Friday, October 31, 2008

Emptied Toilet Paper Roll Seed Starter Pots

What should you do with all your emptied toilet paper rolls (ETPR)? Well - we all know its not good to throw everything away, after all our landfills are filling up, so many of us are composting and that is a good option for your ETPR. But, if you want to upcycle your ETPR, a seed starting pot is just the solution! Free, easy to make and biodegradable - what more could we want?

Step 1 - Gather your toilet paper rolls to be upcycled and a pair of scissors.

Step 2 - Flatten your toilet paper roll with your hand to make it easier to cut; then cut in half width wise.

Step 3 - Cut 4 equidistant lines into your pot...about 1/4-1/2" long.

Step 4 - Fold the end you cut like you would a box so it stays shut.

Step 5 - Marvel at your selection of seed starting pots for spring! Get going now and you should have quite a selection! Remember - these ETPR are biodegradable so you can start your seeds in these pots and plant them directly in the ground when it is time. If your seeds need transplanted to a larger pot before going into the ground, plant the ETPR pot in the larger pot.

Do you have other upcycling ideas for ETPR? Let us know!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wine Box Becomes Shelf in Less Time Than it Would Take to Drive and Buy Wine and A Shelf

Sure you could store socks or underwear in your old wine boxes but would that really impress your wine & cheese friends? No! Instead, you could be crafty, green and visionary in under 2 hours by turning your wine box...

...into a sassy and colorful up-cycled shelf:

That's just what I did. Step 1: cut box in half:

Step 2: size-up the situation:

Step 3: Fill in the back with some scrap:

Step 4: stack and screw them together:

Step 5:use the top to...

...create shelves:

Step 6, continued:

Step 7: sand a bit:

Step 8: Now it's ready for stain or...


Step 9: sit back, drink wine, admire your creative, up-cycled vision:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Handmade Herbal Soaps - Who Doesn't Love them?

I taught myself how to make cold process soap this past spring with the help of The Soapmaker's Companion by Susan Miller Cavitch. All the soap recipes in her book are vegetable based, using high quality oils, essentials oils and natural colorants. If you are at all interested in making handmade soap, I recommend this book. Cavitch also wrote The Natural Soap Book which is equally great, but I think The Soapmaker's Companion is the best book to get started with due to the recipes for smaller batches. I am still very new to the craft, but find the process fun and the ability to pick and choose what goes into our soap so rewarding.

Many people ask me if you still have to use lye for soapmaking and the answer is yes you do. Lye is made by mixing sodium hydroxide and water and provides the base necessary to mix with the acid (fats and oils) for the most fascinating process of saponification. In this photo you can see the poison designation on the back of the sodium hydroxide bottle. You need to be careful when handling the sodium hydroxide, but if you are - there is no need for fear. Also shown are my essential oils mixed and ready to go and the calendula petals from our garden this summer dried and ready to be added.

Our kitchen serves as my soapmaking work station. I am checking the lye solution temperature in this photo in preparation of adding it to the mixed and melted oils.

Once the lye and oils reach the appropriate temperatures, you add the lye to the oils, stir or beat with a mixer until you reach trace (when the mixture has reached a thickness when a small amount of soap drizzled on the surface remains before disappearing), add your essential oils, colorants, herbs, etc., mix quickly a few more times and then pour the mixture into your lined soap mold.

After a period of covered incubation (I also used blankets)....

it is time to uncover,
cut your big soap block into bars,

and put the soap in a well ventilated area to cure for about 4 weeks. From this 5 lb. batch of soap I cut 16 bars. This particular batch is scented with lemon and rosemary with a small addition of tea tree for skin health. Calendula petals are also good for the skin and make the bars look so beautiful.

I plan on making 2 or 3 other varieties of soap in preparation for a holiday sale at a friend's house. I will post more details on that event soon.

Monday, October 27, 2008

An Exquisite Fall Hike

It's cool and alternating between sun and clouds-sleet here in NE Indiana today, but yesterday the weather was exquisite. I mean truly exquisite, so we took a hike at Bicentennial Woods to savor and store up some sunshine for the long days of winter ahead. Here's a few moments we captured...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Raised-Relief Tulip Tree Leaf Carving

If you've ever wanted to try wood carving - do it. It's truly not that difficult (assuming sharp tools). Just look at my simple carving of a Tulip Tree leaf. It was only my second carving and it took about 2 hours (plus finish time).

Here's just how easy it is. First, I traced a leaf onto a scrap piece of wood:

With a V-shaped chisel (parting chisel), I cut a groove along the outline of my leaf tracing:

Next is some shaping.

With a "gouge" chisel, I cut some "topography" into the leaf.

Here's the rough carving:

Next I removed about 1/4 inch thickness of wood outside the original leaf tracing:

I now had a raised-relief carving that I could stain:

And paint:

Hmmm...I think sassafras will be next...stay tuned:)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Crockpot Apple Butter

If you've been reading our blog regularly you know we have lots and lots of apples from our trees to use. A friend passed a long a crockpot apple butter recipe last week and we've made three batches so far. The taste is delicious and the recipe is so easy. Get yourself some apples and give it a try!
Crockpot Apple Butter Recipe
8 cups apples or pears (or enough to fill crockpot)
1/2-2 cups honey (to taste - we use 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves

Step 1 - Wash your apples.

Step 2 - Gather your other ingredients.

Step 3- Cut your apples into chunks leaving the skins on.

Step 4 - Add spices etc. and stir a bit. Put lid on and cook on high for 1 hour. After 1 hour turn the crockpot down to low and cook for 6-8 hours or until desired consistency. Stir occasionally.

Step 5 - Turn your crockpot off and run your chunky apple butter through a blender till smooth. This photo shows how far our apple butter cooked down before we put it in the blender.
Your apple butter should be creamy after blending...

to easily spread on your toast! YUM!!!!!

Step 6 - If you want to can your apple butter, process in a water bath for 20 minutes. With our small crockpot we get about 3 pints of apple butter per batch.