Posts tagged projects

Spring Project: Keeping the Bugs Out

Although not everybody is worried about being kind to insects almost everyone is worried about the dangerous poisons in the insecticides they use to get rid of the things. Either way, whether it’s compassion or fear, most of us have an interest in a safer, kinder, less toxic method of ridding ourselves of pests. I, for one, have had problems with how to handle bugs for a very long time. In some cases, I feel horrible about the insect (such as bees, wasps and other flying winged creatures like moths as well as some crawling insects that aren’t too ugly) and just can’t bring myself to kill it. Other, uglier and nastier, bugs like cockroaches and beetles make a big splat mess when killed and I despise the smell as well as I am allergic to their debris. So I hate stomping on them. I end up chasing most bugs around with a towel trying to trap them and toss them outside.

But I have had infestations in some of the rentals I have moved into. And these are nice places. They are just infested with bugs. Our previous unit had an explosion in roaches, German Cockroaches, which were nigh impossible to rid of. I spent tons of cash on special poisons like MaxForce and Raid Pro just to watch them step over the gel and continue raiding my kitchen. I ended up killing as many as twenty at a time with a fly swatter. And then push came to shove, we moved. I was successful at leaving the monsters behind after many hours of careful packing and unpacking only to have a flea infestation outbreak in the new digs. OMG, I spent endless hours trying to kill those things! I now have it under control but only after a litany of poisons, fogs and sprays where I can to empty my room, ban the pets, leave it on for hours and hours and then vacuum repeatedly and move everything back in. After exhausting rows with many a poison I still had fleas all over me. The only thing that finally worked was a natural miracle, Diatomaceous Earth. I have left the stuff in my carpets to this day and nary a flea!

Anyways, as you can see I have some experience with bugs. I think we all have. You don’t have to live in the slums to have roaches walking on your table. And once they arrive and move in, they are hard to evict. What has always amazed me is that the final solution, the one that really worked in most cases, was a natural, safe, non toxic one. So don’t believe the hype of the chemical manufacturers that you have to use deadly poisons. It just isn’t true. In the case of fleas, I highly recommend Diatomaceous Earth. Sprinkle it on and leave it. It takes a few days but they will be gone… I can promise you. I had a million and now there are none. And the same is true of other pest control. You can do it with natural and non toxic elements such as the Fossil Shell Flour I used. But the very best way is to ward them off to begin with which should be done all the time even if you do not see a bug yet. By practicing good, safe and non toxic repellent methods you can be sure you will not have bugs to begin with.

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Homemade Thanksgiving Centerpieces

If you are aiming to create a homey fall table spread this year for Thanksgiving, there is no better way to finish it off than with a natural, handmade centerpiece. This takes a larger table, for the most part, but I have included a few smaller ones that might suit a 4 or 6 seat tabletop. I have also included pricier, more complicated designs along with those that require fewer ingredients and a lot less time. I have made several of these myself and can attest to their simplicity and low energy requirements. It will all depend upon what type of spread you wish to create and the type of people you are entertaining.

Some of these are made with flowers and others are made with natural fall findings. Some of these have an ethnic flavor and others are all American. It is up to you which you want to try and it is likely that you will add your own ideas to the mix. So let’s get started. Here are the step by step projects:

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Money Saving Thanksgiving Ideas

I thought that it might be fun, with the economy the way it is, to make some cheap, homemade stuff for Thanksgiving. Usually we are all running out and spending a lot of money on table and house decorations along with the traditional food selections and accessories like napkins and serving pieces. When we invite family over for a big repast in our homes, we want it to be festive and enjoyable. What is more original and interesting than something we can’t just buy in Walmart, but has a personalized element? Something like homemade table napkins, handwoven fruit baskets, herbal centerpieces or handmade wreaths. Something they won’t see or experience anywhere else in the world. Something that speaks exclusively of you and your Thanksgiving meal.

I have some great ideas, some real cheap, others a bit more pricey. It’s up to you to determine what you have time for and what you can afford as well as what will work with your overall plans for dinner. How many people are coming? Is it just you and the kids or is your entire extended family coming? Are you serving at one table or more? Is this already so deep in your pocket that you just can’t afford anything at all? If so, I have ideas where you can forage the ingredients for free. So all of this I have taken into consideration and want to give you choices that will work for as many of you as possible. So, with no more adieux, here are the step by step recipes:

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Get Warm and Save Money

It’s hard for me to imagine it, here in Florida where we are all still sweltering in a solar sauna, but it is winter already in many parts of the country. I saw yesterday that it was snowing somewhere already! Wow. I would love a single day below 85 degrees! But even so, it got me thinking about how expensive winter is and how it is hard to stay warm in a tough economy. I have family up there, facing the blast on less money this year, worrying about the heating bills. So it gave me the motivation to look around for some solutions.

I wrote a few posts last year on insulating the home and how to winterize the home cheaply and easily. I thought it was time for an update, with some new ideas thrown in. So if you’re starting to shiver and find yourself shopping on ebay for sweaters, then maybe you can use some of these tips. I promise I will only focus on ideas that cost very little but will work. And, of course, I will stick to the natural side of things and not go suggesting you add abestos! (lol). So, if you’re getting chilly and want to cut back on the green stuff you spend, then give my list a read. It will only take a minute.

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DIY: A More Natural Halloween

Oh, I know it seems kinda early to be talking about Halloween but when it comes to DIY projects it sometimes takes awhile to get it all together and no one wants to be rushed at the last minute. So I thought I’d throw out some good ideas for a natural, crafty type of Halloween so you’d have time to work on it if you wanted to. Some of these ideas are really scary so be careful how you use them; if you have religious friends who are easily offended, keep that in mind. If you have kids who are easily frightened, keep that in mind as well. There are ideas that are not scary at all and will be enjoyed by everyone. I also have ideas if you want to throw a party, so those of you are up for that will find something as well.

I tried to find ideas that required few ingredients or steps so that people with skinny wallets or rushed schedules could work in a project or two. So here we go, from the sweetest to the scariest, in that order:

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Recipes for Herbal Inks

Now that I have finished the two part series explaining how to make herbal papers, I thought I’d post a few recipes for homemade herbal inks. There is no special equipment needed, really, and the procedure isn’t difficult. The first recipe, for Oak Gall Ink is a homemade recipe from scratch, where you make the actual ink yourself. The second recipe is for a simple scented ink, which requires only store bought ink and a few other ingredients.

The third recipe is for a colored ink. In this case, a red ink. With practice, you can learn which flowers will produce what colors and you can create many different colored inks using the same recipe. In fact, you may learn to blend all of these recipes in a creative fashion and come with a colored, scented ink made from scratch. Once you start doing this, it gets to be a lot of fun to see what you can come up with. Use your imagination!

It’s up to you which recipe better suits your lifestyle as to how much time you have and how creative you wish to be. The first recipe requires a few more ingredients than the others but it is the basic recipe for homemade ink that can be altered to make variations. Which ink do you want to make? For me, the goal was always a colored, scented ink made from scratch. It takes practice and time but the end result is really neat and a lot of fun to share with the kids and your friends, too (if they are the crafty type). So dig in and get started! And let me know what the results come out like for you.

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Herbal Papermaking Part 2

I know it’s been a long time but I thought I’d finish up on my herbal papermaking series. For those of you who thought you might learn how to make your own paper out of herbs I apologize. Now you can finally go out and get the few items you need to finish the process. In this post, I will tackle the methods for preparing the plant pulp, decorating the paper and adding scents to the finished product as well as discussing how to use recycled paper pulps and finishing off with a recipe for making paper for the first time.

The next post I will publish on this art will be recipes for making your own herbal inks so you can not only make herbal papers, scent and decorate them yourself but you can make herbal inks to use on the paper. This makes a lovely end product and it’s a really fun, productive project for crafters. Pretty soon you will be saving a few trees in the process as you learn to make paper pulp, recycle paper pulp and make your own paper products out of foraged herbs. Nothing could be cheaper.. or more green!

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Save Money and Live Better

I have been living below the poverty line for years. I haven’t worked a day job in a very long time. I do work on the internet and make money there but the amount is far less (at this time) than one would make at a 9-5 job. However, I do not live in a tent, I actually live in a nice townhouse with my sister and elderly father. But I must admit that we don’t buy new stuff all the time, we recycle everything, we are not consumed with having the “next big thing” and use “cheezy old stuff” as much as possible, stuff everyone else throws out but works fine.

There is a sanity in what most Americans consider crazy. The idea that we must have shiny, new and expensive is a really bad idea that has driven our culture to the edge of sustainability. And why are you driving yourself to an early grave chasing more and more money when what you already have can save you lots of money and, better yet, what your foolish neighbor tosses out can benefit your life for free! In fact, I know several people who make their entire living on what other folks throw out. And, no, I don’t spend hours every day refinishing, reburshing or repairing… I am not any more handy than you.

So how do we live in a nice home and manage to feed ourselves every month? For one thing, there are a huge number of things you can do every day to save money and retain a pleasant lifestyle that allows for free time and fun. You have to learn how to stretch your money and make it work for you every day. This does not only entail budgeting and controlling expenses, it requires a change of mindset. You cannot continue to look at used items, refurbished items, things you can get for free, etc… as junk. All of it is just as useful as new stuff if it works fine. We are a consume and toss society and that is simply not working for us, it’s driving us into the poor house and wrecking the planet, to boot. So perhaps it’s time to reign it in.

If you are ready to give it a try and make the big leap to changing your way of thinking, then here are some suggestions I would like to make. These are some things that you can slowly integrate into your lifestyle to start loosening that stranglehold that material consumption has got you into. So take a deep breath and relax. It’s time to live for more than just money.

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Summer Craft Project: Sunflower Wreath

Summer Wreath Project: Sunflower

This is a design of my own that I came up with a few years back and have made every other year or so since. It is a really pretty wreath when finished and it brightens up any room. It doesn’t involve a lot of expensive ingredients and all of it is easy to find in craft stores and even Wal-Mart. Cheer up the sunroom this year with this lovely wreath.

What you will need:

Large Eucalyptus Leaves
Yarrow
Lemon Leaves
Floral Wire
Wire Wreath Base (the larger the better!)
Cattails or Bottlebrush Anthers
Spanish Moss
Floral Picks
Floral Glue

Simple Instructions:

Using floral glue or hot glue gun, grab handfuls of the Spanish Moss and attach it to the wire frame with the glue. Bunch it so that it does not stick out of the sides or straggle. Also pad it down (taking out extra if need be) to make it lay flat and not be “bumpy”. Wire it in if need be to make it lay flat. But also make sure it is thick and covers the wire frame completely. I have found that wrapping the bunches of moss and the wire frame over with the floral wire helps to make it even and tight.

Next, sort out the large Eucalyptus Leaves and bunch them together in a group of 4 of 5. Wire them together and then tack them to the wire frame. Tack bunches closely together all around the frame so that it covers the frame. Allow the leaves to point in different directions to give the wreath a full and fluffy look.

Group together the anthers in bunches of 5 and wire together as a group. Tie in two groups of 5 anthers on each side of the wreath, measuring on average 1/4 length from the top and the bottom of the wreath sides. Make them even to the eye. You should have two bunches of anthers on each side. See photo for clarity.

Plug in the large Yarrow heads at the very top and very bottom of the wreath. Make sure they are balanced and then wire them in. Push Lemon leaves in behind the Yarrow all the way around to make them look like Sunflowers. Glue them in with the glue gun or floral glue or use the floral picks.

The finished wreath smells fantastic and looks gorgeous when fresh. It dries gracefully as well, I have one that is several years old that is still hanging. This wreath loses its smell about every 2 years so it’s a good idea to make a new one every so often. Have fun!

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Fluffy and Fido Go Green

A lot of the stuff you use on your pet, from food to flea dips, are toxic and bad not only for the furry friends but for the planet too. Here are some quick suggestions for changes you can make that will be good for you, the kids, the pets and the planet.

Natural First Aid

For smaller accidents like cuts, scrapes, minor burns, you do not need to use OTC meds. For most of these, a simple application of fresh Aloe Vera will take care of the problem. Instead of meds for vomiting, try using Activated Charcoal. For hairballs or constipation, give organic vegetable oil. For fleas, try washing the animal with the following rinse: Pour 2 packed cups of fresh Peppermint, Rosemary or Pennyroyal into a large pot. Pour over with 1 cup of boiling water. Allow to steep like tea. As the water cools and the tea steeps, it will start to smell very strongly. Once it is dark and strong smelling, strain out the herbs. Then mix the remaining liquid with 4 full quarts of lukewarm water. Make sure this is tepid in temperature, safe to use on your pet. And then wash and rinse and do this once a week if necessary to keep the bugs off. Another flea and tick shampoo idea: Pour 2 ounces of natural liquid soap into a squeeze bottle. This can be any natural castile or glycerin soap that is non toxic and chemical free. Blend the soap with 5 drops of oil of citronella (buy the pure organic kind, not the stuff they sell in bargain bins), 5 drops of Organic Rose Geranium Essential Oil and 5 drops of Organic Lavender Essential Oil. Shake it up really good and then wash the pup or kitty with it. Dry off well and repeat every week.

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