Grit Blogs >

Homegrown Hopes

Homemade Laundry Detergent

 Caitlin Ethridgelaundry post infographic

Life is full of mysteries. Why is the sky blue? What do they put in hot dogs? How the heck does a family of three produce so much dirty laundry?!

I just don't understand it. I always thought that once we got past the days of cloth diapers and spit-up, the laundry would be much more manageable. But the basket piled high and shoved in the back of my closet that's been awaiting folding for a week says otherwise.

Don't judge ...

So much laundry means that we blow through some detergent around these parts. Not only is that a hefty chunk of change, that is chemicals on our clothing all day long. Unless you like to run around in your birthday suit ... whatever floats your boat, man. But since I have to leave my house and see people, it's clothes for this ol' gal.

Dustin and I don't have sensitive skin or any skin irritations, but once little man came along I wanted my home and family to be as natural as possible.

 my little man

I tried a few different recipes for natural laundry detergent before I landed on this one. We've been using it for almost three years and still love it.

Ingredients:
1 box borax
1 box washing soda
1 box baking soda
3 bars Fels Naptha soap-grated

laundry ingredients pic

Combine all ingredients and mix well, then store in an an air tight container.

 bare laundry ingredients

Could that be any more simple? We have used this in both front- and top-loading washers and our high efficiency with no issues. Plus, I only use one small (2 tablespoon) scoop per load!

Our clothes are clean and fresh, and our wallet is happy! Plus, one batch lasts us about four months, and I wash at least a load a day. Now, I don't always fold that load ... until nobody can find their undies and I'm forced to be a grown up again.

Have you ever made your own laundry detergent? Share your tips and recipes in the comments section below!

Bonus!

 laundry pail deal

How cute is this detergent container?! It would be the perfect way to store your goods and add a little style to your laundry room. It also includes the scoop and 4 mesh bags: 2 for delicates and 2 for other laundry. PLUS it's on sale! Originally $49.99 but you only pay $29. Jump on this deal while it lasts y'all!

Our Big Buy: The Orchard Project

Caitlin Ethridgeorchard project infographic 
A few months back we did something big.

Really big for us.

So big, that I have no idea why I'm just now getting around to sharing with you guys.

Last fall we made a grand (because I've now reached my limit for the word "big") purchase. We bought 14(ish) acres of completely undeveloped land.

orchard project-cree
We didn't do much with it over the winter besides clear trails, so I guess that's why I didn't feel the need to share. But now that the days are longer and the weather is warming up, my mind is reeling with the prospects of this beautiful piece of land.

sun land picture

The plan is to build our "forever" home there in the not-so-distant future, but for now, my focus is on a project that I'm ecstatic about. I've always dreamed of having a little orchard of my own. We've planted a few fruit trees and berry bushes at our current home, but have never really gone "all out" because we know that we don't plan to be here forever.

So when we purchased the new property, I started dreaming about walking out my back door and picking fresh apples for a dutch baby pancake or peaches for a cobbler. I know, most people fantasize about the house they will build, and I'm sure I will, but for now, my homesteader heart says "orchards and gardens".

apples in hand

There was already a small clearing on one side of the property that Dustin cultivated as a food plot for hunting last fall. We decided to expand it since it's on a higher elevation with good air flow, and because there is a slight slope with good soil drainage.

We have started to spend all of our free time pushing trees down with the tractor, dragging brush, and stoking the fire.

stoking the fire

creek driving tractor

Since the wood was green and we have had wet weather, our fire needed a little encouragement, without spending our entire month's gas bill on diesel fuel to stoke it. So, the Ethridge brothers exercised a little redneck ingenuity and used the leaf blower to force oxygen into the base of the fire.

leaf blower fire

It still amazes me how these boys can be so fascinated by fire. They were like a couple of kids watching a firework show. They always find a way to make even mundane chores fun.

making chores fun

We still have a small patch of pines left to clear so that our little orchard will get more sun, then we will use the tractor to smooth the clearing and plant away!

We have transplanted a few fruit trees from our current house, and bought more from our Cooperative Extension fruit sale a few weeks ago. So far we have apple, peach, and paw paw trees, plus something crazy called a fruit salad tree. It's peach, nectarine, plum, and apricot trees grafted together, and I couldn't help myself when I saw it on the order form!

fruit tree bud

We still have to move the blueberries that we planted last year and our grape vines, but I think we will wait until the fall.

It feels so good to invest in our future. I know that we will be so thankful that we took the time to create an orchard that will produce fruit and berries for our family for years to come. After moving around several times our first few years of marriage, it's an amazing feeling to finally put down some roots.

running on land

— Caitlin

I Daydream of Digging In The Dirt

Caitlin Ethridgesoil infographic

I know it sounds crazy, & it will ruin my freshly painted nails (yes, I can be girly — shocking, I know), but I can't wait to be dredging around with the earthworms.

I've already been drooling over seed catalogs & culminating my compost pile.

seed catalog

I used to put our kitchen scraps in an old coffee can on top of the fridge, but I got this beauty for Christmas. It has a charcoal liner to keep my kitchen smelling fresh, plus it's not an eyesore. I'm getting fancy y'all.

compost bin

compost bin 2

We built several more raised beds in the fall & last weekend I prepped them for the spring planting. I used fresh soil topped with chicken poo I cleaned out from our coops & left it to decompose for the rest of winter & get all yummy for my plants.

raised bed

Since there isn't much else left to do in the garden until it warms up, I am left to dream about sunny days, sprawling vines, & dirty hands.

There is something so therapeutic about being outside in the fresh air nurturing plants that will produce food for my family.

Of course, that means weeds will flourish too ... let's just dream about the beans & tomatoes instead.

This is my daydream & there aren't any weeds!

Homemade Chicken Stock

Caitlin Ethridgestock

I love cooking for my family.  It’s one of my favorite ways to unwind.

I get such a feeling of accomplishment when I place a meal on the table with ingredients fresh from my garden, and meat from a bird that we raised in our backyard from the time it was a cute little nugget (sorry, couldn't resist!).

chick

There is something so gratifying about creating a meal completely from beginning to end, and when you put so much time and love into growing fresh ingredients, you want to be sure that every part is utilized.

Earlier in the week I shared my recipe for whole roasted chicken & vegetables with you all. This was our second year raising meat chickens, and I love to cook a whole bird, then make more meals from it. We ate on the roasted chicken for a couple of days, then I picked the rest of the meat off the bone & used it to make a delicious creamy chicken & potato soup (recipe coming soon!).

So, I was left with the carcass and the vegetable scraps which I saved from the original meal. I had onion ends, carrot peels, kale stalks, potato peels, & rosemary stems. I added salt and some dried herbs from the garden as well. You can use just about anything that will infuse the stock with flavor.

uncooked stock

I tossed all of this in my trusty dutch oven & filled it with water until it was about 2 inches from the top. Then added about 1/2 cup of vinegar to draw out all of those wonderful, healthy minerals!

chicken stock

I brought this concoction to a boil, then turned it down on a low & let it simmer for 24 hours.

Once it cooled, I strained it to get all of the big chunks out & was left with beautiful, mineral rich stock. I then poured the stock into ziploc bags & stuck them in the freezer. I pull them out anytime I want to make soup or cook rice. It’s even great by itself for an extra healthy kick when I’m feeling a little under the weather.

My favorite part about making my own stock is that I am using ingredients that most people throw away!

Why not get the most out of your meal?

Do I have you convinced to save your scraps yet?

Why not start with your Thanksgiving leftovers?

Whole Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Caitlin EthridgeWhole Roasted Chicken

I don’t know about y’all, but the holiday season is super busy for me. So dinner has to be quick and easy, and we need to eat on the leftovers for a few days.

My kind of meal is one where you can throw everything in one pot and stick it in the oven. Then I’m free to rush around the house chasing a toddler, folding laundry (and refolding it after said toddler decides to help), all while dodging the squished raisins and dog hair that have somehow accumulated on the floor since I swept last night. Seriously?The dog isn’t even in the house!

Anyway, back to dinner.

I cook everything in my dutch oven. From soup, to bread, even roast, this baby does it all. Knock on wood, I’ve yet to make something that we didn’t love. It just cooks everything so evenly!

This meal could not be any more simple and is really delicious! Plus we raised this beautiful bird in our own backyard!

meat bird

1. Chop potatoes, carrots, and onions and toss in the bottom of the pot.
2. Place the chicken on top of this veggie bed.
3. In a bowl mix butter, rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, salt & pepper, then spread all over the chicken.
4. Leave the lid off and roast at 475 F for about 15 minutes for yummy, crispy skin. Then bump it down to 350 F for approximately 20 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
5. Remove the bird from the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes to trap in all of those juices.
6. If you have leftovers (hallelujah!) you can use them for chicken stock, chicken pie, chicken salad, chicken soup, chicken gumbo … The possibilities are endless!

This is a great recipe for upcoming Christmas dinners, or just a quickie for those rushed weeknights.

Hope you enjoy!!

15 Ways To Reuse Coffee Grounds

Caitlin EthridgeI drink a lot of water because I like to keep my caffeine intake down. So my single cup of coffee every morning is something to cherish. Especially in the mug my boy made me for Mother’s Day.

My husband makes the perfect pot of coffee. Very strong. (And the coffee is too! Sorry, couldn’t resist.) All those cups of strong coffee mean lots of used coffee grounds. We compost ours so it’s not wasted, but there is so much you can do.

special mug 

HOME

1. Clean your garbage disposal using this easy recipe.

1 cup dry used coffee grounds
1/2 cup Epsom salts
1/2 cup baking soda
3 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla, optional

In mixing bowl, combine coffee grounds, Epsom salts and baking soda.

Slowly add vinegar – it will bubble when it interacts with the baking soda, which is totally normal. Add a bit at a time until mixture resembles wet sand. Add vanilla.

Cover sheet pan with parchment paper. Using rounded measuring spoon or melon baller scoop mixture and press against side of bowl, packing cleaner together. Tap onto parchment-covered sheet pan.

Let cleaners dry overnight, then place in coffee cup next to sink and use when needed. Just drop one down drain, turn on water and garbage disposal, and enjoy the wonderful smell.

Yields around 30 cleaners.

NOTES: A 1 tablespoon or 1 teaspoon measuring spoons create half rounds. You could also roll small golf-ball shapes with your hands or use a silicone mold instead. Along with giving the disposal cleaners a great scent, the coffee grounds also sharpen garbage disposal blades. Baking soda naturally cleans the disposal, and Epsom salts break up hard water stains and buildup.

2. Deodorize: Pour coffee grounds in a Mason jar and place in your fridge to help remove odors, much like baking soda.

3. Hide furniture scratches: Dip a cotton swab in the wet grounds and apply to scratch. (It might be a good idea to test a small area first.)

4. Clean pots and pans: Use the grounds to scour pans with tough, stuck-on food. This is especially great for stainless steel or cast-iron cookware.

5. Make a rub for meats: Coffee helps tenderize meat and can add a delicious smoky flavor. Here is a great recipe for a spicy coffee rub.

coffee grounds 

GARDEN

1. Pest repellent: Make a ring of coffee grounds around your plants to deter ants and slugs.

2. Compost: Toss those grounds in your compost pile to add much needed nitrogen.

3. Add nitrogen to seedlings: Stir the grounds in your potting soil or add them to your watering can to nourish those little sprouts.

4. Attract worms: Worms provide wonderful fertilizer for your garden and coffee attracts them.

5. Add acid to soil: Certain plants require more acidic soil. Add the grounds around roses, azaleas and rhododendrons. Coffee can also be used to make your hydrangeas bloom blue.

BEAUTY

1. Exfoliate: Has working in the garden taken a toll on your hands? Or if you’re like me, has running around barefoot left your feet a little rough? Rub some coffee grounds on those problem areas for smooth, refreshed skin. You can add a little olive oil if needed.

2. Remove residue from hair: Massage a handful of grounds into your hair to remove all of the buildup from shampoo and hair products. Rinse, then shampoo and condition as usual. Your hair will be shiny and smooth. This is best for darker hair since coffee can stain!

3. DIY facial: Who doesn’t want a smooth, fresh, glowing complexion? Try this recipe from Crunchy Betty to rejuvenate your skin. It’s a great way to perk up tired skin!

2 tablespoons freshly ground coffee (or used grounds)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons whole milk, heavy cream or yogurt
1 tablespoon honey

Mix all ingredients together, apply to face, let dry for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse while gently massaging.

4. Fight cellulite: I haven’t tried this myself, but I have heard some say that the caffeine in coffee is great for fighting cellulite on a short-term basis. Here is a simple recipe and some more info on this process.

5. DIY natural self tanner: Try this simple recipe to add a fresh glow to your skin! It would work great after the facial and cellulite treatment. Heck, just call it a DIY spa day!

Have you guys ever reused your coffee grounds? Do you plan to try any of these tips? Share in the comments section.

Fight Weeds, For Free!

Caitlin EthridgeNow that garden season is in full swing and we have everything planted, it’s time to kick back and relax, right?

Wrong!

Here’s where the real work begins, weeding all the rows we’ve planted! In order to stay ahead, we have to spend some time weeding every single evening.

pulling weeds

Even though I have a great helper, pulling weeds gets old pretty quickly. So this year we decided to try some alternative methods to keep them under control. Our first project was to put cardboard down between our rows. We got it all from our local grocery store and had the help of some high-school agriculture students to break down and place the boxes.

putting down cardboard with help

At first it looked like a huge mess, but after a little water they settled down and so far it’s keeping the middle of our rows weed free!

A row of beans without cardboard.

A row of beans without cardboard.

A row of beans with cardboard used for weed control.

A row of beans with cardboard used for weed control.

Another way to minimize weeds is with newspapers. My front sidewalk was looking a little rough and I was tired of pulling weeds in an area that doesn’t produce food. So I called my mother-in-law, who brought down a huge bucket of newspapers. I put them down then covered them in pebbles and now I have a weed-less walkway! So far these methods have kept the weeds at bay for well over a month. The best part? Both of these projects were free!

Have you tried any alternative weed-prevention methods??

Share in the comments section below!