winter garden

10 Things to Do in Your Garden in the Winter

10 Things to Do in Your Garden in the Winter

I know. Trust me. The itch during that first mild winter day to get out there and start putting seeds in the ground, tilling, raking, etc. Here are a few things you can (and should) do to prepare your garden this winter. We are in garden zone 7a. 

1. Plan Your Garden

What worked last year? What didn't? If disease plagued one of your vegetables, consider moving it to a different bed this year. Typically, you'll want to rotate crops to confuse pests, but also to give the beds a break from heavy feeders, like kale. 

If you don't take notes during the season, you should start this year. Every year is an opportunity to learn and adjust based on your experiences. No two gardens are alike and no two seasons are alike. 

For the last five years, we've grown a huge garden for our CSA in order to feed over 50 families in the community fresh, locally grown produce. This will be my first year dialing it back to feeding our family. We relocated the garden, scaled down, so there will be a learning curve for me to get back in the groove with a small scale - but I'm excited for it! 

2. Purchase Seeds

Take a look at your seeds and make your order! I love Baker Creek Seeds. I'll always grab some fun new varieties. Johnny's Selected Seeds is also a great choice. Another fun opportunity is looking into community seed swaps. Personally, I love getting the seed catalogs and comparing the varieties with the full descriptions right there on paper.

There are so many different varieties of seeds these days, it's so easy to get lost in the mix. I find it easier to compare apples to apples on paper. 

3. Start Seeds Indoors

Most cool weather crop seeds can be started 8-12 weeks prior to your first frost date. At minimum to start seeds you'll need trays, seed starter, a watering can or spray bottle, and a south facing window or grow light - and seeds, of course. 

4. Learn

There are many different things to learn about gardening. Companion planting, pests, diseases, soil, raised beds, greenhouse hoops, composting, till, no till, fertilizers, heirloom, organic, natural and synthetic pesticides and herbicides. There are endless opportunities to learn a new facet of gardening. 

5. Add Compost/Mulch

If you have the itch to actually get into your garden, consider top dressing your beds or ground garden with compost, mulch, or leaves. Especially if you didn't do this in the fall. Don't till yet - even if you plan to in the future. Bugs and critters burrow into the ground during winter, you don't want to disturb them.

If you have raised beds with no bottom, you'll often lose a few inches of soil each season. This is a great opportunity to fill up those beds. 

6. Repair

This is the perfect time to get into the garden and make some repairs. During the busy growing and harvesting season, it can feel like you don't have enough time to make repairs or move things around. Use this time to reinforce your raised beds with braces or extra screws.

You could also take this time to replace and broken or rotted boards, and fix up garden fence. 

7. Weed and Clean Up

Maybe this one will make you reconsider your desire to get into the garden. If you've had a mild winter, like we've had, and your ground isn't frozen, consider pulling some weeds.

If you're anything like me, by the end of the growing season, you just want to rip everything out and be done with it. This often means tomato cages get left in, cucumber vines are still hanging on the trellis, and no weeding is done. 

You should hold off on pulling weeds inside your garden bed during this time to avoid disturbing any critters, but if you know that this is likely the only time you'll have to get to doing this before planting craziness starts, go for it. Typically, I'll take this time to weed the walkways at minimum. 

8. Take Stock of Tools & Equipment

Replace or fix anything that is broken. Consider new tools you may need that will make life easier during the growing season. It was a total game-changer when we added sprinklers with a timer. My favorite tool of all time is the Amazon Garden Weasel - it can loosen packed dirt, it can pull weeds, and it can make your shoulders look ripped. 

9. Prepare for the Pollinators

Attract pollinators and increase the yields and success of your garden by planting native flowers and herbs in and around your garden. Limit the use of pesticides. I am adding an insect hotel to my garden this winter! It touts to attract ladybugs, bees, and butterflies. We will see how it does! 

Want to go crazy? Add some bee hives! 

10. Remove and Replace Soil

Seems a little backwards, right? Here are some reasons you would remove and replace the soil in your garden this winter. 

  • Relentless plant disease
  • Garden pests with no resolution
  • Soil is completely lacking nutrients and is not remedying with adding nutrient-dense compost and soil. 

kid approved fire cider

Kid-Approved Fire Cider

Kid-Approved Fire Cider

If you've ever had a traditional fire cider, it can be a little spicy, a little vinegar-y. Not something that's easy to compete with bright purple, bubblegum flavored mainstream medicine when it comes to convincing your kid to take a swig. This kid-approved fire cider adds a great bit of raw honey to soothe those intense flavors.

Getting your kids involved in making the fire cider may also encourage them to want to try it! Still a no? Try adding a few tablespoons to some warm tea. Have a tea party. 

Either way, this fire cider is antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral, making it a perfect choice for fighting off any sickness. 

This recipe is simple, measure with the heart. Add a lot of raw local honey to sweeten it up. 

Kid-Approved Fire Cider Recipe

  1. Large glass jar with a lid
  2. Orange slices
  3. Lemon slices
  4. Fresh Ginger Slices
  5. Garlic Slices
  6. Raw Honey
  7. Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Add orange, lemon, ginger, and garlic to your jar to fill, leaving 2-3 inches of space at the top. 
  • Muddle/smash ingredients down for a minute or two to release juices and flavors
  • Add 1/2 cup or more of raw honey 
  • Top off with apple cider vinegar
  • Screw on the lid and give it a good shake
  • Leave it on the counter for 3 days
  • Strain
  • Compost scraps and store liquid in the jar in the fridge. 
  • At signs of cold symptoms, take a few tablespoons a day. 

 


chicken molting

Chicken Keeping: Molting

Chicken Keeping: Molting

What is Molting? 

Each year, chickens go through molting. This is when chickens will drop many of their feathers and regrow new fresh feathers for winter. This happens to hens and roosters and is triggered by shorter daylight, so you can expect your birds to molt in the fall.

Your chickens will look ragged. Don't worry! Molting doesn't hurt your chickens, this is a natural process. You should not make attempts to stop molting. This molting and regrowth is a sign of a healthy bird that is going through a resting stage after the laying season.  

How Long Does it Last? 

Typically, a chicken will typically molt for 7-8 weeks. Don't be concerned if the molt lasts 12-14 weeks. 

What To Expect

When your chickens are molting, they will drop the majority of their feathers and regrow new shoots that will turn into feathers. You'll start to notice feathers dropping around the head and neck first.

As they regrow their feathers you will see the shoots of their feathers coming through as blue or black, depending on the feather of your birds. Don't mess with these. If you notice a bird is picking at their feathers or other birds are picking at a chicken's feathers, remove the affected bird to isolation and treat the wound with Wonder Dust.

Your chicken coop will look like someone had a pillow fight. 

What to Do to Help

Adding Protein

Help your chickens regrow their new fresh feathers and get back to laying eggs by bumping up the protein in their diet. Chicken keepers can add protein to their bird's diet by buying a layer feed with a higher protein content, adding mealworms, seeds, eggs (yup, you read that right), worms, fodder. I've heard some folks have luck with cat food, too. Chickens are omnivores, so feel free to get creative! More protein is the goal. 

Still Keep an Eye Out for Illness

When birds are molting hard, it's a little shocking and it can be easy to miss more subtle cues of illness. Be sure to keep an eye out for any of your chickens that isolate themselves from the rest of the flock, are hunched over and puffed up, eye closed, look generally lame, have a sneeze, are gaping, or have runny poops. 

Let them Recover

Let your chicken's molting process continue uninterrupted and support them through plenty of food, water, and clean shelter. Your chickens just worked very hard throughout the laying season and this is nature's way of giving them a break from laying eggs. Allow them to have that rest. 

Learn More

To learn more about your flock, check out our guide "What No One Tells You About Keeping Chickens". 


Non-toxic dryer sheets

Non-Toxic Dryer Sheets

Non-Toxic Dryer Sheets

Commercial dryer sheets are loaded with toxic chemicals, synthetic fragrances, and hormone disruptors. By making your own non-toxic dryer sheets, you can avoid those chemicals and reduce your waste. 

All you need is scrap fabric - cotton or flannel are ideal, distilled white vinegar, essential oils, and a large jar with a lid. 

Don't worry the vinegar smell doesn't stick around. It will dissipate during the drying process and help with static.

Use caution when adding the essential oils, as some essential oils can be flammable. Use no more than 20 drops of any oil for this recipe. 

Ditch and switch to reduce your toxic load happens one small step at a time. Replace items in your home as you use them. Try out this recipe for homemade laundry detergent and natural laundry boost to fully replace your laundry needs. Switching out your laundry items is a huge leap to reducing the toxic load for yourself and your family. 

Don't have time to make your own homemade laundry detergent? Try out this Thieves Laundry Soap recipe. 

Non-toxic dryer sheets

Non-Toxic Dryer Sheets

Ingredients

  • Approximately 6x6 scrap fabric, doesn't need to be exact
  • 1 cup of distilled white vinegar
  • 15 drops of essential oils (lemon, lavender, or eucalyptus are great!)

Instructions

  1. Cut your scrap fabric into squares
  2. Add vinegar and essential oils to your jar
  3. Soak your squares in the mixture for several minutes
  4. Remove squares and squeeze out excess liquid.
  5. Fold and store squares in a jar with a lid.
  6. Add one square to dryer load, I like to add two to bedding
  7. Once the squares are used, soak them again!

how to make an herbal tincture

How to Make an Herbal Tincture

How to Make Herbal Tincture

An herbal tincture is essentially herb-infused alcohol. While herbs and oil will eventually get you essential oils, herbs and alcohol will get you tinctures.

Herbal tinctures are an excellent way to benefit from medicinal herbs. They are easy to put together and are shelf-stable for years. The easiest way to make an herbal tincture is through the process of maceration. Maceration is the process of soaking herbs in liquid (water or alcohol) for several weeks; it is the go-to tincture method for at-home herbalists. 

What is Menstrum?

Menstrum is the liquid portion of a tincture. The menstrum will extract the properties from the herb. It can be water, alcohol, vinegar, or, sometimes, glycerine. Most folks use vodka or everclear. 

Calculating the amount and ratio of menstrum to herb can be as easy or as complicated as you'd like to make it. However, most herbalists use a 50% water and 50% alcohol as their menstrum and that will get you an effective tincture with no issues.

While there are plenty of resources for getting very specific with your menstrum ratios depending on the types of herbs and accounting for loss, we are going to keep it simple in this guide and use dependable ratios to get us a solid product each time. 

Menstrum to Herb Ratio

Most herbalists will use the following ratios: 

  • Fresh Plant Tinctures 1:2 ratio, with 95% ABV menstrum
  • Dry Plant Tinctures 1:5 ratio, with 50-65% ABV mentrum

When making fresh plant tinctures, each 1 gram of fresh herb is macerated (soaked) in 2 milliliters of almost pure alcohol (Everclear) for optimal extraction.

For tinctures made from dry plant materials, each 1 gram of herb is macerated in 5 milliliters of menstruum with an alcohol content of between 50 and 65% (double-proof vodka).

Herb Preparation

Dried Herbs

Chop your dried herbs into small pieces, they do not need to be powdered.

Kitchen shears are the best tool for this. When using barks, roots, berries, or mushrooms that are difficult to cut with shears, put them into the blender for a few seconds, just enough to break them up. 

Fresh Herbs

Typically, you'll only need the leaves. Be sure to wash and dry them before use. Roughly chop the herbs. Refer to ratios above. 

How to Make an Herbal Tincture - Lemon Balm

In this guide we will make a lemon balm tincture. Lemon balm is incredibly easy to grow, as it is in the mint family. It calms anxiety, promotes sleep, and aids in digestion. 

Lemon balm is an incredible tincture to have on hand postpartum. It eases the night-scaries and mild anxious feelings and belly discomfort that come with postpartum. Lord knows we need help with in the sleep department, too. 

how to make an herbal tincture

How to Make an Herbal Tincture

Ingredients

  • Half pint jar with lid
  • Measuring cups
  • Metal strainer
  • Cheesecloth
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon balm leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup everclear

Instructions

  1. Fill jar with herbs
  2. Pour in everclear, be sure alcohol is covering herbs completely
  3. That's it, put the lid on.
  4. Put in a cool dark place for four weeks, give a gentle shake once a week.
  5. Place cheesecloth inside metal strainer on top of a clean empty jar and strain out herb leaves.
  6. Label clearly and take one dropper as needed.

Disclaimer: This information is intended only as education and is not a replacement for professional health advice. 

 


homemade magnesium spray

Homemade Magnesium Spray

Homemade Magnesium Spray

Magnesium is a staple for relaxation. While folks usually go for a bath or foot bath, this homemade magnesium spray is easy to absorb and apply when you're in a pinch. Magnesium has been shown to reduce stress and enhance sleep. It's also shown to support hormone function and provide energy support. These magnesium chloride bath flakes are the best.

During pregnancy, my feet (along with the rest of me) were very swollen during the third trimester, IYKYK. I was also sleeping terribly, as expected. Magnesium foot baths gave my feet incredible relief, helped set up a relaxing environment, and I slept as good as someone good when they have a pumpkin-sized gymnast attached to them. 

Once the baby came, I definitely needed all the support I could get with hormones, sleep, and reduced stress. Between the cluster-feeding and contact naps, I didn't have the time to continue with my evening foot soaks. Sure, I could steal away for a bath every now and then, but I felt like I needed support each night. That's where this homemade magnesium spray really came in handy. Now, I use it on myself and my one-year old during out bedtime routine. 

Homemade Magnesium Spray Recipe

homemade magnesium spray

Homemade Magnesium Spray

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup magnesium flakes
  • Spray bottle

Instructions

  1. Boil water
  2. Add Magnesium flakes
  3. Stir until fully dissolved
  4. Wait until cooled
  5. Pour into spray bottle

Apply 2-3 sprays on the soles of your feet before bed. 


clean your wood cutting board

How to Clean Your Wood Cutting Board

How to Clean Your Wood Cutting Board

We use our wood cutting board for everything. I snagged a gorgeous, heavy, heirloom-style cutting board from a local woodworker and I've never looked back. I vowed that I would put time and effort into cleaning my wood cutting board since we all know that funk can get trapped in the grooves.

I've only ever used soapy hot water, until I learned that that's not cutting it - pun intended. When you make grooves in the wood, bacteria can get trapped underneath. If you're using one cutting board or cutting meat where you cut your vegetables, bacteria can easily form in your cutting boards. 

I love a beautiful wood cutting board. It ranks up there with my cast iron in my favorite kitchen items. Like cast iron, if you take care of it, you can ensure it is clean and extend its life dramatically. 

Here is a simple way to clean and sanitize your wood cutting board. This is great to do every couple of months to ensure your wood cutting board is clean and in good shape for long term use. 

Step-by-step to cleaning your wood cutting board

First, wash and scrub your cutting board with hot soapy water. 

Next, pat dry and spray your cutting board with white distilled vinegar. If you don't have vinegar in a spray bottle, simply pour some on and wipe it around. 

Third, pat it dry again and sprinkle your board with salt. I use a coarse celtic sea salt

Next, cut a lemon or lime in half and rub the salt into the board with your citrus. Small circles. You'll find out if you have any cuts on your hands now. Do this until most, if not all, of the salt is dissolved. 

Then, pour on some olive oil and rub all over the board. 

Let your board completely dry, then brush off any excess salt. 

If you want to take it a step further, you can add a bee's wax based board balm after your board is completely dry and cleaned off. I like to use a bee's wax board balm since it is all natural and very effective at sealing the wood to prevent moisture and bacteria from hanging out in the grooves of your board. 


hormone latte

Hormone Healing Chamomile Latte

Hormone Healing Chamomile Latte

Looking to heal those hormones and reduce your caffeine intake, but don't want to lose out on your five minutes of morning peace with your coffee? This hormone healing chamomile latte is the perfect alternative if you're trying to go caffeine-free with a creamy, dreamy latte. 

Maca powder will add hormone support and healing since it is an adaptogenic herb. Try making your own vanilla extract it's so easy! 

By cutting out caffeine you can dramatically reduce the stress on your body and reduce the amount of time your body spends in a parasympathetic state. 

I started to notice that in the mornings, when I was working from home, before the nanny my stress was high. Very high. I felt panicked, I was irritable, and it started my day off so poorly. It is a stressful situation to try to get yourself ready for the day, a baby ready, breakfast, coffee, fire up the laptop for work, get through a few emails. I'm already pretty high-strung. The absolute last thing I need is caffeine. 

I switched to organic swiss water process decaf coffee at first. Having that hot mug in my hands while I distract my babe with scrambled eggs and smushed blueberries is just blissI needed something. Then I decided I wanted to support my body with my morning drink, that's when I switched to these hormone healing chamomile lattes. Still creamy and delicious just like my coffee, but supports my body instead of depleting it. 

hormone latte

Hormone Healing Chamomile Latte

Ingredients

  • Chamomile tea bag
  • 1 pinch Sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk, or more to your liking
  • 1 tablespoon maca powder (optional)

Instructions

  1. Prepare one cup of chamomile tea
  2. In a blender combine the tea and remaining ingredients.
  3. Blend for a few seconds.
  4. Pour into cup and enjoy

homemade laundry detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Commercial laundry detergents contain a variety of harmful chemicals. From dyes, to fragrances, to irritants, there are countless reasons to ditch your commercial laundry detergents and move to your own homemade laundry detergent. It's easy, cheaper, and effective!

Use this recipe with my Laundry Boost for the ultimate stain and stank fighting combination. Adding essential oils will give this a great scent, without the chemicals. Castile soap is sold unscented or with scent. I like to add the same essential oil as the scent used in the castile soap - lemon and eucalyptus are my favorite.  

homemade laundry detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Ingredients

  • Large glass container with a lid
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 cup castile soap
  • 30 drops any essential oil
  • 14 cups of water

Instructions

  1. Heat water and when almost boiling, add baking soda and salt. Mix until dissolved.
  2. Pour into glass jar and add castile soap and essential oil.
  3. Gently mix.
  4. Mix before use and use 1/2 to 1 cup per load of laundry.

Notes

Be sure to mix prior to use. Contents will naturally settle. Keep out of reach of children.

No time to make your own laundry detergent? Consider the Young Living Thieves brand. Using their ultra-concentrated laundry soap, you can make three half gallon bottles of laundry detergent from just one bottle of laundry soap. Simply fill each bottle with one-third of the laundry soap and top off with water. Add a capful of Thieves household cleaner or 15-20 drops of essential oils if you want an extra boost and great smell. 


homemade toothpaste

Simple Homemade Toothpaste

Simple Homemade Toothpaste

When making the change to low-tox living, swapping out your toothpaste with this homemade toothpaste is a great first step. While it's very overwhelming once you begin to learn how toxic the products in our home are, taking small steps can lighten the load and make things easier. As you run out of items, swap them out for low-tox options. 

Why Switch to Homemade Toothpaste?

Conventional toothpaste is filled with chemicals that disrupt our body and do more harm than good. Fluoride is a known neurotoxin. It can cause a number of serious adverse health effects, including endocrine dysfunction in addition to neurological dysfunction. It's also been shown to negatively affect cognitive development in children. Parabens can disrupt hormone function by mimicking estrogen and has been linked to breast cancer. Triclosan has been linked to antibiotic resistance and skin cancer. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) has been shown to cause skin irritation and can aggravate aphthous ulcers. Propylene Glycol is linked to damage of the central nervous system, liver, and heart. Artificial Sweeteners have links to bladder cancer, brain tumors, and lymphoma. Diethanolamine (DEA) is found in antifreeze and brake fluid and has been linked to cancer in test animals. 

Simple Homemade Toothpaste Recipe

6 TBS Coconut Oil
2.5 TBS Baking Soda
35 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil

1. Melt coconut oil on low heat
2. Once heated, remove the heat and stir in baking soda
3. Add essential oil
4. Mix the ingredients together and store in an airtight glass jar. 
5. To use, place 1/2 TSP of the paste on your brush and brush for two minutes.