DIY Citrus Cleaner

Homemade cleaners are the best right now, and it’s easy to see why…

People are tired of paying big bucks for store-bought cleaners than almost require a gas mask in order to use safely. Plus, many homemade versions work just as good, if not better than the commercial brands. So what’s not to love?

 I’ve used a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water as an all-purpose cleaner for years now… But, not gonna lie, sometimes I miss the fancy “flavors” and scents of the store-bought cleaners.

Which is why I’ve been thrilled to find a new “recipe” for my all-purpose cleaner.

Plus, it’s a great way to use up those citrus peels that I always seem to accumulate. My goats and chickens generally don’t care for them, and you can only put so many down the garbage disposal!

DIY ALL-PURPOSE CITRUS CLEANER

You will need:

  • 1 or 2 quart sized mason jars
  • A spray bottle (a repurposed one is just fine!)
  • White vinegar (around 1-2 quarts)
  • Orange, grapefruit, lemon, or lime peels (any combination of these will work, too)
  • 3 -4 drops of lemon, grapefruit, or orange essential oil (optional)

Fill your quart jars about half full of citrus peels. Feel free to pack them in there if you need to. I used a combo of orange and grapefruit peels for this batch.

Fill the jars the rest of the way up with white vinegar. Cover tightly with a lid, give it a good shake, and then write the date on the top so you don’t forget!

 

Allow the peels and vinegar to steep for 2-3 weeks.

After time has elapsed, remove the peels from the mixture and strain through a fine strainer to remove any bits of citrus that might be floating in your vinegar. Dilute 1:1 with water (one part citrus vinegar to one part water) and place in a spray bottle.

You may add 3-4 drops of your choice of essential oil if you wish at this point. It’s not absolutely necessary, but I like the extra citrusy-boost that the oils give the mixture, plus they also boost it’s cleaning power.

Use as you would your plain vinegar cleaner: on sinks, countertops, bathtubs, toilets, floors, etc!

It’s amazing how the little changes can make your daily tasks just a bit more fun. I won’t go as far to say that I like cleaning the bathroom now, but it is just a little more pleasant than it was before.

DIY Fridge Pickles – In Just 10 Minutes

Today I’m going to show you a super easy 10 Minute Fridge Pickle recipe.

This recipe helps use up cucumbers and is safe to eat from the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Just a little bit of prep and a few basic ingredients and you’re set!

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onion $
  • 1½ cups white vinegar
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon celery seeds
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a large pan, slowly bring vinegar and other ingredients (except cucumbers) to a gentle boil.
  2. Start slicing cucumbers into thin rounds.
  3. Place cucumbers into mason jars- fill as many in as you can fit.
  4. When vinegar and seasonings are gently boiling, pour into jars over cucumbers.
  5. If the vinegar and herb solution doesnt go all the way to the top of the jar, add some warm water.
  6. Place into the fridge and let sit overnight- or for best flavor a few days.
  7. These keep for up to 2 weeks!

DIY Basics: How To Sharpen Your Knife

In food preparation it is of the utmost importance that you have a properly sharpened tool to do the job. When a day’s work consists of filleting whole salmon and slicing herbs so fine they are hardly recognizable, knives become the most important part of your success.

Tools

1. Wet Stone

In order to sharpen any blade you are going to need something that will work the edges of the blade back to a sharpened edge. The wet stone provides you with a smooth surface that will slowly wear down each side of the blade until your edge is sharpened.

When buying a water stone (must be kept 40min in water before), look for a large one, at least 2.5 inches wide by 8 inches long, and an inch in thickness. I recommend keeping two stones in your kit. One with a medium grit (around 800 or so) to perform major sharpening jobs, and one with a fine grit (at least 2,000) to tune the edge to a razor-sharp finish.

2. Honing Steel

The honing steel is a powerful tool that will align and hone the blade on a knife. In many cases a knife that is not performing well can be brought back to life with several swipes on a honing steel rather than shaving away at the metal to create a new blade.

A tool that is used more often in kitchens is a powerful and effective means to keeping a strong blade.

The Method

#Step 1

Your first step is getting an idea about what your blade needs. When I am going to sharpen a blade I first take a look at the knife as a whole to decide how it will best be held, what is the shape of the blade and how best to attack the problem.

#Step 2

Some blades curve, some blades are more flat and all of this will dictate how you sharpen the blade. You will need to make sure that your movements on the stone touch each part of the blade. If you aren’t careful you could wind up with a blade that is razor sharp at one end and dull at the other.

#Step 3

Lay out a towel or something that will hold stone in place so it doesn’t shift, as you begin to run the blade across it.

#Step 4

Now before we even start to sharpen a blade I run it across the sharpening steel in a descending manner on both sides. Hold the knife at a 45 degree angle to the blade. I start with 3 swipes on each side of the blade and decrease down to 2 and then finally one swipe on each side. From doing this you will either find the blade has been realigned and is much sharper or its still dull. If your knife doesn’t spring back to life than it’s time to sharpen it.

#Step 5

Run the blade across the stone in a perpendicular direction to the stone itself. Start with the widest part of the blade and work your way up to the point sliding forward and sliding back.

The first factor effecting edge sharpness is the angle it is sharpened. The lower the angle, the sharper the blade becomes.


However, the lower the angle, the weaker the edge becomes.
A 22.5° should be perfect in most cases (see picture). But when choosing the angle you may take into consideration the hardness of the steel.

#Step 6

After three trips up and back on the stone it is time to do the other side. Leaving the stone stationery you need to flip your knife over keeping the blade facing away from you. And continue with the same method.

#Step 7

At this point use the honing steel with the method used above before sharpening the blade.

#Step 8

If the blade is razor sharp than you are good to go! If its still dull repeat steps 6 and 7 until your blade is fully sharpened.

If you are dealing with a blade that is well worn you may need to utilize another method first before taking the gentle approach. This is a tactic I learned from a fellow chef. I had an old chef knife that followed me through several endeavors and it had been worn down pretty well.

This chef ran the knife blade parallel with the stone and did so about 20-25 hard strokes on each side before checking the blade and going back. This old man literally created a new blade on my knife using the stone and I was very impressed. Now it didn’t look pretty but that knife was brought back to life and I still use it some 10 years later.

Sometimes it helps to cover the edge with permanent marker so you can see where you’re removing steel. Here you can see that you’re holding too high of an angle to match the angle already on the knife. Notice the permeant marker is removed from the edge but not the top of the secondary edge. Lower your angle slightly and check again. The opposite problem: too shallow of an angle (see picture).

Fine Tuning

The final tool in the sharpening process is the leather. You can use a plain old leather belt. Basically you’re going to be doing the same thing barbers used to do with the razors.

The leather polishes those little microscopic teeth off, so you end up with an edge just like glass.

The angle does not matter that much as long as you use pressure, because the leather is really slick.

Notice that you are not dragging the edge across the leather as before…that would probably cut your belt up.

DIY Homemade Pine Syrup

Pine syrup is a great natural supplement that promotes overall good health and disease prevention. It’s also a simple, easy way to flavor cocktails, teas, and savory dishes, especially during the winter months. It will bring a unique lemony herbaceous component to any application. All pine needles are edible, so gather some clean branches and in just a few simple steps and only three ingredients, fresh pine syrup will be ready to enjoy!

How to Make Pine Syrup at Home

  1. The first step is to flavor the water that will be used to make the syrup. To do this, roughly chop a few small branches of pine needles to a more manageable size, and place in a sealable container.
  2. Next, bring one cup of water to a boil, and pour over the pine needles. Seal the container and allow the needles to steep for at least 30 minutes, and no longer than twenty four hours.

3. Once done steeping, strain out the pine needles from the water and discard them. Place the water in a small sauce pot along with one cup of sugar. Stir with a whisk or spoon while bringing mixture to a simmer. Once it has reached a simmer, to cook for about one minute.

4. Lastly, allow for syrup to cool before refrigerating. May be stored for one month.

How to Benefit From Your Homemade Pine Syrup

In addition to flavoring and sweetening drinks, homemade pine syrup may have a wide array of health benefits. Primarily, it was dissolved in tea and used as an anti-inflammatory and a way to help decrease high blood pressure. Later on, it was found that it may be helpful as a remedy for relieving some symptoms of respiratory illnesses. Specifically, it can be taken to help ease the cough from bronchitis and asthma, as well as the common flu. Vapors from boiling the buds can be used for clearing up nasal congestion, lessening a cold, and clearing skin.

The syrup is also a good source of calcium, and one teaspoon per day has been shown to improve bone health and prevent osteoporosis. It also contains a high amount of vitamin C and A, which will help strengthen the immune system.

Additionally, homemade pine syrup may also stimulate digestion. When applied directly to the skin it may reduce muscle soreness and nerve pain. While pine remains to be a safe, natural way to potentially improve overall health, it is important to keep in mind that these health improvements are still being studied and may not work the same for everyone.

Other ways to incorporate the nutrition from pine syrup is through cooking. From a culinary standpoint, it adds an interesting minty and fresh tasting twist to sauces, roasts, marinades, stews, breads and broths. It would pair well with chicken, beef, or fish.

Using the syrup as a sweetener in cocktails and other beverages is another great use—it would add an interesting spin on lemonades, iced teas, mojitos, mint juleps, or an old fashioned. It can even be added simply to morning hot coffee or tea as a vehicle for a great daily supplement. Young needles tend to work best for cooking—they are lighter in color, softer, and have a milder flavor.

Making pine syrup at home is an easy process that yields a very useful ingredient. Whether it is simply a way to put a Christmas tree to good use, take a supplement, help make a cold more manageable, flavor the perfect soup, or make a tea in the winter, pine syrup is an excellent way to incorporate both good flavor and good health into a daily routine.

Fun DIY Project: Keyhole Garden

Keyhole gardens were first developed in Africa to help to grow food in dry areas. They are now becoming popular in other hot, dry areas of the world, like Texas, for the same reasons they have become popular in Africa.

Keyhole gardens are built to optimize the conditions needed to grow vegetables. They are known as a keyhole garden because the structure involves using a central enclosed area, or basket, which holds compost.

Soil is then placed around this central area and kept in place using stones or bricks. It is usually circular in form. When the garden is watered, the central basket then leaches out nutrients from the compost to the rest of the garden.

Keyhole gardens are a little like a big compost heap. As someone who has several large compost heaps in my garden, I can say that they work very well to grow veggies like potatoes and carrots. I had several potato plants growing successfully in one of my compost heaps last year.

Materials Needed:

1. Compost
2. Animal manure
3. Soil
4. Straw
5. Wire or twill
6. Large stones or bricks
7. Rusty cans, broken plant pots or broken crockery
8. Canes or strong sticks
9. Permeable material, like hessian

You may also want to add wood ash depending on the pH and quality of the soil.

How to Make Your Own Keyhole Garden

1. Where should you place it?

You’re going to need a spot that will allow a circle of radius approx. four feet which is around 25 feet in circumference. Choose a spot in a garden or field where you can make a keyhole garden that is cleared of any grass, weeds or other plants.


Take one of your canes and tie some twine or wire to it of a length of approximately four feet. Place this cane in the center of your cleared area and tie another cane to the end of the twine. Pull this tight and scrape out a circle using the untethered cane.

This will be the outline of your garden.

2. Starting to build the outside of your garden

Take the large stones or bricks you’ve collected and start to make an outline of the perimeter of your garden. You can also use sacks to create smaller gardens.


NOTE: leave an entry point to your garden so you can reach into the compost basket and pour in water.


3. Making the basket

The cane you placed in the middle of your garden is where your basket will be placed.

The rest of your canes will be used to create a circular basket. Place the canes in the middle of the garden circle, pushing them down into the soil to anchor them. Tie the wire or twine around them several times from top to bottom, to create the basket outline and hold the canes or sticks together.

4. Filling the basket

Add some of the soil to the basket. Also add in the wood ash if using. Fill to about half way, and then add straw to the inside walls of the basket to line it. You might also want to add straw to the outside of the basket too, pushing it up against the soil – holding it in.


5. The wall of the garden

Continue to build up the outside wall of the garden using your stones or bricks. You can make it as high, or low, as you like as long as it holds the soil in.

6. Improving drainage

Before adding any soil or compost to the garden, add in a layer of broken pots or cans or some type of broken crockery. This helps drainage.

7. Finishing the garden

Now add soil and compost to the garden. Add layers of compost with soil on top – you can mix in ash and straw too for drainage and nutrients. Continue to layer, but always finish with topsoil. Ideally place the soil/compost layers sloping up towards the basket – this allows the water and nutrients to drain down into the whole garden.

  • Place straw or hessian covering over the basket to help retain moisture.
  • Leave to settle for a week or two before planting any seeds or potatoes.
  • You can also add straw onto the soil to help retain moisture.


Keeping the Garden Growing

A garden is an ongoing project. The basket is built to take in compost over time. Add already composted material, or compostable food waste, to the compost basket in the center of the keyhole garden. Over time this will decay down, and nutrients from it will leach into the garden as you water it or it rains. If you add a permeable material cap, like hessian, to the top of the basket this will help it to compost, whilst allowing water to seep through.

Some people like to create a cover for their garden to protect young plants from strong sunlight. You can do this by creating a cage around the edges of the garden and using this to hold a cover in place.

DIY Project: Hidden Pantry

If you’ve always wished you could put that space between your fridge and the wall to good use, here’s an awesome idea. All it takes is a few boards and some casters to create a handy slide-out pantry.

Supplies:

  • 2 pieces of 4-foot long, 6-inch wide boards
  • 7 pieces of 2-foot long, 6-inch wide boards
  • 4 ½-inch rods
  • Wood glue
  • Wood screws
  • Drill
  • Sandpaper or power sander
  • 4 casters
  • 4-foot x 2-foot pegboard or thin board for backing

Instructions:

Measure between fridge and wall.

Lay out the frame using the two 4-foot boards as the sides, and a 2-foot board as the top. Drill them into place.

Add the first three shelves about 7 inches apart. Then space the rest according to your needs. We created a storage bin at the bottom by drilling a 2-foot board across the front. This base is great for larger items like grains and potatoes.

Flip the shelves upside down and attach the backing.

Add casters to the four corners of the bottom.

Cut rods to size, and glue them in front of each shelf to keep things in place.

Use sandpaper or power sander to smooth surfaces.

Slide your new pantry into place and enjoy the extra space!