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Necessary Ranch Salve

My husband and I have a lot in common. First of all, we love living out away from town. We also love animals especially dogs, horses, and barn cats. We love road trips and Mexican food. Another thing we share are mysterious bumps and bruises, scrapes and cuts. Every week, as we work around the place, we come up with bumps and bruises, scrapes and cuts and a lot of the time we have no idea how we got them! I guess we are so focused on what we are doing at the time that we don’t notice when we get some minor ding.

Next thing you know we’re in the kitchen and looking at our arms, for example, and wondering how that got there! It’s not that we’re accident prone. Well, maybe we are but we are only small accident prone. When we went to see the dermatologist recently he told us that plain old Vaseline works best on minor stuff and we were not to use antibiotic ointment. Imagine that! I decided to make my own salve as I am not in favor of petroleum products no matter how recommended they are by the good, ole doctor!

finish

Here’s my concoction:

Fairfield Ranch Salve

Makes 4 ounces

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup beeswax - grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. shea butter
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 vitamin E capsule (400 IU)
  • 6 drops lavender essential oil

Supplies

  • Measuring cups (I use stainless steel because you can pour boiling soapy water on them afterwards making it easier to clean the beeswax out)
  • Measuring spoons (same thing- stainless steel)
  • Double boiler (it’s very helpful if the top pan has a spout)
  • Small bowl (I use Pyrex custard cups. They are also easy to clean afterwards by pouring boiling soapy water on them.)
  • Straight pin
  • 4-ounce jar (glass or plastic – either is fine)
  • Wooden stick (I use hibachi skewers)

supplies

Instructions

Melt the beeswax, olive oil and shea butter in top of double boiler. You can use a microwave but I feel that’s harder to control because you can’t see what’s happening. If you do use a microwave go for small increments of time. It would be unpleasant to have to clean melted beeswax off the inside of your oven. Start out at short intervals until it melts.

melt

Turn off the heat and leave the mixture in the pot to stay warm and melted. Put honey in small bowl. Drizzle 2 teaspoons of the melted beeswax mixture in to the honey and stir together. Stir until it becomes creamy. It will start to solidify so don’t delay in stirring it. If you delay you may find that there are small lumps and it won’t be 100% smooth. Now add the mixture to the rest of the beeswax mixture in the pot and blend. It won’t blend very well because the olive oil is resistant. Just do your best. When you pour it into the small bowl near the end there will be an opportunity to cream it.

mix

cream

Poke a pin in the small end of a capsule of vitamin E and squeeze it into the mixture. Add the essential oil and mix as best you can. Now pour it into a small bowl and let it sit for a minute. It will start to solidify. After a minute or two while it’s still warm, cream the mixture. Once it’s creamed, spoon it into small jars and cool. Cover with a lid. This is good for minor scrapes, cuts, rashes, insect stings, mild sunburn, etc. The honey has anti-microbial properties and the vitamin E is good for your skin.

Clean up: Put all your utensils in the pot, squirt dishwashing liquid in and pour boiling water over all. It should be easily cleaned this way.

Eco-Friendly Plumbing Tips

When trying to be environmentally conscious, it is important to figure out how to do so in as many aspects of your life as possible. Recycling certainly helps the world at large, but there are other ways that you can reduce any negative impacts your home might have on the environment. While energy-efficient bulbs and appliances are widely available and easy to install, the plumbing in a home is an often overlooked area that can be made more eco-friendly.

Maintenance Prevents Damage

Replacing plumbing fixtures is often expensive, and the longer that you’re able to extend the life of any plumbing fixtures or pipes, the less environmental impact you’ll have. Not only will performing regular maintenance help to keep your plumbing in working order for years to come, it reduces greenhouse gases involved in producing and shipping new plumbing hardware. Extending the life of your plumbing through regular maintenance also puts more green into your wallet, which is the icing on the cake.

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Maintaining your plumbing isn’t all too difficult, as long as you remember to regularly check to make sure the faucets aren’t leaking and the toilet isn’t running. A leaky faucet or running toilet may not seem like the end of the world, but all those little drips add up to a whole lot of wasted water. In the wintertime, it is important to winterize your pipes to prevent them from bursting, which can lead to water damage requiring costly repairs.

If you do end up having to replace any of your bathroom fixtures, give your bathroom a boost by investing in a low gallon-per-flush toilet is the way to go. Not only are these toilets much more efficient and environmentally friendly, but they can save you hundreds of dollars on your water bill over the course of a year. Additionally, you can install a shower head shut-off button which allows you to stop the flow of water while you lather up, saving gallons of water in the process.

Keep Sustainability in Mind

When trying to improve your home with the environment in mind, going for the most sustainable options possible is a must. Around the globe, civil engineers are improving sustainability with plastic roads, vertical farming, and innovative ways to harvest rainwater. Though you’d be hard pressed to convince your HOA to install plastic roads, using a rain barrel to water your plants is a great, environmentally conscious way to conserve water without spending all too much.

Getting the most out of your plumbing can actually tackle two problems at once. While resting water cools relatively rapidly after it exits the water heater and waits in the pipes, installing a recirculating system keeps warm water ready to go without it cooling down. This means that you won’t have to wait for your shower to heat up, which can save you loads of water. Additionally, you can use the radiant heat from the pipes in the walls to keep your bathroom toasty warm all year round.

If you need to upgrade your water filtration system, note that new systems may take more than just pollutants out of your water; they can also remove essential nutrients like calcium and magnesium. While this may seem trivial, it can have an impact on your well-being over the long term. Some home water filtration products are designed to re-introduce an essential mineral balance into your water, keeping your water clean as well as healthy to drink.

The world at large recognizes the need for sustainable, eco-friendly plumbing solutions. The market for eco-friendly plumbing fixtures is booming internationally, and soon it will become the standard for all new construction to implement these environmentally conscious fixtures. As a consumer, this means that the availability of eco-friendly and sustainable plumbing solutions are quickly becoming widely available. In the future, you won’t have to search too hard to find a system that works for you.

Get Creative

One of the main tenets of the concept of green plumbing is the reduction in overall usage of water. The kitchen and the bathroom are the two areas in a home in which the most water is wasted. While installing efficient fixtures and appliances certainly helps, changing your habits and getting creative with how you conserve water will make the biggest difference. Shorter, cooler showers, turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth, and not allowing the faucet to run when you wash dishes or produce is a great place to start.

There are some truly ingenious ways that you can save water each and every day. Consider buying a dedicated “shower bucket” for your bathroom to place under the tap to collect the cold water while you wait for it to warm up. This is a proven effective method of conserving water in areas affected by drought. You can then use this water to water your garden or even to flush the toilet. While it isn’t the most pleasant of methods, not flushing after every time you use the bathroom unless it is absolutely necessary can also save gallons of water.

Always try to do full loads of laundry and dishes to maximize the effectiveness of the water that you’re using. Another inventive way to save water in the bathroom is to place a water displacement device into the tank on your toilet. While a brick is often recommended, they can break down over time and fill your pipes with damaging sediment, so a half-gallon jug filled with water is generally a wiser way to go about it.

All in all, as long as you’re making the conscious decision to try and use the bare minimum amount of water, you’ll be doing mother nature a huge favor. Supplementing these changes with water-efficient appliances, pipes, and fixtures only compounds the good that you’ll be doing. Saving water means saving the planet, and with a little knowledge on your side, it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Our Life is Real Life

Ten years ago, I was arriving home from the hospital from the birth of my second baby, a son. My husband drove us, with our 21-month-old daughter strapped in next to her new brother. We were a family of four, huddled down for the winter in Wisconsin, on our farm. As soon as we were settled in the house, Andy headed out the door to feed our hens and sheep and cattle. The sheep and cows were expectant mothers as well. In a few months we would have the delight of lambing season upon us. At the same time, our Holstein and Milking Shorthorn heifers would start to freshen (give birth) and we would become dairy farmers.

garden and windmill in fog
Photo by Rebekah Sell

I look back at that time and give a deep sigh. It’s both fatiguing to think of all we did at once and bittersweet to know it is no more. We tried for three exhausting, yet rewarding years to take over my parents’ farm, but in the end, my dad just wasn’t ready to quit.

We left the farm in order to save our relationship with my parents.

In doing so, our little family entered a sort of wilderness. We had little direction and didn’t know what God had for our lives. In the midst of that, we added two more boys to our family, moved five times and went through six job changes. It turns out, we had a lot to learn about ourselves, about relationships and more growth of character than I ever could have imagined that day, that day I held my second baby for the first time.

rebekah's children
Photo by Rebekah Sell

In 2013, we had an opportunity to buy a small house on seven acres of land. It was right across the street from our farm, the family farm, which is still in Dad’s hands. Ever since we returned to the country, we work tirelessly on creating a home out of our little space. We work diligently to raise our four children in the way they should go. We double down on what we have, instead of longing for things we don’t.

As our path continues to unfold, we’d love to share it with you: all the love, the successes, the failures, the pain. Because our story is about Real Life...and I know yours is too.

17 Capital Rules of Indoor Plant Care

When you buy a new plant, you find her the perfect place in your décor and she looks stunning. But time flies and soon she has lost some of her original stamina, for mysterious reasons. Too much water? Too little light? All we want is for our plants to keep looking fresh in the long run, but that’s not always easy. That's why I collected the best plant wisdom into this list. Regardless of your experience with plants, from beginner to advanced, keep these capital rules of indoor gardening in mind for the sake of your green babies. But don't be too harsh on yourself, as we all kill plants.

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Photo Credits: Hàn Vi Phạm Thị

17 Capital Rules Of Indoor Plant Care

1. Know your plant's water preferences. 

Indoor plants can be divided into two major groups according to their preferences in terms of moisture: the Dry Type (a.k.a. Desert type) prefers dry soil and the Moist Type (a.k.a. Tropical type) prefers moist soil. Easy so far.

2. Cacti and succulents are from the Dry Type, they prefer dry and well-drained soil. Leafy green indoor plants can be from either type, depending on the species, but most of them are from the Moist Type.

Leafy Green Indoor Plants (Moist Type)

3. Most tropical plants will flourish in indirect sunlight, and some can even live in a darker corner. Indirect sunlight is key because direct sunlight can be too harsh and scorch the leaves.

4. Moist Type: on average, water once per week (rule of thumb).

5. Holiday watering tricks: to increase moisture around your plant when you're away, fill a pebble tray or bucket with water and place it near your plant before you go on holidays. You can also use the garden-twine technique or other self-watering tricks. Also, think of using self-watering pots, there are plenty and they saved my life (okay, my plant's life) a few times!

Cacti, Succulents and Dry Plants (Dry Type)

6. Cacti and succulents require plenty of light, preferably direct sunlight. Perfect for a windowsill.

7. Stay on the under-watering side, for root rot caused by over-watering is the no #1 plant killer.

8. Cacti require a little water once per month, succulents twice per month (rule of thumb).

9. Cacti and succulents require a special potting mix with high drainage properties. Don't mix with common houseplant soil.

All Indoor Plants

10. Water more (or more often) during the warm months of the year (summer in the northern hemisphere).

11. Neem oil or peppermint oil are natural insect repellents and can help keep your plant free of pests.

12. Always check the soil before watering, assessing the soil under the surface with your finger. If there are visible cracks in the soil or a gap between the soil and the pot, the soil is dry and the plant has absorbed all the water out.

13. Always drain out all the excess water after you water your plant. Don't let the plant's roots sit in still water, that's the #1 plant killer.

14. Check the roots regularly, fertilize at the beginning of the growth season (spring in the northern hemisphere), and re-pot when roots are outgrowing the pot.

15. Prune unwanted growth and cut dead leaves to refocus the energy towards young leaves. Rotate the plant so that it's not always the same side facing the light.

16. Top up with fresh soil, at least every year, because the plant eats it out in order to grow.

17. Clean dusty leaves with a cloth, it will help your plant restore natural breathing.

If you're keeping those rules in mind, your plants should be thriving most of the time. Remember not to be too harsh on yourself, we all kill plants at times, and even the most experienced gardeners do. It's just learning through experience.


Learn More About Houseplants

Want more tips for your plants and indoor jungle? Check out my blog dedicated to houseplant care or follow me on social media. Planti-fully yours!

Green Gifts and Books That Indoor Plant People Will Love This Christmas

As a plant lover myself (I have more than 40 plants in my flat in London, UK), I'm used to telling family and friends that a green gift is always welcome: a houseplant, of course, will always bring me joy. A book about houseplants and indoor gardening will also surely be appreciated. Ideally, the book should be quite recent and tell a story, or at least showcase stylish photography of plants because I don't want to dive into a boring plant dictionary between Christmas and New Year's Eve, even though I love plants a lot! So, here is my Christmas list of books for the indoor gardener that I am. These books about houseplants have different styles (choose the one that fits best with the personality you're offering it to), but have the following in common: beautiful photos, simple language for any skill level, and they all have been published recently. They’re all loaded with enough plant-y stuff and useful tips that any plant lover will enjoy. A big thank-you to the authors of the books who put a lot of love and dedication into them.

The Books are Urban JunglePlant Society and Living with Plants.

Urban Jungle: Living and Styling With Plants (by Judith De Graaff and Igor Josifovic, 2016)

urban_jungle_book

By the founders of Urban Jungle Bloggers, Urban Jungle has been a reference among houseplant people since its publication. Broadly acclaimed for crystallizing the urban jungle trend, the book tells the story of people from around the world through the prism of plants. Each chapter is organized around a combination of human portraits and plant portraits. The "At Home With" section tells the stories of plant-loving couples as they describe their interior and plant choices for their home. "Plant Portraits" focuses more on the plants themselves, how to care for them, and how to magnify their beauty. With a combination of styling tips and DIY ideas, the reader will step inside the best urban oases in the Netherlands, France, and Turkey, and discover how these families display and care for their favorite plants. Slightly bohemian, beautiful in all cases, the style of the book is warm and cozy. An ideal companion through the rough months of winter!

Plant Society: Create an Indoor Oasis for Your Urban Space (by Jason Chongue, 2018)

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The newest one on this list, Plant Society is written by a talented interior designer and plant cultivator, Jason Chongue. His experience with plants started as a kid in Australia when his grandma taught him all the tricks and transmitted to him the plant obsession that many of us share. The book is driven by a simple idea: Help anyone care for their plants and keep them happy like his grandmother would do, regardless of their skill level. Packed with helpful advice, solutions against pests and the most common plant issues, the book takes the reader on a step-by-step journey from the basics of houseplants to more advanced propagation techniques, styling, and DIY projects with plants. Gifted with an entire section dedicated to finding a plant for each room, the book has become my plant bible for care advice. The style is modern and refreshing, and Armelle Habib's unique photographs stand out throughout.

Living With Plants: A Guide To Indoor Gardening (by Sophie Lee, 2017)

living_with_plants_book

Houseplants offer the perfect solution to the urban dweller, lacking in space — indoor and outdoor — and in Living With Plants, botanical-stylist, Sophie Lee, shows you simple but innovative ways to make your home gorgeously green. Starting with the basics, learn how to pick the right plant for your home (and specifically what room), what levels of sunlight your plant needs, and the best space for your plants to thrive.          

Bonus: How to Raise A Plant and Make It Love You Back (by Erin Harding and Morgan Doane, 2018)

 how_to_raise_a_plant_book

As I'm writing this article, I just heard that a new book about houseplants is out. I'm so excited and just couldn’t leave it out! I have a tendency to already know all the plant books out there and the latest one from popular bloggers and Instagrammers Erin Harding and Morgan Doane from House Plant Club comes right on time for Christmas. That's why I add it here as a bonus for you to check out, as I haven't had a chance to get a copy yet. Let me know what you think if you've got hold of it.

Aimed at a new generation of indoor gardening enthusiasts, this book is a perfect guide for anyone keen to see their plant offspring thrive. Gaining ground on food and pet photos on social media, plants have found popularity in the small home, and are being proclaimed the new stars of Instagram. This beautiful little book is ideal for the novice 'plant parent', providing tips on how to choose plants, where to place them, and above all how to care for them and keep them thriving.

For more book recommendations about house plants, here is a bigger list: Best Books For House Plants Lovers on InvincibleHousePlants.com, the House Plant and Urban Jungle Blog.

Indoor Gardening Accessories

To complement your gift, nothing is better than a plant itself, freshly sourced from your local nursery. A nice pot would also be perfect if you know a bit about the size and style. But if the above is not an option for you, here are some classic indoor gardening accessories that will always be helpful.

  • The Plant Mister (Brass and Glass)
  • The Watering Can (Copper)
  • The Propagation Station: For plant propagation lovers, a propagation station (set of propagation vases and stand) is a perfect small gift. Check out availability on Amazon or on this new online shop that I just discovered: Warmly.

Have a wonderful Christmas!


Boris Dadvisard, urban naturalist based in London, UK, is the author of indoor plant focused blog InvincibleHousePlants.com, The House Plant and Urban Jungle Blog. This article contains affiliate links. By buying through the links the author may receive a tiny commission for the sale, but this has no effect on the price for you.

Conserving Energy in Your Home Year-Round

Reducing energy consumption in your home year-round not only lowers your energy bill, but it also reduces your home's carbon footprint. There are many different ways to conserve energy in your home, whether you're looking to make extensive home improvements or minor adjustments, here are seven ways to save on your utility bills while protecting the environment.

woman hanging laundry to dry on indoor rack in sun
Photo by Shutterstock

Air Dry Dishes and Laundry

Skip your dishwasher's drying cycle and let your dishes air dry by opening the door after the rinse cycle. Air drying can cut dishwasher energy use by 15 to 50 percent depending on your machine. Do the same thing with your clothes and opt for hang drying clothes, especially in the summer.

Use Power Strips

Plug your appliances and electronics into power strips that allow you to switch off power when your technology is not in use or when you leave your home for an extended period of time. This will reduce your standby power load, or the energy used by electronics when they're plugged in but not in use, which accounts for 5 to 10 percent of residential energy use and saves the average U.S. household $100 per year.

Invest in ENERGY STAR-Certified Appliances

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ensures products with the ENERGY STAR certificate deliver energy efficiency that save consumers money while protecting the environment. Use ENERGY STAR-certified light bulbs, appliances, heating and cooling technology, water heaters and more. Even stream media with ENERGY STAR-certified electronics and use 25 percent less energy while doing so.

Work Your Curtains and Blinds

In the summer, keep your home cooler with blinds or shades that keep out the sun and reduce your need for air conditioning. In the winter, open curtains facing the sun to naturally warm up your home and reduce your use of lighting during the day. Close curtains and blinds at night to help your home retain more heat and reduce your need for a heater.

Clean Those Filters

Cleaning and replacing filters throughout your home increases appliance efficiency and reduces energy consumption. Filters in your furnace or A/C unit should be cleaned or replaced every three months, while the filter in your dryer should be cleaned after every use. Consider high-quality air filters that can further reduce energy consumption and return larger economic benefits for your home.

Maximize Your Home's Insulation

Insulating and sealing your air ducts will reduce air loss through leaks and overall energy consumption for your home heating/cooling system, says Energy.gov. If upgrading to an ENERGY STAR-certified water heater is not an option, add an insulating blanket to an older water heater to reduce standby heat loss by 25 to 45 percent and save 4 to 9 percent in water heating costs, energy company Constellation reports. You should also insulate hot water pipes to reduce heat loss and to slightly raise water temperatures compared to uninsulated pipes.

Keep It Cool When You Can

Keeping it cool when you can will reduce energy consumption from a heating system or water heater. Use a programmable thermostat to reduce your energy bill by turning back your thermostat when you're not home. Skip the rinse hold setting on your dishwasher to eliminate the use of 3-7 additional gallons of water per cycle, says Constellation. Wash your clothes with cold water when possible and save upwards of $60 a year.

Energy saving in your home can be as simple as unplugging electronics when not in use to upgrading to ENERGY STAR-certified appliances. No matter what changes you make, conserving energy in your home is simple and will lower your monthly electricity bills while doing your part to fight climate change.


Natalie Posdaljian is a naturalist and environmental advocate who prefers to be outdoors whenever possible. When she's not soaking up Vitamin D, you'll find her planning her next adventure, reading or on her yoga mat.

4 Tips for Removing Toxic Chemicals From the Home

Detoxing is a hot trend in our culture these days. We detox our bodies from things like sugar and caffeine, but have you ever considered detoxing your home?

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The average U.S. adult spends 90 percent of their time inside. This stat is concerning for more than one reason, one of them being that 500-1,000 chemicals are lurking in our homes. The worst part is that you’ll find harmful toxins in the most unexpected, common household items. Some of these include paper products, water bottles, carpet, and many more.

Although exposure to these chemicals in small amounts is not harmful, compounded they can cause a number of irritations to our bodies.

Just like we detox our bodies, here are four steps to detoxing our homes:

1. Add Plants

 Did you know indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air? According to the EPA, sources of indoor air pollutants include asbestos, VOCs, formaldehyde and more.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The good news is that plants improve indoor air quality by filtering toxins through their roots and replenishing oxygen levels. Some of the best plants to add to your living space are ferns, golden pothos and, aloe vera.

Another great way to keep the air pure is to ventilate your home often. Open windows and doors to promote airflow.

2. Consider the Products You Bring Into Your Home

Although “going organic” is a hot trend these days, it’s not a bad idea.

Be picky about the brands you use. Check what is used to make the product and where they are made. You should only purchase from brands that clearly disclose what materials are in the products.

Many brands are catching wind of how important ethically sourced, organic materials are to customers. One example of an environmentally sound and transparent brand is Leesa Sleep.

Leesa Sleep is a Certified-B corporation which means they meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. Their product is made in the U.S. (which holds the highest standards for product development) and built with Certi-PUR foams. This is just one example of many brands joining the fight to become green.

As a rule of thumb, here are a few tips when it comes to shopping for non-toxic household items:

  • Shop for biodegradable household cleaning products that disclose all ingredients used and don’t use fragrance
  • Avoid aerosol spray cans
  • Avoid spraying pesticides - address the root of the problem instead, (i.e., not leaving food out)
  • Buy non-PVC paint
  • Shop for BPA-free plastics
  • Cut back on cans

3. Dust Regularly

Did you know there is a scary amount of toxins are lurking in dust? In fact, one study found that 90% of dust samples contained roughly 45 different types of chemicals across five main chemical classes. Some of these chemicals include phthalates, flame retardants, fragrances, and environmental phenols. Yikes!

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Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

Do yourself a favor and clean your house regularly. That means getting those hard-to-reach places as well. Especially if you have kiddos running around the house.

4. Install the Proper Protection

There is no way to 100 percent detox your home. In order to stay safe from potential pollutants in your home, take these precautionary measures.

  • Install CO detectors to notify you when this harmful gas is present in your home
  • Have your water tested for lead
  • Always ventilate while painting or refurbishing to let toxic gases escape
  • Get a shower filter. This will filter out any impurities in your tap water that could turn to gas at room temperature.

For how much time we spend in our homes, it’s time we took care of it and the things we bring inside of it.







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