand and tugs you toward a loaded berry bush, you may find yourself pulling them back, muttering “What if it’s poisonous?” or “Leave it alone! — we’ll get food later.”

If those words catch in your throat (or if you were that kid), this article is for you. The truth is, there is abundant wild food out there that is nutritious and free and absolutely delicious. I know many of us haven’t grown up with parents or a community who foraged routinely and taught us the ropes. Many of us might not be sure where to look or how to get started, or even how to know which plants are safe. But after reading this article, I hope to help set your feet on a good path toward understanding and the beginning of your own foraging journey.

When it comes to beginning foraging, the first matter of business is proper plant identification. Though the number of people who have poisoned themselves with wild plants is minuscule compared to the generations of folks and cultures who have eaten and thrived on them, there are poisonous plants out there, and it’s the job of any forager to know how to identify them and, of course, not eat them.

But before we get into the how to identify, let’s cover the very important part of how to approach wild plants in general. There’s inherent risk with any activity but the specter of poison has created two very extreme and erring sides on the beginner’s foraging spectrum.

On one side are the terrified. These are the folks still suspicious that every plant is so potentially poisonous that they can make themselves feel literally sick…even if the food was safe and correctly identified. As anyone who has struggled with anxiety knows, it makes you feel nauseated and panicked, and those symptoms are easy to assign to imagined poisoning. Worry saps the flavor out of any meal and keeps you from progressing in knowledge, however. I suppose the irony on this side of the spectrum is these people probably never get poisoned–they can’t, since they’re too worried that that clump of wild strawberries might, just might, be a deadly nightshade bush in disguise (spoiler alert: it’s not.).

On the other side are the throw-caution-to-the-wind folks (or unsupervised children). Armed with anecdotes, vague information, and bragging overconfidence, they’ll eat a plant … even if their identification is lacking. When others are watching and you want to show off your wilderness prowess, it’s easy to declare yourself an “expert” because you read a book or article once and know a few more facts than your audience (I’d exercise caution around anyone who declares themselves an expert, by the way). These are the ones who may tragically poison both themselves and the reputation of foraging adding fuel to the fire of our western culture’s complete disconnect and overblown fear of the natural world.

Your job is to be in the thoughtful, well-informed middle. To neither make the assumption that every plant could hurt you, nor the assumption that no plant could hurt you. And that starts with knowing a thing or two (or 20) about the plants you hope to eat. Let’s talk about how to get started.

How to Properly ID a Plant

In order to forage, you need to be willing to learn a lot about plants. Not just their names, but their parts, growing seasons, preferred habitats, and any idiosyncrasies. Taking the time to really learn your foraged food will allow you to follow the single most important rule in foraging: Never eat a plant unless you are 100% positive of its identity.

Samuel Thayer has written a 5-step process for plant identification that’s just so spot-on I couldn’t improve it. Here’s a summary of the process I’ve learned from his books and use myself in the field.

1. Tentative Identification

This is when you find a plant, and think you know what it is. This is the beginning of an identification process, however, not the only part of it.

Now, take some time to inspect your potentially-identified plant. Compare it to the guide book that introduced you to it in the first place, and read through the description carefully. Make sure that every point listed matches, particularly ones that are emphasized as key features. If it doesn’t match, don’t force it to match. And if you don’t understand all the botanical lingo, don’t gloss over it. If you lazily TLDR a plant description because the terms are unfamiliar, you put yourself in unnecessary danger. Learn what an umbel, a bract, a petiole, and a raceme are (and so on) because these are crucial tools for positive identification. Finally, never use a single feature as the only identification confirmation.

A single line of hairs along the stem is a noteworthy trait of chickweed3. Cross Referencing

Run through step No. 2 with at least two other foraging resources or field guides. Read carefully about potential look-alikes. Make sure you have triple-confirmation on your plant’s identity.

Go find lots and lots of samples of your potentially identified plant in the field. As you know (or as you’ll learn) the environment can totally change how a plant grows. A dandelion growing directly in a sunny field, for instance, will produce feathery, deeply-toothed leaves that lay almost flat on the ground. A dandelion growing in a shaded area will grow wide leaves that point upwards. You’ll need to learn the range in variability for your target plant so you can develop your recognition beyond the single photo in the guide book. This process may take an hour, or it may take years.

5. Contradictory Confidence

This is the deep-seated confidence that means you can recognize and positively identify a plant as food, even if someone were to try to convince you otherwise. That’s how well you should know a plant before you eat it. If there is a shred of doubt about a plant you have found, use it as a red flag that it’s not time to eat it yet. This is perhaps the most difficult level of identification to achieve, but one of the most crucial. With some plants, it may take years to grasp. Take that time. I still have many plants at this step — though I can find them, I don’t have complete confidence if someone were to challenge me on it, and I still haven’t eaten them.

New Forager TipsDon’t Overindulge

Anyone who has gorged on ice cream knows the nausea that accompanies an overindulgence. No one would say you’ve been poisoned by ice cream, though! Wild foods also need to be eaten in rational amounts, even if you’ve found enough to feed an army. Err on the side of caution, particularly with a new wild food. Eat a small amount and see how you respond to it.

Listen to Your Body

You should listen closely to the physiological cues your body gives when you’ve ingested a small sample of a new plant for the first time. If you’ve done your homework, cross-referenced, and identified it correctly, you’ll be fine and nothing will happen except the satisfaction of finding a new food. But on the off chance that you start salivating uncontrollably, feel a burning sensation in your throat, find it unpalatably bitter, feel nauseated, or can’t stomach the flavor, spit it out. Your body is telling you something’s wrong. Maybe the plant was misidentified, maybe it is the wrong time of year to eat it, maybe you’re allergic or something else is going on. Obviously, don’t eat any more of that plant. Instead, take several photos or a sample to research why your body reacted, and make sure you learn from your experience. If misidentification is the culprit, naturalists at local departments of conservation can often offer positive identification of local plants.

Right Plant, Right Time, Right Way

Wild plants are much like any other domesticated plant. They taste best and are most useful when the right plant is used in the right way at the right point in its growth. Think about the difference between eating a perfect avocado (the best!) and an avocado that’s a week too old. Or consider the potato — not so great raw, amazing when cooked. Wild plants likewise have windows of prime palatability and safety. Since we in the West don’t have a huge cultural tradition of using wild plants, you’ll have to go on a personal quest to meet and know every wild food you add into your foraging repertoire. Read carefully about when it is best to harvest a wild plant during the growing year, and how it’s best to prepare it.

Where to Find Wild FoodYour Own Land

Of course, the easiest and most accessible place to find wild food is your own land, and you don’t need a back 40 to have enough. Even a postage stamp in the city can grow a surprising array of food to forage if you know what to look for.

If you find wild plants that you particularly enjoy, there’s no reason you can’t plant them on your property and maintain your own patches of undomesticated goodness. You can obtain seedlings and bare-root trees of many edible native plants from your state’s department of conservation.

This is an option for the bold and polite only. While driving through the city or country, you may find a field or area totally loaded with promising looking food that no one seems interested in. A stand of wild asparagus, a thicket of wild plum, a pecan tree dripping with nuts, a pond nodding with cattail. Be proactive and thoughtful, and ask the landowner if they would allow you to gather wild food from their land. Accept their answer, whatever it is, with no contest. If they do agree, be sure to offer to share some of the haul with them — they’ll appreciate the gesture even if they think you’re a bit nuts. If you don’t do damage and are respectful, you’ll likely be able to make a repeat visit the next season, or maybe make a friend.

Never forage on someone else’s land without asking.

This is a dodgy and confusing subject as the rules and laws governing foraging are anything but clear or consistent. At the city, state, and national level, you’ll find everything from full-scale prohibition to vague allowance. You’ll find outdated laws that ban native peoples from gathering foods in their traditional gathering places, and park visitors fined for gathering berries, but you’ll also find nature programs that teach and encourage foraging, as well as activist groups fighting for peoples’ rights to enjoy wild food as a means of conservation. Online debates rage, some accusing any forager of destroying shared natural spaces, others explaining that foraging actually improves the land when done responsibly.

Every national park, nature preserve, city park, and state forest has its own rules. Some allow foraging, some have restrictions in place limiting how and how much you can gather, some ban it entirely. So what’s an interested forager to do? There are a couple of options.

First, you could start by looking for foraging programs offered at nature centers and parks. Not only are these excellent opportunities for firsthand instruction, they give you an opportunity to locate some areas deemed acceptable for foraging.

You could also call ahead to the leadership at a park or forest that you’re interested in exploring, and see if they allow foraging. It’s likely you’ll get some disappointing responses, but call anyway. Find out what edible invasive plant is common in these natural areas. Good candidates include garlic mustard, autumn olive, kudzu, and field garlic. Ask if you could help with conservation by foraging for (and removing) these plants to help support the recovery of native plants (and make sure you know enough about these plants to back up your claims, of course). Sometimes they have volunteer task forces specifically aimed at that goal. It will you help reinforce the positive good that foraging can do, and you will have an endless supply of these plants open up to you.

You could also scope out fruit and nut trees in public spaces ahead of time, and watch for when they’re ready to harvest. In many more urban areas, these trees are seen as a messy nuisance. Ask someone who works in a building on the property if you can help yourself to the unwanted bounty of mulberries, walnuts, persimmons, acorns, or apples. Many people are more than willing to have their sidewalk-staining problem cleaned up.

Wherever you decide to forage, and whether you get involved in petitioning local authorities for more freedom or work out a deal with a local park, do it neatly, responsibly, and thoughtfully. Foraging has been given an unfairly bad reputation by many well-meaning (but often ignorant) conservation-minded people who claim that we’re destroying the areas we harvest. The reality is that most of us really care for and protect our foraging sites. Don’t give them fuel for their fire by making a mess, leaving holes, or selfishly wiping out entire areas of roots, bulbs, and rare plants.

Not everywhere is safe for foraging, however. As you go plant-hunting, avoid harvesting from the following areas.

Along the sidewalk in town, in the strip of grass beside the post office, around the gazebo in the town square, in the lawn at college, there are plenty of plants growing. These areas, however, are spaces I would strongly advise avoiding. Areas that are in full public view and aren’t reserved as a wilderness or nature area, are almost certainly contaminated. Businesses really don’t like the dandelion growing through the sidewalk, the chickweed sprawled at the side of the building, or the clover in the lawn, and will usually employ whatever chemical means necessary to improve the look of their establishment. The only wild food that might be safe in these environments are tree nuts and fruits.

Under Powerlines or Around Utilities

Power companies don’t like plants growing around their lines, and will often spray toxic pesticides directly under and around them to keep the spaces clear.

Roadsides and Parking Lots

Cars generate and leak tons of chemicals onto the ground, and this contaminates the areas directly bordering roads. The concentrations of lead along roadways built before the advent of unleaded gasoline can be surprisingly high. As such, avoid plants growing downslope of roads or directly bordering parking lots.

Industrial Areas and Contaminated Ground

An amazing feature of many plants is their ability to uptake toxins from the soil and clean it in ways that no human-powered crew could (this process is called bioremediation, and it’s fascinating). It means, however, that many mineral-rich plants such as clover and wild spinach could easily be contaminated if they are growing in toxic ground. Industrial areas, dumping sites, and any other place potentially contaminated with chemicals are places to avoid.

Make Sure Your Teachers Practice What They Preach

Foraging has recently increased in popularity as the internet has made information on it more widely available. I have personally been grateful for the information available in modern sources, as it set me off on this journey ten years ago. And though I’m glad to see people discovering healthy food and being outdoors, I have become increasingly perplexed and disturbed by the inaccurate and wrong information that has sprung up alongside all the good stuff. You can see everything from misidentified pictures, bad advice, and recipes that don’t seem possible.

One of these books says Black Nightshade is toxic, another says it’s delicious. One is right.

Not everything online is true. Not everything in a book is true. So how do you figure out what is? I would advise to only trust a resource if the writer has worked with and eaten the plant they’re talking about. This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many resources have sprung up online and in print that don’t check that one, simple requirement. It’s a huge deal, and far too easy for a writer to make ignorant errors when experience doesn’t back them up. And since foraging remains a niche interest, the publisher may not have caught the misinformation. Obviously, bad teaching could have bad consequences. Use these four guidelines to vet a potential new teacher.

  • Make sure they have photos of the plant — and specifically, photos they have taken themselves.
  • Make sure they use the scientific name of the plant they’re discussing. Many plants go by several different names, and sometimes different plants go by the same name. It’s too easy to get identification crossed when you only use a local common name.
  • Make sure the article or author teaches you what specific parts of the plants to use, and during what part of their growth. Some plants are only edible or palatable at certain points of their growth, and not every part of every edible plant is safe.
  • Use caution when writers talk about the plant in vague terms, sharing “What they’ve heard” or “What has been said.” They should have plentiful firsthand information about a plant. And be sure to use that same caution when medicinal uses of a plant are shared. Often, people don’t have experience using them for healing and are copying information they read elsewhere. That certainly doesn’t mean the information is bad, but you should use it as a touchstone for further research, not as a trustworthy fact on its own.

With all that said, I can vouch that the resources I list for this article come from foragers who eat what they teach. I also promise that every plant I write about will be one that I have gathered and eaten personally. Even so, don’t take my word for it. You need to learn for yourselves, and use a non-fearful, yet discriminating eye on whatever you read.

Some Helpful ResourcesWebsites

This is a very incomplete list of good websites (a much better list is here), but it’s a good start.

Books by Euell Gibbons, the granddaddy of modern foraging

Foraging is an endeavor you can begin in a weekend, and continue refining for your entire life. Being able to interact with the wild on such a direct level, transforms the landscape from an inert green expanse to a wild garden that you know and understand more and more each year. It can also cultivate love for those spaces — a sort of love that makes foragers some of the most surprisingly involved and passionate conservationists and naturalists in the world. When you bring home a full bowl of free food that you didn’t plant and cultivate, it can seed an incredible gratitude in your heart as well.

So maybe this summer, instead of tugging your child away, you can grab their hand and accompany them to those blackberry brambles, and together enjoy some of the best food in the world.

Recycled Glass Bottles

Much of the glass we throw out is not recycled because different glass has different melting points and recyclers only melt the most common containers. Artists use old and new glass to create unique pieces of home decor.

Glass Bottle WindowsDaniel Maher Stained Glass, Somerville, MA.

Hanging window composed of serving plates, wine bottle bottoms, stemware bottoms and faceted stained glass jewels. The background is a variety of textured handblown glass and the border is composed of several different patterns of pale lavender Depression glass serving plates.

Daniel Maher Stained Glass. Somerville, MA.

The window is comprised of highly textured bottle, vase, serving plate and stemware bottoms along with a variety of antique pressed glass jewels and objects. The background is a variety of clear textured glasses and the border is composed of pale lavender “Depression Glass” plates. 26″ x 25″, $3,000.

Daniel Maher Stained Glass. Somerville, MA.

This “Green Bottoms” window is installed in a home on Simmons Island, GA. To personalize the window, the client requested the inclusion of “sea glass” they found at the local beach. The addition of greenish blue plate fragments and jewels in the border give the window’s color range an ocean feel.

Daniel Maher Stained Glass. Somerville, MA.

Several medicine bottle remnants are blended into more typical food themes in this Massachusetts’ kitchen window. The medicine bottles refer to this couples’ careers in the health provider industry. The window is installed in a door that blocks the view of a brightly lit mud room.

Bottle bottoms and more… “Each panel contains vintage/antique glass from chandeliers, lamp parts, you name it. I am always scouring the antique stores and flea markets. I then foil each and every piece with copper foil and solder the panel on both sides. I use old window frames that I’ve also collected and replace the glass with the artwork I create.”

Handmade Stained Glass Window by Pieces of Home Mosaics in Baker City, Oregon. Uses stained glass, tumbled glass, and bottles.

A sold Gorgeous Stained Glass Panel from Recycled Bottles by Holli Boyle Stained Glass in Gary, Indiana. Made from recycled beer and soda bottles. “First, you have to drink the beer,” says the artist She still has other pieces of art for sale.

Recycled Glass Bottle Panels

Alison sells work in numerous shows throughout the central states, check her website for show schedules. alisonsstainedglass

Recycled glass panels. By Kent Sandy Larsen. Similar pieces by Kent can be found on the Ear Of The Wind website.

21 Amazing Pieces Of Recycled Glass Bottle Art1) Glass Bottle And Dish Tree

Glass Bottle and Dish Tree by Alison Fox, Illinois. Found at

Green Bottle Bottoms by Nikki Root, Utah. Custom Glasswork: By Nikki showcases other unique recycled pieces of art.

3) Rainbow Ammonite Paperweight View this post on Instagram

This paperweight has a beautiful combination of orange and yellow glass. The slight hint of blue also helps to contrast the warmer colors.

5) Mixed Bottle And Plate Bottoms

Recycled milk bottoms. By Kent Sandy Larsen. Originally found at, you can look at more art by Kent here.

Recycling both glass and wall paneling, this artist is beginning a piece with glass “leaves.”

Three dimensional recycled glass window, 47 x 14″
“The sharp edges of the glass are ground down, copper foil is wrapped around the ground edges, and then the pieces are fit together and soldered. After the bulging form is designed and soldered, the window is anchored into the frame, flipped over, and the glass is built out and soldered in the opposite way to give it the undulating surface. Installed in Joshua Tree, CA. By Kent Sandy Larsen.

10) Window From Glass Beads And Bottles

Recycled bottle bottoms, glass beads, sanded glass pieces and decorative glass pieces glued with E600 craft glue onto an old single pane window. By Teena Stewart. Was available to purchase at Marketplace.

11) Glass Window By Teena Stewart

Recycled bottle bottoms, glass beads, sanded glass pieces and decorative glass pieces glued with E600 craft glue onto an old window. By Teena Stewart. You can purchase other work by Teena at Amazon.

Mosaic, ‘light box’ table, with ‘St Peters organic Ale, kiln fused, green bottles, 61cm wide. Antique, up-cycled wood table & recycled glass panel inlay, four LED strip lights, illuminate the Central panel and gems around the edge, very effective at night, magical!! By Nikki Ella Whitlock. To see more of her work go to

13) Psychedelic Rose Window

Recycled glass bottles and traditional stained glass form a four foot rose window. By Justin Tyner, Philadelphia. Some of his artwork can be found on Glass

Old Bottles #2, 1992. Bottles, brass, 25″h x 20″w. By John Bassett,

Three Stalks, 1981. Glass, brass, 15″h x 18″w. By John Bassett, also found on

Melted glass bottles by Erwin Timmers.

Glass Bottle Border at the Mano Poderosa Jardin. Image by Dee Kincke.

18) Up-Cycled Glass Bottle Garden Edging

Glass Bottle Border in garden! More pictures here: thegreenbacksgal

Blue and white pieces of glass combine in this beautiful piece by Tony Cavallero.

Beer Bottle Walkway by pammiejoandfriends, Kansas. 750 bottles created 15 feet of path.

Hanging glass bottle flower vases. Super wedding decoration idea. See:

Recycled Glass Bottle Lamps

Recycled glass lamps (note the upside down wine bottles) by Whimsical Wonders: Darla Murray and Bridget Smith via: almosteveryword.blogspot

“Relite” lamp shades made from recycled glass, stained glass and or, fused glass.
The glass is broken up and put in a rock tumbler and/or kiln to get the effect.
Light blubs are CFL or LED. They were $35 – $90. Now you can view or contact the creator Mellony Ballard at

‘Relite’ recycled glass lamp shades on reuse bases. Other projects by Berrie Creative can be found on their FaceBook page here.

Recycled hanging glass lamp by Wolf Art Glass & Pottery,
Austin, Texas: You can find similar lamps on Etsy.

Recycled Glass For Your Garden: All 5 Stars On Etsy

This specific rain catcher is sold, but Storm Dancer Designs has others available here.

Recycled Glass Bottle House

Manuel Rapoport has built a house in Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina with 100% recycled ingredients. Tin cans for roofing and siding and merged whiskey bottles as windows.

Recycled Glass VideosHow to make bottle cheese plates

The bottles are carefully put in a kiln, slowly heated to temperatures around 1400 degrees, cooled, and turned into cheese boards, spoon rests, etc.

How to make a glass cup from a bottle

Although the video maker used a torch and electric grinder, you can do it with just a glass scorer and sandpaper.

The Best Recycled Glass Books

Sculpture and Design With Recycled Glass by Cindy Ann Coldiron, features 40 artists and 125 sculptures in an exploration of the use of recycled glass as a medium for sculpture and creative design.

Glass recycling turns used glass products back into “new” glass products. By some estimates, recycling glass uses 40% less energy than creating new glass from silica sand, lime and soda ash. Recycled glass also creates about 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution.

Glass recycling is a much more efficient process than plastic recycling, since plastics are usually “downcycled” into a lower-quality form of plastic. Plastic water bottles, for example, cannot be recycled into new plastic bottles, but glass containers can be recycled indefinitely into new glass containers.

When glass is recycled, it is cleaned and separated by color. All other items, including plastic and metal caps, are also removed. Recycled glass is then crushed into a mixture called cullet, which is then sold back to glass manufacturing facilities.

  • Saves raw materials – Over a ton of natural resources are conserved for every ton of glass recycled.
  • Cuts CO2 emissions – For every six tons of recycled container glass used, a ton of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is reduced. From:

Window glass, mirrors, glass cups or tumblers, ceramic, Pyrex, colored glass (other than green and the amber that beer bottles usually are), light bulbs (hardware stores may take light bulbs), windows and windshields, aren’t generally accepted by local recycling centers. That’s because these different glass products have a different melting point from container glass, so that your local recycling center may not recycle them.

Yet, some recycling centers send their glass to cement producers, where the glass is crushed and used as filler in cement products. One needs to contact one’s local recycling center to find out what kind of glass it recycles.

20+ DIY Indoor Hanging Planters to Refresh Your Home

Science tells us that indoor plants offer benefits such as reduced stress, improved attention, and a boost in productivity. Additionally, plants have a positive impact on a home’s indoor air quality.

Indoor plants are great for those who enjoy gardening, and they also add a decorative touch. One way to get creative is by making your own DIY indoor hanging planters. Taking the DIY route instead of purchasing a planter from the store is good for the environment. Many times, you can recycle materials you already have at home. Let’s explore this a bit further.

Important Details to Consider When Building Indoor Hanging Planters

A successful DIY indoor hanging planter sustains the plant and causes no damage to the ceiling or wall. The hanger, plant, and soil cannot be too heavy. You also need to consider how much weight is added when you water the plant.

It is important to ensure that the rope, chain, or cord used to hang the planter is sturdy and in good condition. It’s best to pick small plants in the beginning because they are going to grow. You need to consider how easy it will be to maintain the plant.

Suitable Plants for Indoor Environment by Type and Size

Suitable plants for indoor environments include ivy, ferns, and succulents. Orchids, air plants, and vines are a few other good choices. All require an adequate amount of sunlight. Plus, they are low maintenance, so they do not require constant watering. The more you need to water, the heavier the planter becomes — which is not ideal. Small plants are best for DIY indoor hanging planters.

Ivy, vines, and ferns grow long. They are also thin and lite. Succulents are thick, but not heavy. Orchids are a favorite because they radiate beauty. When you pick out your plant, keep its weight in mind. Also consider the tools you’ll need for maintenance and watering. Investing in a long neck watering can is worthwhile.

Types of Materials Needed

To successfully hang a plant, use a strong rope, cord, or chain. The planter can be made from ceramic or wood as long as it does not put too much pressure on your ceiling. Most DIY projects require a good pair of scissors, hooks, and screws. Thereafter, project materials are based on a case-by-case basis. Their appropriate size depends on how many plants you want to plot.

Additional Tidbits to Know

It’s important to pick out a spot that delivers enough sun and ventilation. Too much sun dries out the plant. Not enough light will cause it to grow weak. You also want to pick a height that is reasonably easy to reach. Remember, you are going to water the plant and trim it from time to time.

Free DIY Hanging Planter Ideas to Consider

Here are some wonderful idea starters for DIY hanging planters.

Macrame Hanging Plant Holderphoto courtesy of Hey lila hey

This is the most well-known DIY hanging planter. It requires cording, twine, or paracord. The plant holder is made of ceramic material. Long cording strands are cut and attached to the ring. Through a series of ties, you build the portion that hangs from the ceiling and holds the planter securely.

Find the plan at Hey Lila HeyHanging Rope PlanterPHOTO COURTESY OF BETTER HOMES & GARDENS

The rope plant hanger is another common DIY hanging planter. It involves drilling and planting. You need a board, rope, and pots. With a drill, make holes for the planter and rope. Insert the pots in the holes, and thread the rope. The project takes less than an hour to complete.

Find the plan at Better Homes & GardensHouseplant DisplaysPhoto courtesy of better homes & Gardens

Individuals often hang their indoor plants from the ceiling to save space. Another option is to place them on shelves. This particular project is designed for tiny spaces. To successfully install shelves, double-check that the screws are attached to the wall studs.

Find the plans at Better Homes & GardensSlouchy Leather Sling Planterphot courtesy of vintage revivals

If you prefer not to drill into your ceiling or wall, this project can be hung from a window. It also makes use of vintage leather you have around your home. Cut the leather according to the planter’s bottom dimensions. Use grommets to secure the rope. Then, tie the knots.

Find the plan at Vintage RevivalsDIY Macrame Plant Hanger and Standphoto courtesy of foxy oxie

There are several variations on the most common hangers that display home indoor plants. The macrame hanger gets teamed up with a plant stand. This design is nice for those who prefer not to use a drill. If you do not have a plant stand, you can use an old coat rack instead.

Find the plan at Foxy OxieSucculent BallPHOTO COURTESY OF BETTER HOMES & GARDENS

Fans of the succulent might enjoy displaying the plant in its own hanging orb. This project is a variation of the hanging basket. It requires soil, a chain, and an orb. The succulent requires planting prep one day before you put the project together.


Air plants are another popular hanging indoor plant. Here is a new take on the himmeli, a Swedish straw ornament. Brass tubing is used to create a pyramid and hanging loop, which helps display these small plants.

A grown-up take on the mobile for air plants and DIY enthusiasts. The project is rated easy, but the work takes place over two days. You’ll use twine balls, balloons, and glue to create innovative, hanging planters.

Find the plan at Better Homes & GardensDIY Vertical Plant Hangerphoto courtesy of

Those who would like to display a couple of potted plants will find the vertical planter useful. Scrap boards and strong rope build the hanger. Then, attach a hook to the ceiling and hang it. Ceiling plant hangers help maximize indoor space.

Find the plan at The Inspiration BoardHanging Mason Jarsphoto courtesy of Domestically speaking

Most people hang plants to save space. You can also hang plants for convenience. For easy access to your herbs, you can hang mason jars in your kitchen. This strategy can be used for decorative purposes, too.

Find the plan at Domestically SpeakingRepurposed Floor Lamp Plant Standphoto courtesy of crazy diy mom

Repurposing household items is peak DIY. You can repurpose a floor lamp and turn it into a stand. You can also refashion it so it will hold a hanging planter.

Find the plan at Crazy DIY MomBeaded Plant Hangersphoto courtesy of crate and barrel

Once you master the macrame plant hanger, you can add your own spin. One suggestion is to add beads where the knots are tied. As a DIY project, you have the freedom to style the hanger according to your preferences.

Find the plan at Crate and BarrelPrism Plant Holder PHOTO COURTESY OF BETTER HOMES & GARDENS

With brass piping, gold wire, and rope, you can create a prism plant holder. Keep in mind that it’s always possible to substitute materials. Gold paint comes in handy when brass pipes are not available.

Find the plan at Better Homes & GardensOrchid Plant HolderPHOTO COURTESY OF BETTER HOMES & GARDENS

The orchid is a delicate plant. It can be placed in a holder along with soil, moss, and sedum plants. The soil keeps the orchid healthy moss and sedum make the orchid shine.

Find the plan at Better Homes & GardensRepurposed Wall Hangerphoto courtesy of lana red studio

Steel mesh has its industrial purpose. It can also be repurposed as a plant wall hanger. Drilling is not required. Simply attach the plant hangers to the mesh, and then arrange the hanging plants as you see fit.

Find the plan at Lana Red StudioOctopus Air PlantPHOTO COURTESY OF BETTER HOMES & GARDENS

Plant hangers can be used to create a mood. The octopus air plant hanger takes you to the beach. Air plants require a soak in water every 1 to 2 weeks for 5 to 10 minutes. It can hang out in a fish bowl and look like an octopus in your home.

Find the plan at Better Homes & GardensPaint Can Gardenphoto courtesy of diy network

There is no shortage of the items that can be turned into plant holders. This includes paint cans. Once they are empty and clean, give them a splash of color. Place your plant in the soil. Then, hang the cans on mesh to create a paint can garden.

Find the plan at DIY NetworkPlywood Hanging Planterphoto courtesy of duece cities henhouse

With a couple of supplies, plywood becomes a hanging planter. Once you have the planter, sketch and measure the design on the wood. Cut out the shape. Then, attach it to rope and hang.

Find the plan at Deuce Cities HenHouseJersey Knit Macrame Hanging Plantersphoto courtesy of brit+co

The macrame hanging planter follows the same guidelines every time. If you do not have rope or cord, you can improvise the material. Jersey knit fabric works just as well as rope. As a bonus, you can easily find jersey in multiple colors.

Find the plan at Brit + CoCrochet Plant Hangerphoto courtesy of curbly

For a macrame hanging planter, it’s also possible to experiment with different techniques. Instead of using fabric, those who crochet can make their own. To ensure the hanger is sturdy, consider crocheting with macrame cord.

Find the plan at CurblyRecycled Water Bottle Plant Hangerphoto courtesy of momtastic

Old water bottles have several uses. One way to recycle water bottles is to turn them into a plant hanger. Use paint to spruce up the bottle. Then hang the refurbished water bottle with yarn.

Find the plan at MomtasticDisco Ball Plant Hangerphoto courtesy of a beautiful mess

If you want to get a little funky and you have a disco ball gathering dust, it’s time to give it a second life. Taking the ball apart leaves two halves. Each half is big enough to house a plant. Since it’s a bowl-shape, you can add a macrame of your choice to hang. The sparkle allows the new planter to shine without additional add-ons.

20 Free Porch Swing Plans for Warmer Days

With beautiful weather upon us, there’s no better time to build your very own porch swing. Sure, you could purchase a porch swing that’s already assembled and finished — but you’d miss out on huge DIY benefits!

A porch swing is a great entry-level building project for people with beginner to intermediate experience. You can save yourself money and reduce waste when you build a swing for yourself using inexpensive materials or old furniture.

Check out our list of free DIY porch swing sets that’ll add flair to your home.

Important Details to Consider When Building a Porch Swing

Before you throw yourself headlong into any build, planning is essential and some important details need to be considered when building your porch swing.

From deciding the size of your porch swing to choosing the best wood — here are a few of the many things you need to consider beforehand.

Porch Swing Size and Capacity

So how big should your porch swing be? Generally, swing seats and frames are 4 to 5 feet long. Porch swings of this size can support two or more people. However, they can vary widely and range anywhere from 18 to 36 inches.

So, it’s safe to say there will be some flexibility when it comes to choosing the dimensions of your porch swing.

Ultimately, your style preference and the size of the space available for your build will be the determining factors.

Types of Materials to Use

No two DIY porch swing plans will be the same, however, there always are some essential materials (such as slats) that most porch swing plans will use. Below are the essential materials that you need to get started on your own porch swing.

  • Finish Nailer
  • Tape Measure
  • Wood Glue
  • Wood Stain
  • Sand Paper
  • Drill
  • Jig Saw
  • Miter Saw
  • 2-inch Finish Nails
  • 4 Eye Screws
  • 1¼-inch Finish Nails
  • Wood Filler
  • Slats

Porch swings can be made from various types of wood. However, the most commonly seen lumber choices are cedar, cypress, alder, and pine.

Out of all these options, cedar reigns supreme for porch swings because it naturally resists rot, looks beautiful, and it repels insects.

Porch Swing Location and Climate

For the porch swing to function properly without any potential for danger, you’ll want to be mindful of where you place it. Other structures shouldn’t be too close to the swing.

First, allow 4 feet of room in front and behind the swing to achieve an adequate swinging motion. Next, locate the ceiling joists above the area of the swing. Finally, be sure to install your swing into a structural beam for safety.

Although cedar is strong wood that’s resistant to many potential threats, there are still some steps you can take to help protect it. Seal the wood to fortify it in the winter months. Then, you can purchase a porch swing cover which will cover your swing and block it from unforgiving weather conditions.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Porch Swing?

Building a porch swing costs around $150 on average. However, if you are a little more resourceful and are able to cut costs using repurposed furniture or old lumber, you could complete your swing for as little as $30 or $40.

Building a heavy-duty porch swing is still relatively inexpensive compared to buying a fully assembled porch swing. If you’re building a porch swing out of quality wood you can expect to spend about $250.

Free Porch Swing Plans to Consider

Here are 20 simple ways to add a porch swing to your home. Every porch swing plan features a short description and a full tutorial on how to build your swing using common materials.

Porch Swing in a Treephoto courtesy of Jaime Costiglio

This DIY porch swing plan is perfect for those who don’t have a porch. You can easily hang your swing in a nearby tree instead. If you have a tree with a large and sturdy horizontal limb, that’s the perfect location for a swinging tree. Check out the tutorial here.

Find the plans at Jaime CostiglioPorch Swing Bedphoto courtesy of Kreg

This plan is the perfect option for those who love to lounge around outdoors. This elegant porch swing bed is wider than a typical swing, and it features thick ropes that hang in suspension to give you that relaxing, “vacation getaway” feel. Check out how to build this porch swing bed here.

The lumber porch swing not only saves you money by using minimal materials, it takes only 5 hours to complete. An excellent option for beginners who want to add something fun and relaxing to their home. It looks beautiful left natural or with a stain added. Review the full tutorial to the lumber swing here.

Find the plans at Jay’s Custom CreationsFarmhouse Porch Swing Plansphoto courtesy of shanty 2 chic

Out of all the porch swing plans, this one is popular because it requires very little effort. This farmhouse version of a porch swing takes $40 of lumber (and a little patience) to create a super cool, rustic swing that adds value to your home.

Find the plans at Shanty 2 ChicPorch Swing and Pergola ComboPhoto courtesy of Kreg

Functionality and beauty come together to make this lovely porch swing that looks great and offers shade on sunny days. It works perfectly as a reading nook that’s tucked on the side of the porch.

Find the plans at KregWhite Porch Swing PlansPhoto Courtesy of A Beautiful Mess

This porch swing has a classic look that can be decorated to add character. Bright throw blankets and decorative pillows can make your porch look festive and inviting. Read how you can achieve this white porch swing look with ideas for decorating.

Room for just one? A custom swing made for one person is a unique add-on to your porch or yard. These plans include a helpful video to show you how to construct a single-seated porch swing from start to finish. See all of the materials and steps as well as the finished product.

Find the plans hereRustic Porch Swing Plansphoto courtesy of diy network

This DIY plan will give you a customized rustic porch swing. It’s a bit on the advanced side, and will show you how to build a frame as well.

You’ll be able to make it the exact length you want, determine the bench size, design the seat, and learn how to cut lumber and assemble everything. You can find all these instructions, along with pictures to help make the process easier here.

Find the plans at DIY NetworkOutdoor Pallet Swing Plansphoto courtesy of The sorry girls

This simple and comfy version of a porch swing takes about $30 to construct. The swing can hang from either a nearby branch or your porch. Cover the seat with thick cushions to make them great for lounging and hanging with friends, or for taking an afternoon nap.

This porch swing is a unique idea because it’s made entirely from an old bed. Why throw away your furniture when you can reuse it for a cute addition to your porch? Find out how you can turn an old bed into a comfortable porch swing.

Find the plans at HomeSteadyPorch Swing With Cup Holders

This swing has a distinct design that features the classic porch swing and a center console that holds drinks. The project is perfect for hanging out with family and friends on a nice day. A step-by-step guide will show you how to create a gorgeous porch swing with cup holders in a short amount of time.

Find the plans at My Outdoor PlansHammock-Style Baby Porch Swing Plansphoto courtesy of One sassy housewife

This hammock-style porch swing is a unique idea for those who have little ones who like to play on the porch. It’s simple to create and doesn’t require many materials. Follow these easy instructions to make a relaxing swing set for your baby.

This porch swing offers a lot of support with a high back and wide space for sitting. It also has the countryside feel with the stain of the wood and overall design. Find out how to build this swing.

Find the plans at Build EazyHeavy-Duty Porch Swing Plansphoto courtesy of family handyman

The heavy-duty porch swing plan takes a little longer to execute, but it holds more weight and typically stands up to harsh weather better. These swings usually use better quality wood such as cedar or redwood. The instructions will teach you to make a stronger and more robust porch swing for any season.

Find the plans at Family HandymanSuper Comfy Porch Swings Plansphoto courtesy of How does she

What makes this porch swing so comfortable? It uses a crib mattress for the sitting area. This is an easy way to repurpose an old mattress instead of throwing it out.

The slats provide a sturdy foundation while the mattress is a great place to relax on a fun-filled weekend with family or friends. This swing is great for babies and small children. Read more for the step-by-step plan.

Find the plans at How Does SheSimple Porch Swing Plansphoto courtesy of this old house

The simple porch swing is just as its name implies, simple! It uses common stocks and a basic design that’ll produce the swing you want with a friendly budget. Check out the instructions on how to build a simply beautiful porch swing.

Find the plans at This Old HouseWide Porch Swing Plans (Heavy-Duty)photo courtesy of life by leanna

This porch swing costs a little more but it’s comfortable and wide — based on the size of a single mattress. Swings like this offer options to create a living space. Consider these heavy-duty porch swing plans for a swing that doubles as a daybed.

Find the plans at Life By LeannaCasual Porch Swing Plansphoto courtesy of simply designing

The casual porch swing is a simple swing that is great on the porch, patio, or deck. You can add colorful throw pillows to make it “pop” or leave it as is. Learn more about how you can make a casual porch swing that’s the perfect place for gatherings and home activities.

Find the plans at Simply DesigningBackyard Porch Swing Plansphoto courtesy of ana white

Though this is a list of swings that are meant for the porch, you can also build one in your backyard if you don’t have porch space — or don’t have a porch. This swing requires a big tree branch that is able to support the weight. Find further instructions here.

Find the plans at Ana WhiteModern Porch Swing Plansphoto courtesy of ana white

If you’re looking for a more modern swing design that is closer to a bench or couch, this DIY project is for you. It offers space, back support, and a chic style that makes a lovely addition to any front or backyard. Check out this site for more information on how to build a modern porch swing.

There’s something fulfilling about improving your home without the help of professionals. And it doesn’t hurt that you can save a ton of money by simply doing it yourself.

All you have to do is take the proper precautions and follow the plans, and you will be rocking in your porch swing and enjoying the sun in no time.

The Forks Over Knives Diet is Easier than You Think

The Forks Over Knives Diet is all the rage right now. Here’s what you need to know about getting started and sticking with it.

Okay so this is a bit of a new one: a film getting the celebrity diet treatment. That’s right, feature documentary “Forks Over Knives” is now also known as the Forks Over Knives Diet. There’s even a Forks Over Knives cookbook. Move over, Dr. Atkins. You won’t see that happening to “Mad Max” anytime soon (“Magic Mike” though, we might consider).

So, what exactly is the Forks Over Knives Diet? In short, it’s a vegan diet, or a plant-based diet built on the critically acclaimed film that looked at the effects of the Western diet on the human body and the benefits of switching to a plant-based diet.

The film suggests that we’re sicker than we’ve ever been—cancer will effect nearly one in two people, and diet-related illnesses like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease are at all –time highs.

But, still, the vegan diet is not panacea even vegan or vegetarian diets can often fall short on the health spectrum. There are plenty of vegan and plant-based junk foods out there, and it’s just as easy to slip into a potato chips and chocolate bar for breakfast habit whether or not you also eat meat. Forks Over Knives hopes to change that with its diet plan.

What is the Forks Over Knives Diet?

“A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil,” Forks Over Knives explains on its website.

It’s part of the reason some people are moving away from the term “vegan diet” and opting for “plant-based” instead—because it implies a healthier more rounded approach to food rather than just eschewing animal products. But the Forks Over Knives Diet seems to take that even further, drilling into the benefits of five specific food categories: fruits, vegetables, tubers and starchy vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

The Forks Over Knives Diet points out that it’s not a flimsy approach to food—you shouldn’t try to subsist exclusively on leafy greens and raw fruits and vegetables, for example. “While leafy vegetables are an important part of the whole-food, plant-based diet, they are a very poor calorie, i.e., energy, source to be sustainable,” FOK says on its website. “We would need to eat almost 16 pounds of cooked kale to get 2,000 calories of food!” While most any vegan certainly know a few kale heads who might find that not only appealing but totally doable, it’s clearly unsustainable (who has a fridge big enough to hold that much kale?), not to mention imbalanced. The body needs a lot of nutrients from a wide range of foods, and not surprisingly, meat and dairy don’t have to be part of that scenario, but it can’t be done only on kale and beet juice, either.

How Does the Forks Over Knives Diet Work?

According to Forks Over Knives, a number of staple foods that many a meat-eater may already love, make up the bulk of the Forks Over Knives Diet: think starchy squash and sweet potatoes, corn, peas, whole grain brown rice, quinoa, and all kinds of beans, which are not only loaded with healthy plant protein and amino acids, but also a good dose of necessary fiber—something you won’t ever find in a steak—even though the cow it came from ate lots of it.

The Forks Over Knives Diet also points to the benefits in the “whole package” of a food. “The idea of eating a particular food for one nutrient is pervasive in our culture. We have been led to believe we should eat meat for protein, dairy for calcium, fish for omega-3 fatty acids, and even tomatoes for lycopene, among many others,” Alona Pulde, MD and Matthew Lederman, MD write on the FOK website.

“This sort of thinking is misguided and has caused grave harm to human health. The quest for protein, for example, has steered us toward meat consumption. In this quest, we not only consume protein in excess of our needs, but also many harmful substances like dietary cholesterol that are only present in animal foods.

“No food is a single nutrient, and we should never think of foods in that way. Any given food has countless nutrients. What matters most is the overall nutrient profile, i.e., the whole package. Whole, plant-based foods contain all the essential nutrients (with the exception of vitamin B12), and in proportions that are more consistent with human needs than animal-based or processed foods. So our question is really this: Why waste any of what we eat on inferior packages? As long as—over time—we choose a variety of whole, plant-based foods, we will easily meet our nutritional needs.”

The Western diet loves to isolate nutrients, especially in the booming dietary supplements industry, but also in food: You’ll see a number of nutrients “fortifying” breads, cereals, juices and milks. And some research now suggests that we may be getting too much of certain nutrients by eating fortified foods and taking vitamins.

The Forks Over Knives Diet plan recommends sticking to its suggested food categories, but also to stop worrying about things like calories or nutrients. On a well-balanced diet, it’s not so much how much you actually eat, but what it is you’re eating. Eating mindfully and listening to the body can help you know when you’re full and make overeating less common. Another benefit of the Forks Over Knives Diet is that it’s high in fiber—a critically important macronutrient—, which helps the body to feel fuller, longer, decreasing the temptation to overeat or crave sugary foods.

To help people interested in trying the Forks Over Knives Diet, there’s even a recipe app for your smart phone or mobile device. The app offers more than 180 recipes, with new recipes added weekly. You can also create shopping lists from the app and easy step-by-step instructions make food prep simple. There are also contributions from expert plant-based chefs and lifestyle tips for a plant-based lifestyle.

32,000 Years and Counting: Re-Seeding the World’s Oldest Plant

Have you ever wondered what grew on the planet before the Ice Age? There must have been plants of some description.

How else would the prehistoric creatures have survived? Whatever happened to these plants? Was it the overgrowth of plant life that pushed the planet into ice? Is it possible that some of the plants we enjoy today are remnants (perhaps even mutations) of pre-Ice Age plants?

How long do you think seeds can remain potent? A couple of years? How about 32,000 years? There is a plant whose seeds have been carbon-dated from the end of the Ice Age: the narrow-leafed campion or Silene stenophylla.

It’s a flowering plant that grows well in the arctic tundra, particularly in Siberia. One ancient squirrel must have scattered some seeds along the banks of the Kolyma River and they actually germinated and grew – 32,000 years later! Now is that cool or what?

If the seeds of this plant are still viable, there must be others — wouldn’t you think? So, how did we learn about these pre-Ice Age seeds? Researchers in the north have been studying the local plant life for some time now. And in places like Siberia and northern Canada, they have discovered some amazing things about the resiliency of some plants.

Until the discovery of 32,000-year-old seeds in the permafrost along the Kolyma River, the oldest known plant to germinate was a date palm grown from 2,000-year-old seeds. Pretty amazing.

The landscape was mostly grasslands, cold, and arid. Prehistoric plants have been grown from resurrected plant tissue that was frozen in the permafrost. Growing from prehistoric seeds similarly buried is a bit of an anomaly as seeds don’t generally survive extended periods of time.

However, perhaps the extremity of the freezing preserved them enough to make them more likely to germinate thousands of years later. As you can imagine, there must be hundreds of thousands of fruits and seeds buried by squirrel-like animals. How many of these will germinate and provide us with a better appreciation and understanding of what grew on Earth prior to this Ice Age?

It’s interesting to note that scientists have been working with huge burials of fruits and seeds for years, hoping to germinate prehistoric plants, like sedge, arctic dock, alpine bearberry, and others. Whilst some of these seeds did begin the germinating process, they faltered and died, probably not adapting well to the soil of the 21st century.

By using samples of the placental tissue of the S. stenophylla fruit — not so different from the white stuff one finds inside a pepper which holds the seeds — researchers were able to produce shoots in vitro which were then used to propagate plants. And these produced flowers — although the growing time was considerably longer than the S. stenophylla that currently grows on the banks of the Kolyma River today.

The result? This narrow-leafed plant with tiny flowers grown from pre-Ice Age seeds is now the oldest living multicellular organism on this planet. Pretty amazing! And there’s more. With this success, scientists are hopeful that they might be able to bring to life more pre-Ice Age plants in the future.

There are quite a few to consider, too. Since rodents stashed seeds and fruits in burrows, and these burrows were at the level of the permafrost which caused them to freeze almost instantaneously, there are more than 600,000 fruits and seeds to study.

Other than the novelty of bringing back to life something that was extinct, is there a purpose to this regeneration? Is this plant edible? Does it have medicinal benefits? Well, some plants of the Silene genus are edible including S. acaulis, S. dioica, and S. vulgaris. Why? Because they’re all campions with narrow leaves. Usually, the young leaves are boiled and served with butter. Can one assume the same for the S. stenophylla? Time will tell.

I can’t help but wonder if this wonderful regeneration is perhaps too much. Are we opening up a whole new Pandora’s box? What diseases came with these plants? Are they invasive to current species? Too many unanswered questions too few answers. Whilst sites do advertise the sale of S. stenophylla seeds, these are from the plants currently growing, not the regenerated seeds. For now, the 32,000-year-old flower only grows in a laboratory.

18 Free Garden Bench Plans for Your Outdoor Paradise

You may have a beautiful garden but without a place nearby to sit, how can you admire it? While purchasing an outdoor bench may seem like the easiest solution, benches can be expensive — and there’s no way to customize a store-bought bench to fit your garden’s theme.

Building a garden bench instead won’t just save you money, it will also mean you get a personalized bench for your home. DIY garden benches need a plan, however, and that’s where we come in.

We’ve put together 18 free garden bench plans to take your outdoor paradise to the next level.

Important Details to Consider When Building a Garden Bench

Before you start pulling out tools, there are a few important details to consider when building your garden bench.

Like any carpentry project, exact measurements are crucial, and you’ll want to map the size of your garden bench. Consider the width of the seat, how many people you’ll want it to fit, and how high off the ground it will be.

Types of Materials to Use

While most garden benches primarily use wood, you can customize the type of wood. Raw wood adds a natural touch to the bench while recycled wood tends to be easier on the wallet.

Garden Bench Location and Climate

Don’t forget about the location of your garden bench, or the kind of climate it’s going to endure. Scope out a spot that gives you the best view of the garden. And, don’t forget that you’ll likely need to winterize your garden bench once winter rolls around.

You may also want to consider investing in a protective cover for your bench as the temperature drops. It’s always a good idea to clean your outdoor furniture before winter sets in.

Free Garden Bench Plans to Consider

Every great garden bench begins with a plan. Here are 18 free garden bench plans to build.

Easy DIY Rustic Sitting Garden Bench PlansPhoto Courtesy of Scrappy geek

This easy DIY rustic bench is a great option for beginners who may not be familiar with carpentry work. You’ll only need three boards to create it, and the design is simple enough that this bench won’t look out of place in any garden. You have the option to drill pilot holes, or add any components you want.

Find the plans at Scrappy GeekFront Porch Garden Bench PlansPhoto Courtesy of Over the Big Moon

For a spacious bench that could easily fit 2 to 3 people, this front porch garden bench is simple to make and has a detailed tutorial for beginners. Add a coat of paint to match the color of your house, and it’ll be a stylish seat to admire the garden.

Find the plans at Over The Big MoonRainbow Garden BenchPhoto Courtesy of Christina Diaz

For a pop of color, look no further than this rainbow garden bench. While you can build the bench from scrap, these drawings and ideas also work great if you have an old bench to repurpose. You can customize the color scheme, and make each slat a different color.

Find the plans at Christina DiazRaw Cherry Wood Garden Bench PlansPhoto courtesy of front Porch Ideas and More

If you want for a garden bench that’s as natural as your garden, you may want to consider making this raw cherry wood bench. The plan includes both a written and video tutorial for beginners. You’ll need some screws, and you can use the pocket hole technique as well.

Find the plans at Front Porch Ideas and MoreEasy Planter Garden BenchPhoto Courtesy of Shanty 2 Chic

Always looking for more space to plant? This planter garden bench may just be what you need. The bench sits in between two planter boxes that you can fill with whatever you want. While this project may be ambitious for some beginners, the tutorial and plans are easy to read and follow.

Find the plans at Shanty 2 ChicCurved Fire Pit BenchPhoto Courtesy of A Beautiful Mess

When you’ve got a big family or a large group of friends, a curved bench is exactly what you need — whether or not there’s a fire pit involved. This is definitely a big project that requires some carpentry experience.

Find the plans at A Beautiful MessTwin Bed Garden Bench PlansPhoto Courtesy of the Interior Frugalista

Got any vacant twin beds lying around? The plan for this garden bench shows you how to repurpose these old beds by using the footboard and the headboard to form the base.

Find the plans at Interior FrugalistaBench With Storage Space From Home Depot

A bench may be pretty to look at, but there’s no reason it can’t be functional as well. This bench plan looks best if you have a back porch or deck that overlooks your garden, but you can place it anywhere you’d like.

Planter Bench With LatticePhoto courtesy of Pinspired to dIY

For those with a little bit more experience doing carpentry projects, this planter bench with a lattice is ambitious and rewarding. This garden bench is a dream, but if you’re able to build it, you’ll have a space to plant some of your favorite flowers.

Find the plans at Pinspired to DIYSimple Garden Bench PlansPhoto courtesy of Shanty 2 Chic

The materials and the tools for a garden bench can be expensive, but if you follow this tutorial, you’ll have a simple seating area for less than 20 dollars. Even if you’re not working with a tight budget, the design of this simple bench can be appealing.

If intricate designs aren’t your thing, this garden bench is simple and quick to build. Keep in mind that the seat of the bench is one slat wide, which may not offer enough support for everyone.

Traditional Garden Bench Plans

If you like the look of traditional or store-bought benches, this plan is a great pick. The design of this bench is sturdy and.

Another bench that you can use for storage, this simple box garden bench is great for storing gardening tools in the box, or spare cushions for your outdoor furniture. Keep in mind that there’s no back support in this design.

Picnic Table BenchPhoto Courtesy of Her Tool Belt

That picnic table sitting in your backyard may be convenient for eating, but if you follow this plan, you’ll be able to convert it into two benches. This design is great if you frequently have people over and need a large sitting area.

Find the plans at Her Tool BeltRecycled Door BenchPhoto Courtesy of Dumped and Discovered

Don’t toss out that old door! Consider recycling it as a garden bench. You’ll use part of the door for the back of the bench, and a few wooden slats for the seat. If you’re not a fan of the door color, you can always slap on a new coat of paint.

Find the plans at Dumped and DiscoveredGarden Loveseat BenchPhoto courtesy of Instructables

Looking for a garden bench that feels a bit more modern? This loveseat garden bench is fit for two.

If cutting wood and contouring horizontal slats doesn’t sound appealing, these garden bench plans use cinderblocks as support. Of course, using found or upcycled cinderblocks is the best option, but if you can’t source any, you can buy new ones at your local home improvement store.

Arbor Sitting Area BenchPhoto Courtesy of Ana White

This plan might look intimidating to some, but all your hard work will pay off. You’ll get a gorgeous seating area that’s sturdy enough to last for years. And that arbor is totally gorgeous, too.

When your garden is in full bloom, the best way to admire it is with a matching garden bench. From simple, rustic designs that won’t take you more than an hour, to intricate, eye-catching plans, there’s a garden bench plan for everyone.

11 Fun DIY Dremel Projects to Try This Weekend

While the term “Dremel” has become a catchall for just about any rotary tool, Dremel is actually a brand. They were the first company to produce the popular rotary tools we know and love today.

A Dremel is a handheld rotary multitool with various attachments and accessories. It can be used for wood, glass, metal, plastic, electronics, and it is extremely useful for arts, crafts, and other projects. A Dremel is also handy when it comes to home repairs.

There are a few different types of Dremel options to choose from. The kind of Dremel you choose to invest in will be based on whatever project or household chore you need to tackle. Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of rotary tools for a variety of Dremel projects.

A corded Dremel or rotary tool requires you to be close to an outlet. The major benefit here is that you won’t have to recharge the unit regularly.

A cordless rotary tool gives you the freedom to work wherever you want. It is an excellent option for Dremel projects outdoors or on the go. You just need to make sure your battery gets charged.

A lightweight Dremel is used for smaller and lighter projects. It’s also easier to store away when not in use.

Some Dremel projects need a little more power, and that’s where a heavy-duty Dremel comes into play. The RPMs are a bit faster, and they can be used for heavier projects.

Extended Battery Life Models

If you only need a Dremel for short projects here and there, the battery life isn’t a big concern. However, if you’re into longer, more involved Dremel projects, you’ll want something with extended battery life otherwise, you’ll have to stop and charge up frequently.

Fixed Speed or Variable Speed Models

It’s pretty simple. A fixed speed means you’re going to get one speed, and that’s it. This is good for many projects. Variable-speed models are the way to go when you need the tool to run faster to get the job done.

Those are the basics when it comes to Dremel options. There are many styles to choose from, so when you’re ready to get one, be sure to do your research. You’ll want to make sure to invest in the best tool for the project.

Dremel attachments are grouped into the type of jobs they do. There are four main types of attachment sets, and they’re all pretty awesome and useful in their own right.

Dremel projects that require carving or engraving will use high-speed cutters. You’ll find engraving cutters, structured tooth carbide cutters, tungsten carbide cutters, and diamond wheel points. Some bits are for metalwork while others are for glass, wood, and plastic.

Here, you’ll find router bits that consist of straight, keyhole, corner, and groove. Your Dremel can be turned into a plunge router making wood Dremel projects a breeze.

Turn your Dremel into a drill by using drill bit attachments. They come in a variety of sizes, making them convenient for tasks that go beyond basic DIY Dremel projects.

Grinding and Sanding Attachments

Grind, sand, and polish things using some of these attachments. There are sets of different grinding stones, sanding drums, buffers, cutting discs, and more.

DIY Dremel Projects to Try at Home

Now that we’ve covered the basics of a Dremel, we can move on to the fun stuff. There are so many great projects you can do using a Dremel, and below you’ll find something from beginner to advanced.

Before we jump in, I want to say that any time you use a Dremel, be sure to wear safety glasses. With that in mind, check out some of our favorite Dremel projects to try at home.

Engraved glass makes a beautiful gift for any occasion. You can freehand a design or create a template guide to trace and follow. This Dremel project requires diamond-coated ball-shaped bits. Upcycle old glass bottles or decorate drinking glasses.

Carving wooden spoons are excellent Dremel projects for beginners. In this video, the crafter uses a wooden board to shape and create his spoon. There isn’t much to it, it’s fairly easy, and you can design it to add your personality. Use it in the kitchen or as a decoration.

A Dremel makes rock carving a little easier. You’ll need a silicon carbide grinding stone attachment for softer rocks, while harder rocks require a diamond bit. All you need is the rotary tool, bits, a bowl of water, and a clamp (which is optional).

The trick is to use a slow-speed setting. These instructions break it down and provide some tips. Make rocks for your garden or turn them into cool jewelry.

This Dremel project is a great way to upcycle old CDs, and it looks incredible. You could use a scissor to cut the CDs into the desired shape, but a rotary tool is more efficient.

An alternative is to use a diamond cutting wheel Dremel attachment which makes it much easier, and the cuts will look better and cleaner.

Turn an ordinary plain candle into a beautiful piece of art with this project. Simply draw or print your design, then use a thick needle to pierce the pattern design. Remove the paper and get to work using a Dremel engraver attachment on a low setting. Low and slow is the best approach since you’re dealing with wax.

Keep your plants warm during cold spells or keep candles lit outside in the wind with these incredibly useful wine bottle cloches. For this Dremel project, you’ll need a diamond bit in order to cut the glass wine bottle.

These instructions give you the details on how to create an engraved bracelet, and all the tools or pieces you’ll need. If you don’t want to make the leather bracelet, you could likely use an old one with the snaps already connected and simply engrave it. You’ll need sanding bands to carve this piece.

I think this is one of my favorite Dremel projects on the list. I know the grill is tiny and can only cook one hot dog or a small burger but isn’t it cute?

Related Post: 19 DIY Smoker Plans

You may have to look around to find a couple of the required items unless you have old computer power supplies around. This Altoids tin grill is one of the more unique Dremel projects I have found.

Unless you already have the sandstone blocks cut down to the size you desire, you’ll need a rod saw. A high-speed rotary tool with a grinding bit is used to flatten the ends to make sure they sit flat. From here, you can mark your design using a marking pencil or high-speed diamond bit. It’s a beautiful project, but it requires a bit of skill.

This woodworking project can be incredibly simple, depending on the design or pattern you choose. All you need is the wood, a Dremel, carving tips, engraving tips, sandpaper, and paint or finish.

Make a welcome sign or a piece of art to hang somewhere. It’s a pretty good project for beginners and a great way to get comfortable using a Dremel if you’ve never used one before. This etched wood sign would make a fantastic housewarming gift or wedding present for newlyweds.

This is another one of my favorites on this list. The project isn’t very complicated, but it is time consuming. You can use any coins you’d like, including some of those extra coins left over from the arcade or pizza joints. It’s a thoughtful gift, and if you make one, you may find yourself making many.

The more you work with a Dremel and learn which attachments and bits work best for different projects, the more fun you’ll have. There are so many possibilities and projects to do. Whether you’re a beginner or more advanced, it can be a lot of fun. Which of these Dremel projects did you like the most? Let us know in the comments!

7 DIY Bath Bombs For a Soothing, Relaxing Soak

Fizz away fatigue with all-natural, DIY bath bombs that transform bathwater into a fragrant, skin nurturing, stress-melting oasis.

A quick search of the internet yields as many different recipes for DIY bath bombs as for chocolate chip cookies. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can make a basic bath bomb with a few drops of water and equal amounts of three primary ingredients: citric acid, baking soda, and Epsom salt.

While every bath bomb recipe looks a little different, the general process is to blend the three main ingredients and combine them with just enough water to moisten the mixture adequately and hand pack the bomb into a small, firm ball.

When these basic ingredients are mixed, molded, dried, and dropped in warm bathwater, the bombs go “boom” — dissolve and fizz. It’s inexpensive, simple, and so much fun. Read on to learn more about how to make bath bombs at home including some of our favorite DIY bath bombs available online.

The biggest secret of a successful bath bomb is attaining the right consistency. Too much or too little moisture makes it difficult to shape the bomb and can cause the bomb to fizz prematurely.

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch or filler of your choice
  • 1 cup Epsom salt, clay, or natural bath salt of your choice
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup citric acid
  • 6-8 tablespoons carrier oil of your choice
  • 6-8 tablespoons water or liquid of your choice
  • 25-30 drops of therapeutic grade essential oil
  • Food coloring optional.
  1. Mix all of the dry bath bomb ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Sift or whisk the dry mixture briskly to remove clumps and lumps.
  3. In a small glass bowl, blend together the wet ingredients.
  4. Slowly pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, thoroughly whisking to smoothly blend until the mixture clumps and holds together.
  5. To test the moisture in the mix, pinch a small amount of the dough between your fingers. The mixture should clump form as if you were making a snowball.
  6. If the dry mixture foams or fizzles, you are adding the liquid too quickly.
  7. If the dry mixture fails to clump, add a few more drops of the liquid of your choice until the right consistency is achieved.

When crafting bath bombs, you can either hand pack them or form them in ice cube trays or silicone molds. Allow bath bombs to dry for a day or two before storing or packing in gift baskets or boxes.

More DIY Bath Bombs to Consider

If you’re looking for a little more guidance for scents and colors, check out some of our favorite DIY bath bomb recipes to make at home.

Now here are some beautiful bath bombs you won’t find just anywhere. While these bath bombs look out of this world, they’re made up of the same ingredients that you’ll find in most tutorials. Use your favorite essential oils and colors to make these bath bombs one of a kind.

With colored layers, sparkly gold details, and a bright blue exterior, these DIY bath bombs are sure to rock your world. This recipe calls for almond oil and grapefruit essential oils, but you can customize it based on whatever you have on hand.

Bright Orange DIY Bath BombsPhoto Courtesy of Feast For a Fraction

If you can’t get enough orange in your life, these bath bombs are absolutely up your alley. Utilizing orange peel zest and orange essential oils, these bright and fragrant bath bombs will leave the bathroom smelling amazing.

Find the recipe at Feast For a FractionBath Bomb Easter EggsPhoto Courtesy of Mom Foodie

Make a big batch of these bath bomb Easter eggs for the spring holiday. Plastic Easter eggs are used as a mold for this project while a variety of food colorings are utilized to create fun patterns. Use some eco-friendly, biodegradable glitter to add the finishing touch. Your kids will totally get a kick out of these! And don’t forget to add a couple of drops of essential oils to make these your own.

Find the recipe at Mom FoodieRose Petal DIY Bath BombsPhoto Courtesy of The Toasted Pine Nut

What’s more luxurious than a bathtub filled with rose petals? A bath bomb filled with rose petals! In this recipe, rose essential oil and real petals are incorporated to create a bath bomb that’s elegant, romantic, and pleasantly aromatic.

Find the recipe at The Toasted Pine NutDIY Lemon Meringue Pie Bath BombsPhoto Courtesy of Beauty Crafter

Perfect for spring, these lemon and vanilla bath bombs have a sweet, citrusy smell that’s sure to uplift your spirits. You’ll be surprised at just how similar they smell to a free lemon meringue pie! And how beautiful is that stripped design?

Find the recipe at Beauty CrafterCommon DIY Bath Bomb Ingredients

You’ll come across a lot of the same ingredients in all the DIY bath bomb recipes across the internet. Read on to learn more about them, and what works best for your personal needs.

The two most common salt substances marketed as bath or soaking salts include Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Baking soda, when combined with an acidic ingredient such as citric acid, is responsible for the fizz and foam when bath bombs are dropped in water. Luxury salts include Himalayan, Hawaiian, Dendritic, Celtic, and Dead Sea salts.

When crafting DIY bath bombs, I almost always include Epsom salt. It’s inexpensive and readily available. Epsom salt is not a salt but rather a mineral compound composed of magnesium and sulfate. The mineral combo (mined in Surry, England) is readily absorbed through the pores in the skin.

Magnesium plays several integral roles in body function and regulates the activity of more than 320 enzymes, relaxes muscles, improves nerve function, reduces inflammation, and helps to prevent hardening of the arteries. Sulfates help reduce stress, flush toxins, improve the absorption of nutrients, and ease migraine headaches.

Used in skincare rituals for centuries, natural clays, which are finely ground minerals, are valued for their impressive purifying and healing properties. Clay deep cleans pores, pulling oil from the skin and leaving it clean and fresh. When added to bath bombs, detoxifying clay also draws toxins from the pores while adding body to the bombs.

Natural clays vary by the fineness of grain and their absorption properties. As an example, kaolin clay is best for dry to normal skin while bentonite and French green clay present stronger absorption properties that are ideal for oily skin.

When adding clays to my bath bomb recipes, I typically add one cup of clay per cup of baking soda.

Carrier Oils, Emulsifiers, and Butters

Organic carrier oils such as almond, sesame, olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, palm kernel oil, safflower seed oil, baby oil, or tea tree oil are ingredients frequently used in DIY bath bombs.

Carrier oils serve to bind together the dry ingredients and add skin-soothing softness and silkiness to bathwater. However, it is important to keep in mind that oil and water do not mix well. Adding carrier oils to bathwater can make the bottom of the tub quite slippery.

When adding carrier oils to DIY bath bombs, I always add a few drops of Turkey Red oil to offset the slipperiness problem. Turkey Red is a water-soluble oil and helps emulsify other oils in water.

In place of water as the binding moisture in your bath bombs, experiment with adding glycerin or a couple melted tablespoons of shea or cocoa butter. Lanolin and liquid lecithin are other fine natural emulsifiers that work well to restore skin health, relieve skin dryness, and reduce skin flakiness.

A mild preservative commonly used in home canning and candy-making, you likely have citric acid (also known as citric salt or citric acid crystals) on your pantry shelf. If not, look for citric acid in the canning department of home and garden centers, or order citric acid crystals online.

If you prefer not to use citric acid, replace it with lemon juice, vinegar, cream of tartar, or baking powder. I discovered that a combination of apple vinegar and baking powder creates the best bath bombs without citric acid.

Making DIY bath bombs at home is fun and easy. Once you have selected a recipe, it’s time to craft a unique, customizable scent. What’s your favorite? Find your signature fragrance by experimenting with different combinations of therapeutic-grade essential oils.

And use your imagination. There are dozens of essential oils with delightful fragrances and a wealth of healing properties. Eucalyptus, ginger, rose, and lavender essential are a few popular choices.

  • Coconut, ginger, jasmine, tea tree, and pineapple essential oils soothe and silken sensitive skin and present a light, clean fragrance reminiscent of the tropics.
  • If you seek a light citrus scent, experiment with combinations of orange, ginger, lemon, lime, or grapefruit essential oils.
  • If you are blending bombs for that special man in your life, consider white sage, cedar, balsam, sandalwood, or juniper essential oils.

Corn starch, powdered milk, powdered buttermilk, arrowroot powder, ground oats, and baking soda are the fillers I use most often in my bath bomb creations. They are easy to find at the local supermarket or can be purchased in bulk online.

One of the best ways I have discovered to add all-natural color to bath bombs is to toss a handful of freeze-dried fruit (mango, banana, raspberry, strawberry, or blueberries) in the blender to pulverize.

The resulting powder, when added to DIY bath bombs, can be used to impart subtle shades of yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, green, and blue. Freeze-dried fruit powder available for purchase online, has become a staple in my pantry. I use it in baking, in smoothies, and now in my bath bombs.

I also use turmeric for orange or yellow coloration, spirulina for green, and alkanet root (ratan jot) for deep purple shades. If you are not familiar with ratan jot, it is a spice from India used to reduce inflammation, lighten skin scars, and prevent premature aging of the skin. I love the color, and it adds beneficial healing properties and a wonderful silkiness to bathwater.

Elegantly crafted homemade bath bombs make great gifts for family and friends. Making your own also allows you to personalize bath bombs to your unique therapeutic needs and aesthetic preferences.

For me, that’s important. Suppose you have sensitive skin that’s prone to dryness and easily irritated (like me). In that case, you seek beauty products containing all-natural ingredients, free of toxic chemicals, and synthetic fillers and fragrances.

How to Make Olive Oil

Olive oil has been an important food source, lamp fuel, religious material, cosmetic, and medicine for thousands of years.

More than just a salad topping, olives join wheat and grapes as the core foods of the Mediterranean. In the modern age, it has enjoyed waves of popularity as a health food and DIY ingredient.

This ancient food has also come under necessary modern scrutiny, however. Olive oil is a huge business, and where there’s money to be made, there are always scams to be played. It’s suspected that around 80% of olive oil sold in stores is tainted, purposely mislabeled, or adulterated with cheaper, lesser-quality corn or vegetable oils.

Learning how to make olive oil can be rewarding! / Pexels

Cheaper olive oils are often extracted using chemical means — these “oils” are often labeled “pomace,” indicating they were extracted from the leftover olive solids from earlier pressings. Consuming these means you’ll be ingesting some sort of chemical solvent. If you do more digging, you can try finding olive oil companies that are trustworthy, but you’ll still have to take someone else’s word for it.

My advice? Skip the marketing. Skip the middleman. Skip the long shipping times, oxidation, packaging, and waste. The only way to know you have the healthiest and purest olive oil, the way it was meant to be eaten, is to learn how to make olive oil on your own.

Just imagine topping your bruschetta with homemade olive oil!

Now, pressing your own oil from a crop of perfectly ripe, fresh-picked olives may seem like some sort of unattainable, provincial fantasy, but it is as possible in the home kitchen as it was for Mediterranean peasants thousands of years ago. If you are blessed enough to have access to olive trees, or if you have the space to cultivate your own, you too can take part in the ancient tradition of harvesting oil from olives.

Related Post: Homemade Vinegar

Though there are certainly nuances to it, pressing oil is a surprisingly simple process. People the world over have done it without electricity and big machines, so rest assured that with minimal tools, you’ll be able to do it too. With that all said, read on to learn how to make olive oil at home.

I love simplicity, and the ingredient list for homemade extra virgin olive oil (which essentially means made without chemicals) couldn’t be more beautiful.

Of course, the type and freshness of olives, and the nuances of finding the perfect balance of flavors, is what adds the underlying millennia of history to this seemingly simple, bitter fruit.

There are dozens of olive cultivars to experiment with as your learning how to make olive oil. If you’re growing your own, you will have the most personalized and unique olive oil, flavored with the sun and wind of your land. If you’re purchasing fresh olives at a market, a good, solid olive to experiment with is the Kalamata.

If you’re harvesting your own olives, you can try pressing oil from them at different stages of ripeness and find the flavor you like best. For starters, you can try green olives — before they start to go on the color shift to red and black. Any size can be used.

If you don’t have access to fresh olives, canned olives are an unsuitable replacement. It won’t taste the same, and the oil is likely to spoil.

There are a couple of different ways to make olive oil at home: small scale and traditional. We’re going to cover how to make olive oil with both of these methods.

How to Make Olive Oil: Small-Scale Process

There are many different ways to extract oil, but I’ll start with a very simple one that uses tools you probably have on hand. It is a bit time consuming, but this labor of love will certainly be worth it in the end when you pour and taste that first, verdant-green dish of homemade olive oil (in a special bowl, of course).

This method doesn’t use an oil press, so it’s a good experiment to try on a small scale and is an accessible way to learn how to make olive oil. If you fall in love with making your own oil (and have a reliable source of suitable olives), then I would think it would be more than worth it to take the plunge and buy that expensive (but worth it!) piece of equipment.

  • Paring knife or olive pitting tool
  • Blender (or immersion blender and a vessel)
  • Cheesecloth
  • Bowl
  • Tall, clear glass bottle
  1. Rinse 2 pounds of olives, being sure to remove all dirt, twigs, and leaves.
  2. Painstakingly pit each olive.
  3. Place pitted olives in a blender to render into chunks.
  4. Add one-half cup warm water to the blender, then blend on high speed for around 10 minutes until a very fine olive paste has been created. At this point, you’ll start seeing a beautiful, velvety shine on top of the paste as the oil starts to separate from the mash.
  5. Transfer the mashy mess into a cheesecloth-covered bowl, then tightly bundle up the cheesecloth and press out as much liquid as you can. Really squeeze! Every drop counts.
  6. Pour the liquid into a taller, narrow glass and allow it to settle. Oil and water don’t mix, right?
  7. After a few hours, right before your eyes, the watery solids will separate from the beautiful oil, which will rise to the top.
  8. Decant carefully into a dark glass (or directly into the aforementioned special bowl) and enjoy the freshest, purest olive oil in the world.

Don’t worry about the clarity of your slightly opaque oil — that delightfully rustic trait is something that can’t be purchased.

How to Make Olive Oil: Traditional Method

I found a traditional write-up of the oil extraction process in a delightful, hard-to-find book called Handmade by Drew and Louise Langsner. The instructions were taken from the mouths of herders and farmers who were still living traditionally on the Balkan Peninsula. If you want to learn how to make olive oil the traditional way, keep reading!

  • Wooden tub (food grade)
  • Tall, clear glass bottle
  1. Pick your olives while they are green, and before they turn reddish and begin to blacken. This works best in a team of two, with one person climbing the olive tree and loosening the olives, and another under the tree gathering them onto a sheet.
  2. Bring the olives home, and put them in a wooden tub.
  3. Cover the olives with fresh room temperature water to leach out tannins.
  4. The water will turn dark brown: In 2 to 3 hours, drain the water and replace.
  5. Replace water daily for 5 to 7 days until rinse water pours off clear (olives will taste very bland)
  6. Now, drain thoroughly and put olives through a screw-press (similar to an apple cider press)
  7. Pits and pulp will be strained out, and the high-quality oil will separate and float to the top.
  8. Carefully pour into containers and use.

Want to get a glimpse of what it looks like inside a traditional olive oil mill in Italy? Check out this video from “Business Insider” that shows how some of the highest quality olive oil in the world is made.

Fresh olive oil should be used within two years of being pressed (I would hope you wouldn’t wait that long to use it). To keep it fresh, store your olive oil in dark jars and out of the sunlight.

Now, all that olive pomace (the leftover solids) shouldn’t go to waste. I have been able to find some information on how farmers in the Mediterranean give it to ruminants as a feed supplement, but if you’re unsure whether your goats and sheep could handle it, you can always compost it instead. Chickens, on the other hand, have had favorable growth after having pomace included in the diet.

If you have access to fresh olives, learning how to make olive oil could easily become another tool to add to your self-sufficiency arsenal. Hopefully, you now see how easy that process can be. If any of you have experience making your own olive oil, regale us with your process and tips and tricks in the comments below. And let us know if you have success learning how to make olive oil from this article.

Homestead Stories: Stunning and Exotic Baobab Trees

“It’s not a frequent bloomer,” I noted, talking to myself as I studied the website. My hope was to someday follow a dream of a garden tour in Brazil, and to see the beautiful baobab trees (among other plants).

With current travel restrictions in place, my dream may be on hold for some time, but that isn’t going to stop me from studying online.

“And it wouldn’t survive my northern climate,” I read on. If it only blooms once in 50 years, what were my chances of ever seeing it?

Some baobab trees (like those on the Ivory Coast in Africa) bloom once or twice a year, but not in Brazil. It’s actually a tree that acts like a succulent. And interestingly, because it can absorb and store water in a vast trunk, the baobab tree is often called the Tree of Life or the bottle tree. Unlike other flower blossoms, the baobab, when it does bloom, flowers at night. It’s nocturnal.

Baobab trees are probably the longest living trees in the world. There’s one tree in Namibia in southern African that is carbon dated to over 1200 years old. Part of the hibiscus or mallow family, the huge trunk, sometimes as much as 30 feet in diameter with a height of almost 60 feet, has given credence to legends.

Its peculiar shape recalls an Arabian legend that claims the tree was plucked up out of the ground by the devil himself, and thrust again into the Earth, branches first, leaving the roots in the air.

With a trunk that stores water, this tree thrives in some of the driest regions on the planet. Some of the older trees have huge hollow trunks.

The flowers are pendulous, large, and have a distinct perfume that is something like a rose or jasmine. The flowers are pollinated by bats, lemurs, and hawk moths. The young leaves are edible, and the tree’s large woody fruit (shaped like a gourd) has a gelatin-like pulp that can be made into a delicious, refreshing drink.

Both leaves and fruit are used for various medicinal purposes. The bark is made up of a strong fiber that is used for rope and cloth as well as for various hunting and fishing tools.

As the tree expands and ages, the trunk often becomes hollow which makes an excellent reservoir for water or provides a temporary shelter. There are stories of the hollow trunks serving as prisons, burial sites, and stables. Some people associate cultural and religious significance to these trees not surprising since it’s referred to as the Tree of Life.

Though it recently collapsed, at one point there was a baobab tree that was so wide and hollow that it housed a pub! Here’s an Instagram shot that shows what it looked like prior to the collapse in 2017.

Are baobab trees doomed to extinction due to climate change? The sudden increase in the decline of the oldest baobab trees suggests climate change may be affecting them. Some of the oldest and largest of the African baobab have died, or at least their largest, oldest stems have collapsed.

This may also be due, in part, to the lengthy, slow-growing time, but climate change is certainly threatening its natural habitat and very survival. So much so that some of the species have been listed as endangered.

The most interesting part of the baobab is its flowers. They bloom maybe once every 50 years and even then, the blossoms are only open for about 24 hours mostly at night. The tree produces lots of buds, and the opening of the baobab flower is an event in itself. Baobab trees blossom during the rainy season after the leaves appear.

Then comes the blooming, a process that begins in the late afternoon and close to sunset. The larger, older baobab trees can carry hundreds of flowers, not all of which will open at the same time. The green outside makes them look like the fruit that will develop later. The first sign of blooming is when the outer shell rolls up toward the stalks.

Within seconds, the flower petals unfurl like opening an umbrella. Sounds fantastic, and a must-see. However, like all living creatures, every tree is different. While most flowers open within seconds, there are some whose flowers need hours to open. The slower blooming trees are called late bloomers.

In the video below, you can learn more about the baobab and watch a video of this fantastic blooming stage taking place.

As a long-living tree, baobabs have evolved and adapted to environment. Like a succulent, they absorb water during the rainy season, storing it in their huge trunks to produce the nutrient-dense fruit — even in the dry season. Another reason why it’s called the Tree of Life.

And since some baobab trees bloom twice a year, perhaps by the time their next blooming begins, the pandemic will be over, and I can travel. Here’s hoping.

Why Does Bread Go Stale? (It’s not just drying out!)

Photo courtesy of LoveFoodCookFood Bake on Jenn!

Sometimes it's nice to have a guest writer and today I have the talented Mark S Whitehead BSc Hons who is not only a food chemist but an avid baker himself. This has been an age-old question and now it is finally answered!

Normal white bread contains a lot of starch – in the order of 45-50%. Whilst bread contains many other nutrients (e.g. protein) and fibre, it’s the starch content that is important in bread staling.

Starch is a very long chain of almost circular glucose molecules joined together. The number of glucose molecules (called “residues” in labs) in the chain varies but in bread wheat it’s in the thousands, 15,000 being on the low side.
In the grain, these long chains lie more or less parallel for long stretches and are attracted to each other. This attraction, although not always a full chemical bond, is still moderately strong.

When we add water to starch and then heat it, the chains tend to break away from their straight-line format and form curves and waves. They are still attached to each other, but not nearly as much, and molecules of water often lie between the chains for much of their length. This allows bread to have its “fluffy” consistency.

The bending and curving of the chains is brought about by heat of the oven and is kept that way, to an extent, by the water from the dough. Chains of protein, also in the wheat, behave in much the same way though not to the same extent. This is why a still-warm loaf is not very firm and tears easily.
As the bread cools and some more of the water evaporates, the chains pull a little closer together and the bread gets its normal firmness.

Whilst the starch can’t move much once the bread is cool, it can still move to a small extent. It is not held in rigid lines, so the bread remains flexible. However, the starch “wants” to get back into its original shape with the long chains parallel and attached to each other. It can do this only gradually and the water molecules, which are strongly attracted to the starch chains, get in the way.
However, over time the starch can get some of what it wants. Some parts of the chains can get parallel again firming up the bread a bit more. Eventually, given enough time, lots of the chains go back (“retrograde” if you listen to food scientists) to their original state. The bread becomes firmer, and as it is no longer closely attached to the starch, water will evaporate and the bread will become dry and firm.
This is what we call “staling”.

In most bread recipes, there is some fat – oil, lard, butter or something similar. This stops the water moving around so much, leaving it attached to the starch chains, and gets in the way of the starch chains when they try to come back together. This is what prevents immediate staling.
The fat also stops, or at least slows down, the movement of the water that is attracted to the starch chains. The water also helps stop the chains coming back together. However, as the bread dries out, there is less water to keep the chains apart. This makes it easier for the chains to meet up again. You don’t need to lose much water to allow your bread to become stale. It will manage to do this eventually, but the less water the easier it is for the starch to retrograde.

What To Do With Stale Bread

The usual thing to do is to chuck it out. However, if it’s your last cob and you’re starving, just heat it up a little – a microwave will do the job well. The heating causes the chains to flex out of their parallel state and the bread becomes edible again. However, you don’t get all that long, as you’ll lose some water when you re-heat the bread, thus allowing it to go stale that much quicker.
You can also use it for toast (and many people say that slightly stale bread makes better toast) or as a “trencher” – a warmed “slab” of bread that has some kind of moist, hot food on top, such as a casserole.

Remember the scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when Richard Dreyfuss obsessively worked to recreate in his living room the mountain that was imprinted in his mind by the aliens?

For me, that "mountain" is the sourdough bread that Larraburu Brother's of San Francisco made. Larraburu had a Gold Rush era sourdough and a gorgeous crust and crumb. Unfortunately Larraburu went out of business in the 70s. It's taken me nearly 40 years but I'm finally making dough that reminds me of Larraburu.

I was surprised that I found no reference to Larraburu breads on Fresh Loaf because if you've had it, you likely consider it the holy grail of sourdough. Anyway, I'd love to know if anyone on this board remembers Larraburu bread. And I'd also be interested to know if others are similarly driven to recreate a memorable loaf from the past.

It was a sad day when Larraburu's went out of business. I was gone from the Bay Area by that time, but like you, I set their sourdough as my standard. I personally haven't been able to recreate the crust or the level of sourness in my own breads, but I think that if I could taste it again, I might opt for a somewhat less assertive sour taste. It's been 40 years and memory being what it is, and tastes being what they are, I'm very happy to have made some tasty sourdough over the last few years.

If Larraburu is you goal, this is the place to help you make it.

That is a great story, something I like that makes me smile! I would love to have been able to taste a loaf of bread that was inspirational to someone that they can still imagine so many years later what it was like.

For me, it was my first time seeing and tasting Zingerman's Pain de montagne, or Mountain bread. It is a high extraction flour sourdough that Zingerman's deems as "the closest thing to Poilane'. Seeing this bread over two years ago and tasting it really made me come to and start baking bread more so than ever. Enough that I now bake in a bakery and constantly at home! : )

When I was just out of High School, my parents took me to San Francisco to vacation on the West coast. It was the first time for all of us and I clearly remember the experience that was imprinted on my memory. My Mother remembered reading about the wonderful sourdough on Fisherman's Wharf. My Dad bought a small boule and we sat on the wooden pick-nick table and ate it plain. It was so good we decided to get another. I had never tasted anything like that and it made an impression.

I was talking with my father a few weeks ago and mentioned sourdough breads in the conversation. He asked me if I still remembered that day in SFO on the wharf? Funny really, he's 84, asking me if I remember a day 45 years ago.

When I finally started wanting to learn to bake, it was to recreate the great breads I had eaten in France and Italy and also that great sourdough from so long ago.

I was completely ignorant about the process or content of good bread when I started. Everything I know about being a baker I learned here with a few good books as a guide. I was pleasantly surprised at how un mystical it all is. It hasn't been all that long ago when I first started down the road to bread enlightenment. I think that's one of things I like most about humans. We remember good things and try to duplicate them in the future.

Instawares is advertising one for $5800.

The Larraburu oven was not unique, and their sourdough process was captured for the record.

I found the following from a 1978 . The copy I have is a pdf image file so I have extracted and transcribed the relevant data into text.

Title: Lactic and volatile (C2-C5) organic acids of San Francisco sourdough French bread

Cereal Chemistry 55(4): 461-468 Copyright 1978 The American Association of Cereal Chemists

Authors: A. M. Galal, J. A. Johnson, and E. Varriano-Marston

The Larraburu Company produces San Francisco sourdough French bread by the sponge and dough process. Each day a piece of straight dough or starter sponge known as the "Mother" is saved and refrigerated to be used as a starter sponge the following day. This starter sponge is used to make more starter sponge as well as sponges for bread production. The starter sponge consists of 100 parts of clear flour (14% protein), approximately 50 parts of water, and 50 parts of the starter sponge. The ingredients are mixed and fermented for 9-10 hr at 80°F. The bread dough is made by mixing 100 parts flour 12% protein, 60 parts of water, 15 parts of sponge, and 1.5-2% salt. The dough rests 1 hr and then is divided, molded, and deposited on canvas dusted with corn meal or rice flour. The dough is proofed for 4 hr at 105°F (41°C) and 96% relative humidity and baked at 420°F (216°C) for 40-50 min in a Perkins oven with direct injection of low pressure steam (5 psi). Oven shelves were covered with Carborundum.

Thanks so much for going to the trouble of posting this article about the Larrabaru. I don't know much about professional baking techniques but found it interesting that it's proofed at 105 degrees, I would have thought that too warm. I was also struck by the mention of "low pressure steam" I wonder what impact 5psi has as compared to, say, 25psi. It's a good thing lack of chemistry knowledge re doesn't prevent one from making good bread!

What prompted you to dig around for the article? Did you used to eat Larrabaru?

When I saw the Larraburu process it didn't immediately make sense to me and I had to go back to Kline and Sugihara and Ganzle to rationalize what may be going on. The long refreshment at a relatively high temperature assures that the LAB has produced as much acid as it possibly can and the 80°F puts the growth cycle right at the maximum growth rate for the conventional SF SD yeast. The very stiff starter slows down the process (presumably because the mobility of nutrients is inhibited by viscosity but that is pure speculation on my part), and the 105°F final proof temperature? That really didn't make sense, but it has to be correct. Since 41°C is above the temperature at which both the yeast and the LAB will reproduce, it may (intentionally or inadvertantly) stop the biologically active components of the process from the outside to the inside as the proof-box temperature heats the dough to 105°F. I can't predict what the final result would be, perhaps it keeps the acidity from degrading the gluten as the 105°F thermocline migrates from the surface to the center of the loaf, shutting down LAB (and the yeast) reproduction as it moves - though while reproduction stops it may not shut down acid production which is limited by pH, or CO2 production which is limited by nutrient availability. It would be interesting to solve for the temperature of the dough at the center of the loaf over the proofing process timeline (or perhaps measure it if somebody can approximate the weight and size of the loaves). It is indeed a conundrum. I am sure others have (perhaps more valid) thoughts about why it worked to such great effect. I for one would be interested in hearing their views.

When Larraburu was operating, I was living in Redwood City and was eating Pisano bread (since they had a bakery next to where we did laundry I had many opportunities to tour their facility, but was not yet educated enough to be interested in paying attention to the details). Hopefully somebody will work through this description and figure out how to replicate the results (and describe them here!!).

The following is transcribed from the (hard to find) 1970 paper "Nature of the San Francisco Sour Dough French Bread Process, I. Mechanics of the Process" by Leo Kline, T. F. Sugihara, and Linda Bele McCready in Baker's Digest 44(2), p48-50. (Note the use of the two word form of sourdough)

Sour Dough Starter Sponge
100 parts previous sponge
100 parts flour (Hi-gluten)
46-52 parts water

Make up and hold 7-8 hrs. at 80°F
Starting pH = 4.4 to 4.5
Final pH = 3.8 to 3.9

Sour Bread Dough Formulation
20 parts starter sponge (11% of final mix)
100 parts flour (regular patent)
60 parts water
2 parts salt
Make up – approx. 1 hr floor time – then proof 8 hr. 86°F
Starting pH = 5.2 to 5.3
Final pH = 3.9 to 4.0

Preparation and Handling
The bread dough, as shown in Table II, is made up simply with the fully developed starter sponge, flour, water and salt. None of the other usual ingredients of white pan bread such as yeast, sugar, shortening, non-fat dry milk, monoglycerides, dough conditioners, oxidants, mold inhibitors, etc. are needed or used. The starter sponge is used at a level of approximately 9 to 15 percent of the final bread dough which , after make-up is allowed to relax for at least 30 minutes. Then it is scaled (divided), rounded and given an overhead proof of about 20 min at 90°F, after which it is molded, placed on canvas dusted with rice flour and/or corn meal and allowed to proof about six to eight hours at 85 to 90°F. This long proof time may be reduced somewhat by increasing the proportion of starter sponge or by lengthening the floor time before molding, but is generally essential for development of the acidity and the coarse grain typical of this bread as well as for volume.

The pH of the bread dough on make-up is about 5.3 and drops to about 3.9 when the long proof is completed, or roughly to the same point reached by the starter sponge itself.

Baking is carried out in a hearth (generally carborundum) oven for a relatively long time (45 to 55 minutes) at a relatively low temperature (375 – 390°F). It is quite essential to slash or make cuts on the surface of the fully-proofed dough just before it is placed in the oven, otherwise the crust character will be wrinkled and generally unsatisfactory and the eating quality of the crust is probably the most essential part of this bread. Also an absolute requisite to achieving the desired crust character is the use of a very wet oven, particularly the first part of the baking cycle and continued until the crust attains a light tan color. Generally this is achieved by saturating the oven with low pressure steam.

This has some similarity with the Larraburu process but is run at a lower temperature. The description is contemporary with the description of the Larraburu process so I think it is fair to say that this documents what was being used by one of Larraburu's competitors.

It is perhaps significant to note the reported sensitivity of the starter to freezing which would suggest that any attempt to revive the Larraburu bread from frozen starter after a few weeks would have failed.

I can't believe that I have stumbled upon this forum. I am the great grand niece of Hal Paul and of course grew up eating Larraburu bread. My family has never quite recovered from losing the bakery and often talk about the old days. No sourdough quite takes the place of that wonderful bread.

I have just begun baking bread of my own and now want to venture into the sourdough realm. I have always wondered how to get my hands on Uncle Hal's starter which is rumoured to be "stored" in Boudin's kitchens. Failing that, I suppose creating my own starter will have to suffice.

Does anyone know what made the bread so particularly tangy? I've never tasted anything quite like it. I understand it was likely a combination of things but wondering how significant the age of the "mother" is to the taste?

Thanks so much for this discussion. I will phone my mother and my great Aunt - Hal's only surviving sister, to tell them that Larraburu is still so fondly remembered by so many!!

What a treat to hear your comments. NO OTHER SOURDOUGH COULD HOLD A CANDLE TO LARRABARU.

The last loaf I ever had was the dark crust one. I nursed that loaf for as long as I could and it must have taken a hald hour to eat the last slice. I took a small nibble each time, trying to remember the incredible tangy taste that I might never get to experience again.

Tell you mom and great aunt that Larrabaru might be gone but it has NEVER been forgotten. I would pay $20 a loaf for anything that could come close but have never found one yet.

Glad you stumbled across this thread and glad you've decided to get into breadbaking Julia. You certainly have good roots and inspiration to draw upon. The memory of the taste, texture, and smell of Larraburu has certainly helped me in developing my own skills. To your question about what made the bread so particularly tangy, you'll find some clues in this thread. I don't think the age of the mother is that important. You might want to read this TFL thread:

I have been baking a sourdough that I think delivers the Larraburu experience. I can't offer a taste but here's a look -- you can see the crust has similar carmelization (which I think accounted for a lot of the great flavor of Larraburu).

Would you share the formula and procedure you used for that bread? It looks wonderful.

I see bubbles under the crust. Did you cold retard the loaves? What was the weight of the loaves? At what temperature did you bake? For how long?

I'm making a bread using the procedure Doc.Dough cited, above, with some modifications. Stay tuned.

Thanks David. The crumb is quite nice too. The formula is my adaption of a Columbia SD. It makes two 1.5 lb loaves

16 g salt (added after 30 minute autolyze of all the above including liguid levain)

Baked at 470 - 12 minutes with steam (wet towels over lava rocks) and then about 15 minutes w/o steam.

I do about a 5 minute slap and fold (ala Bertinet) on my breads -- using a spritzer to add more water if needed. I know the argument that a slap and fold aligns the molecules and thus impedes the sort of open irregular crumb we desire, but I haven't found that to be the case at all. Perhaps because I'm only doing about 5 minutes (Bertinet does it for 20) and I am still doing a stretch and fold (once or twice every 45 minutes or so). For me, the slap and fold is the very best way to inform my hands that the dough is properly hydrated and sufficiently kneaded. I often don't use any measurement so being able to trust the feel of the dough is really important to me. I use the same technique with baguettes and get a very open crumb.

As for the cold retard, I don't recall if this particular loaf was cold retarded. I seem to get the same sort of bubbles whether I overnightit in the fridge or just let it do a long cool rise (60 or so)

I am currently in the midst of a kitchen remodel. I got rid of my beloved old '50 electric range and am getting a quite powerful Capital Culinarian gas range. I've never baked in a gas oven -- I'm excited and terrified at the same time. I worry that I won't acheive the same sort of crust in the gas range as I did in the electric. I believe you bake in a gas oven correct? I may be pestering you for advice.

I have attempted to reduce the two SF SD formulae to the BBGA format:

I would appreciate anyone who is interested checking these over to see if they make sense. I have also attempted to calculate dough hydration. Does it seem right that Larraburu would use such a low hydration, 50% vs. 60% for the other bakery?

I have interpreted "seed" to be the portion of the previous day's starter as given in the formulae.

Saturday, May 29, 1976

SAN FRANCISCO (UPI) The legendary "49ers" of the California Gold Rush may roll over in their graves today when the nation's second-largest sourdough bread company ends its 78-year tradition with a final tribute of 30,000 loaves.

Larraburu Brothers is going out of business in the aftermath of a $2 million lawsuit which financially crippled the historic San Francisco bakery. "There'll never be another sourdough like this one," said Harold Paul, the firm's owner and board chairman who was born the year the two Larraburu brothers opened the bakery on Geary Street. Larraburu was ordered to pay $2 million damages to a six-year-old boy injured by a bakery truck in 1972. The company's insurance policy did not cover the settlement. Larraburu gradually slipped from its premier position in the world of sourdough and a decision was finally made this week to close the bakery's doors and halt the weekly production of 155,000 loaves. The company's demise may cause a shortage in sourdough supplies for several weeks.

Paul credited a unique oven he designed in 1946 and the adherence to a 13-hour baking process with making Larraburu's sourdough a favorite throughout the world. Larraburu's recipe called for "a pinch of salt and 87 percent flour and water to 13 percent starter." The "starter" is the fermenting leftover from the previous day's dough that gets reincarnated into each day's new mix to make the sourdough rise. The more starter, the more sour the the bread and the darker its crust.

Sourdough was a staple in the diets of miners who flocked to California in the mid-1800's in search of gold. Paul still has hope that Larraburu may someday fire up its ovens again. "We're blast-freezing enough starter for five individual starts, and storing them in safekeeping in five different parts of the country, to survive if the day ever comes,"he said.

I don't know if Hal Paul ever acted on his plan to freeze and store the starter.

Hal Paul, Sr. died in 1993. Hal Paul, Jr. died in 1999.

The following is a YouTube video of Julia Lavaroni's Larraburru story. She is the niece of Hal Paul the last owner of the Bakery. It begins at 1:03:19. Enjoy

Thank you for posting this link to Julia’s talk. I am excited to see where her journey has taken her. I talked to Julia about her plans to make a documentary several years ago so it’s exciting to see that it is actually taking shape.

The following is from Julia Lavaroni's FaceBook page

"Meeting Scott and Ben in Texas last summer was awesome. But we only got half the story at that time. Ben, in Texas, got it from Scott in Hawaii. But how did Scott get it? His time in Portland Oregon included a stint as a baker at the Helen Bernhard Bakery. It was there, that he was introduced to the Larraburu starter. But how did THEY get it? Turns out, the Bernhards wanted to try their hand at Sourdough in the early 1970's and of course they wanted to seed their version with the best. They traveled to San Francisco and visited the Larraburu bakery where they asked for and were given a small sample to see whether they could make a start of it. They took it back to Portland and after several experiments with process, they succeeded in recreating a version of the famed SF sourdough bread where it was sold for many years. When Scott left to make his own way in the baking world in Hawaii, they carried on the tradition, and gave Scott a sample. So now we have gone full circle - SF to Portland to Hawaii to Austin. That is some path. It remains to be seen whether the integrity of the starter has survived all the change of hands and climates. The taste will be the true test!! We visited with Meriel Bernhard in Portland last month to confirm the story and Scott met us there. It was a lovely reunion for the two of them!"

Looking around the web last night I came across the story behind Pioneer Bakery in Venice, California. From the February 1, 2011 edition of the Los Angeles Magazine

"Once on land Jean Baptiste made a beeline for the Basque community in Tehachapi. He moved to Santa Monica a few years later, where he founded National French Bakery in 1908. He was 25. Most of his customers wanted traditional French white bread, but the farmers preferred the three- and five-pound sourdough rounds, which they kept moist with a towel and ate throughout the week. Jean Baptiste delivered the sourdough to farms as far north as Malibu and south as San Pedro, at the same time peddling a red wine he made from Bakersfield grapes. When Santa Monica went dry in 1917, he stormed off to Venice, which stayed wet."

The context of this story bares a certain similitude with the story of the founding of Larraburu Bros. Could it be the starter actually originated in Basque Country in the French Pyrenees? And how can a live sample from there be obtained?

As I was researching the origins of the Larraburu Bros. starter I sadly came across the following, published in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 5, 2017 "TAKASHI FRANK SUGIHARA
1921 - 2017 Obituary January 15, 1921 - July 5, 2017 Takashi Frank Sugihara, internationally recognized food research microbiologist and decorated World War II veteran, passed away peacefully at his home in Tustin, CA, on July 5, 2017. He was 96. Frank was born in Los Angeles, CA, on January 15, 1921 to Junichi and Sueno (Sasaki) Sugihara. His college education was interrupted by World War II and his family's relocation to Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming. As soon as his 4C (enemy alien) status was lifted, he volunteered to serve in the US Army's 442 Regimental Combat Team (442nd), the Japanese-American Army combat unit, where he received the Bronze Star. He was made an honorary Texan by Governor John Connally in 1962 for rescuing the Lost Texas Battalion. In 2011, along with other surviving veterans of the 442nd, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of extraordinary patriotism, courage and selflessness in combat in spite of discrimination and adversity at home. In 2013 he was made a Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor for his role in liberating France from the Nazi occupation. Returning to civilian life after the war, he graduated from USC, majoring in plant physiology. While attending graduate school at UC Berkeley, he met and later married Sumiko Ozawa in 1951. Frank began his career as a research microbiologist for the US Department of Agriculture in Albany, CA. In the lab, he studied techniques for freeze-drying eggs and coffee and developed mushroom flavorings. His nephews still remember being test subjects for freeze-dried eggs on camping trips. The highlight of his career was isolating the bacteria responsible for the unique flavor of San Francisco sourdough bread, which he named Lactobacillus San Francisco. Because of his extensive work in microbiology related to baking, he served as a consultant for Bremner Wafers. He also advised Alemagna-Motta in Milan, Italy for panettonne production and the Shikishima Baking Company in Japan for sourdough bread. He published articles and spoke at universities in Europe and Asia on the fermentation process in the baking industry. Frank is survived by his wife Sumiko, his daughter Corinne, her husband Bruce, his granddaughter Nicole, and his sisters Kazuko and Hideko. He is also survived by his nieces and nephews who remember him fondly. He was preceded in death by his son Michael and sister Masako. His brother Paul just recently passed away. Frank will be laid to rest at the Colma Japanese Cemetery. We cherish the memory of this intelligent, hard-working, yet humble family man. Published in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 5, 2017" Sadly, Wild-Yeast

"Handbook of Dough Fermentations
Food science and technology

Karel Kulp, Klaus Lorenz May 20, 2003
CRC Press

Chapter 6, Page 145, Commercial Starters in the United States

T. Frank Sugihara
Consultant, Tustin, California, U.S.A.

With the recent interst and increase in sourdough breads around the country, numerous popular articles have appeared in magazines and books. The various authors seem to feel that the "sourdough starter" originated in southern Europe, more precisely the Basque country. In fact, one of the oldest bakeries in San Francisco was founded more than 100 year ago (during the Gold Rush days) by Basque immigrants. San Francisco sourdough bread has become famous and is most likely responsible for its spread across the western United States. During the last 10 years, sourdough bread has become popular in many Midwestern cities as well as in the northeastern part of the country."

Sugihara is in agreement with Basque country as the probable origin of what was to become San Francisco French Bread Sourdough. The next step is to find verification of samples taken from existing bakeries still operating in the region. I'm open to any ideas on information on studies on the subject.

I was just reminiscing today about Larraburu sourdough being the last thing you would grab as you left SF airport. It truly was the Holy Grail of sourdough. I still remember the last loaf I was able to buy. It was their "dark crust" variety and I nursed that loaf as long as I could. When it came to last slice, I think it took me a half hour to eat it, knowing that I would probably never get another taste. It was my understanding that they had frozen away some of the starter for a later day. I don't know if that is true but if you have come up with a comparable loaf, where can it be bought? I live in Texas now so getting any sourdough that actually has the sourdough flavor that I had when I lived in the Bay Area, is impossible. Truly, there is no sourdough currently being made that could hold a candle to Larraburu. I applaud your efforts and have joined the forum so I could post this.

There may be an inconsistency in the formula described in the article by A. M. Galal et al., cited by doc.dough, above.

If my math is correct, the Galal article calls for a 1/1/2 starter/water/flour refreshment of the starter.

Now take a look at this document from the U.S. Patent Office:

1. Maintaining a continuous starter sponge comprised of two parts (40%) previous sponge, two parts (40%) flour and one part (20%) water by rebuilding every eight hours or three times a day

Watch the video: Produce at Food City