DIY Laundry Detergent

One of the goals that we made in regards to homesteading was trying to be as self-suffiient as possible.  In doing that I have started making more of our household cleaning supplies and other “consumables” from scratch or more cost effective components.

One of the first things I thought I would tackle was laundry detergent.  I have made my own detergent in the past using this recipe but I wanted to try something different as my “year” was almost up.  I stumbled across this recipe on Pinterest and thought I would do a combination of the two.

I decided on simplifying the first recipe by removing the oxy-clean and the fabric softener crystals, replacing Fels-Naptha with Zote Soap, and adding one bar of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soaps.

All the Ingredients

All the Ingredients

  • 1 bar of Zote Soap
  • 1 bar of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap – Lavendar
  • 1 box Borax
  • 1 box Washing Soda
  • 2 cups of baking soda

The first thing I needed to do was grate the Zote and Castile Soaps.  This is the most time consuming part of the whole process.

Grating the soap Zote Soap Grated Castile Soap (I promise it's not parmesan cheese)

After the grating was done, I started mixing all the ingredients together.  I did this in stages to mix the ingredients better.  I also used a large stock pot to mix everything in. This stage is the easiest and most rewarding.  As the stock pot was filling up, I knew that we were once again simplifying our life and becoming more self-sufficient.

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By the end, the stock pot was full and I had about a year’s worth of laundry soap to show for it.  To store the detergent, I used a canister that we had sitting around.  It holds 5.0 L.

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Both recipes that I used as jumping point stated that 2 tablespoons was all that is needed per load.  I think that next time I will use a different scent of castile soap as the Zote soap does have citronella oil in it.

Playhouse to Chicken House

Playhouse to Chicken House

Chickens were very high on our list of what to have on our homesteadso we really needed a chicken coop. We really wanted to build a proper, permanent and large enough house for a couple dozen chickens right away but the budget is a little tight for a while. Buying a house and paying taxes will do that! As we were sitting on the back deck the other night trying to figure out how we were going to build a chicken coop, a brilliant idea hit me (wife didn’t think so at the time). Why not use the playhouse that the old homeowners left?

The idea was really pretty simple; board up the windows that didn’t have shutters, put a latch on the window with shutters, attach a door and chicken run. That’s exactly what we did.

Step 1 – Secure the windows without the shutters. The playhouse had three windows on two different sides that we needed to secure. Some plywood and toggle bolts took care of those pretty well.

Chicken Coop

Joe is proud of our handy work

Step 2 – Cut and attach a door. We used plywood for the door which isn’t ideal but again, this is a temporary solution. We picked up some used door hinges and a latch at a local trading post (yes, just like in the old western movies). They worked great to hold the door in place and secure it shut at night.

Chicken Coop

Windows & Door Secured

Step 3 – Secure the shutters on the side of the house with a latch. We paid about $1 a piece for each latch from the trading post. We used carabiners as to keep the latch closed. These shuttered windows will be the outside access to the nesting boxes so we don’t have to go into the house to collect every day.

Shutters Secured

Shutters Secured

Step 4 – Build the chicken run. We plan to free range our chickens but wanted a run for them if we leave for a day or two. We used two 16′ livestock panels to make an 8′ x 10′ run. We secured the cow panels by hammering iron stakes in the ground and allowing friction to do the rest. We then overlaid the panels with chicken wire. We rigged a gate at the end of the run so we can access it when necessary. A couple of T-posts worked great for that. The chicken wire is secured to the house by wrapping one end of it around a 2×4 and screwing the 2×4 into the house.

Chicken Coop

Finishing touches on the run

Step 5 – Build a nesting box and put in some roosts. We were able to re-purpose the plastic fridge that came with the playhouse into two nesting boxes. We attached the nesting box to the window with the shutters so we can have access to the eggs from the outside.

Chicken Nesting Boxes

Nesting boxes with access from outside

There happened to be a couple of cabinet doors and a faucet in the house that should make pretty good roosts. We put in a couple of pieces of lumber for additional roosting space.

Chicken Roosts

Roosts

The whole process took under 6 hours and about 4 of it was spent on the run. The run wasn’t difficult or complicated, it’s just time consuming. If you’ve ever worked with chicken wire, you know what I mean.

The only part of this structure I’m not 100% sure is predator proof is the ground around the run. I have plenty of old 2×4 that I can attach to the bottom all the way around if necessary but I’m not too concerned about it. We have two outside dogs that patrol our property 24 hours a day so nothing is going to be able to get under it before my dogs run them off.

Chicken Coop

Finished chicken coop

The chicken coop is ready for it’s new residents!

Chicken Coop

Finished Coop!

Building a Compost Bin

One of the first things you’ll want to do when planning on starting gardens is to start composting. Composting is a great way to supplement your gardens with more nutrients so the plants grow faster and produce more. It is also a good way to reuse your organic waste. You can compost pretty much any organic materials your household produces.  Food scraps, grass clippings, leaves, and even human waste make great compost.

We thought it was crazy to buy a compost bin or tumbler given how easy it is to make one. Our original plan was to use wooden pallets for the bottom and four sides, which works just fine and is very easy to do. You can go to your local hardware or tractor supply store and ask if they have some pallets they need to get rid of. Chances are they’ll give them to you for free.

http://www.phoenixpermaculture.org/forum/topics/wood-pallet-compost-bin

Example of compost bin made from wood pallets

That plan changed yesterday when we were at a friend’s place and noticed a metal frame about 3x3x2 sitting there not being used. He offered it to us so we could use it as the frame for our first compost bin.

This is the metal frame that was given to us.

This is the metal frame that was given to us.

We have a lot of old lumber from a barn that was in a fire some time ago that was left by the previous owners. Most of it is usable for projects that won’t be bearing a load. I used several pieces of 2×6 boards for the base. (Eye protection is a must when using power tools.)

Cutting the boards to length

Cutting the boards to length

I used chicken wire for the sides to help contain the compostable materials.  I secured the chicken wire in two ways.  First, I removed the boards from the frame.  I wrapped the chicken wire around the top of the frame.  The chicken wire was 4 foot tall so I folded it over the top, doubling up the chicken wire on the sides of the bin.  The boards were then placed back into the frame to help secure the excess chicken wire on the base.  I then used ceiling grid hanging wire to secure the chicken wire to the eight side supports and top.

Adding chicken wire to the sides.

Securing chicken wire to the sides.

In about an hour, our compost bin was ready for the compostable materials.

The completed compost bin before adding any materials.

The completed compost bin before adding any materials.

My wife is in the process of clearing out the front garden bed, so there was a lot of “yard waste” that we were able to add to our bin right away.  We are also going to be using this for any kitchen waste that we have.

Yard waste ready and waiting to decompose!

Yard waste ready and waiting to decompose!

One of the major benefits we have already found with this bin is that it is easily moveable. Right now, we have this bin located just off of the back deck.  The main reason we placed it here was for my wife.  This way she can empty our compost container from the kitchen without having to go far. This is especially important when the weather is bad or during the winter months. And you know what they say, “Happy wife, happy life.”  We are open to moving the bin in the future, whether it be due to smell or to finding a more useable location for it.

We are trying to be as frugal as possible in all of the projects we are doing and hoping this inspires you to do the same.  This is a list of materials that was used in the project.

Materials:

  • Metal Framed Box – free from friend
  • Wooden Boards – free left from previous owners
  • Chicken Wire – already had on hand (can be found at local hardware store)
  • Ceiling Grid Hanging Wire – already had on hand (can be found at local hardware store)
  • Circular Saw
  • Eye protection
  • Tape Measurer
  • Pencil