Self Reliance Journey

Homemade Chapstick/Lip Balm

One of my goals for the self reliance journey was to learn to make chapstick.  I just happened to run out of the store-bought stuff a couple months ago, so the timing was perfect.

 

It’s really simple, really fun, and really rewarding to do, in my opinion.  Well worth the effort!  The bonus is that you don’t need many ingredients, and they are all natural.  You can easily make a totally organic chapstick.

 

So, here’s the basic info.  Because I’ve recently discovered other bloggers posting my recipes (and sometimes even pictures, which is weird, cause I suck at picture taking) without permission or linking back to me, I’m not going to share the exact recipe that I use.  I’ll give you the basic idea though, and this’ll get you a great chapstick!  (I’ve made minor adjustments to my own lip balm.)

 

You want equal parts of the following:

  • Beeswax (preferably organic, locally harvested.  I get mine locally at Cox Honeyland)
  • African Shea Butter (I bought mine from Amazon.com)
  • Coconut oil, Sweet Almond oil, or jojoba oil
  • chapstick tubes

(If you do about 2 Tbsp of each of these ingredients, you’ll be able to fill 10 or so chapstick tubes.)  Melt all the ingredients together in a double boiler over simmering (NOT boiling) water.  When it’s all melted through, you can add organic scent, if desired.  Pour into chapstick tubes and let cool.  It’s that simple!

 

Now, my chapstick isn’t the “pretty” white, because I opted to buy the raw shea butter, raw organic beeswax, etc.  If you want the white you will have to buy the lighter version of those products.  I personally prefer it as unprocessed as possible.

 

As I searched for recipes, I came across a lot of great ones, but the ones that I used to create my own are:

Self Reliance Journey – Walk, Walk, Walk Some More

As I try to live life in a more self-reliant way, I find myself trying new recipes from scratch, trying to eat more REAL food, attempting to make my own products (chapstick, deodorant, etc), growing a garden, and building up my food storage.  But there is one big area that I’ve largely neglected, and that is physical fitness.

 

If I HAD to live completely self-reliantly, I would not be driving around, now would I?  Being dependent upon gasoline and vehicles isn’t the coolest thing, the more I think about it.  If I had to, could I walk the 20+ miles to my son’s school?  In the event of an emergency (natural disaster or other type), could I get to where I need to be if driving isn’t an option?  Would I have the stamina?

 

Sadly, probably not.

photo

 

SOOOO…I’ve taken up walking/running.  I’ve started a jogging program, and am training for my first 5K.  After that, I’ll continue on to training for a marathon.  Not necessarily to run (although I think running a marathon will be really cool), but to get myself in decent physical shape.  To train my body to endure.  So that I’m not only financially and temporally ready, but physically ready as well.  (And maybe look good doing it, ha ha!)

 

What are your thoughts?  Am I going wacky with this, or is physical fitness another form of self reliance?

Make Your Own Beef Jerky – Self Reliance Journey

So, as part of my self-reliant journey, I’m making an effort to learn how to do new things.  Last month I learned to make my own chap stick, and it was a huge success!!

 

For April, I decided to try to make beef jerky with ground beef.  And all I got to say about that is:

 

WHY?  Why did I not try this sooner?  It was SO easy, and so good!

 

I used the recipe from HERE, and made a couple of adaptations for my family.  The kids and I ate it all in 2 days.  Oops…

This will be great stuff to have on hand…especially for any hiking/road trips we do.  And man, it’s so much more affordable than the pre-made stuff at the store!

 

Homemade Ground Beef Jerky (adapted from Cooks.com):

2 lbs. extra lean ground beef –
1/3 c. gluten free soy sauce ( I use La Choy brand)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. brown sugar
Mix all ingredients together in a good sized mixing bowl. Use your hands to make sure the seasonings are evenly distributed throughout the meat.
Refrigerate the mixture for 24 hours. Roll the meat out in strips or patties and dry in your food dehydrator according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Drying time will vary depending on humidity and the fat content of the meat. Once removed from the oven jerky is cooled and stored in an open
container to allow drying to continue. Seal the container to prevent further drying. Store in refrigerator or freezer.

 

*If you don’t have a food dehydrator, don’t despair!  According to the original recipe, you can dry it in your oven at 150 degrees with the door ajar (to ensure actual DRYING, not just slow cooking) for 4-8 hours, depending on how thick you cut it.

 

*Linked up at Gluten Free Wednesdays!

Who Here Likes to Garden?

Ahh….spring time is finally arriving.  It’s the perfect time to start making fun summer plans, to plant flowers, to start spending more time outdoors, and to begin your garden (which just happens to be #7 on the list of 25 ways to be more self reliant).

 

Yes, spring is good.

 

Anyone who is looking to live a more self-reliant lifestyle is probably pretty dern’ familiar with gardening.  I’ve had a garden for years, but honestly, I kinda suck at it (it hurts to admit it, but there ya go).  I mean, I grow my peas, tomatoes, and zucchini, but there are certain things I just can’t seem to grow (well) for the life of me!!

 

Fortunately, spring is also about new beginnings.  New hopes, new dreams…at least to me.  I will try once again to grow a large garden and to get a ton of produce that I can, well, CAN, and I’m just as excited this year as every year.

 

Do you garden?  If so, what do you grow?  This year I’m growing:

 

Vegetables:

  • Peas – already in the ground ready to go.  Our kids are SO eager to harvest these babies!  We grow a lot, but never enough to freeze or can.  But that’s okay, we don’t really like them when they’re not fresh anyway.  We like to plant these a couple weeks apart so that we can have a continuous harvest for awhile…in fact, I think I’m due to plant a few more today.  The varieties we’re growing this year are Alaska and Sugar.
  • Spinach – this is my first year growing spinach, and I don’t really know what I’m doing.  I do lettuce probably every other year or so, just because it’s not something I feel overly enthusiastic about.  But spinach?  See, I recently discovered those spinach smoothies, and of course the spinach guacamole, and I can see myself eating a lot more of it this year, particularly if I can grab it from my yard.  I followed the packet directions, so we’ll see what happens!
  • Lettuce – although it’s not the most exciting thing for me to grow, it’s definitely useful, and man, lettuce feels fail-proof!  Every time I grow it I end up with more than I can use, and I think that’s a good thing!  Last year Munchkin’s friends loved coming over and eating it.  They’d bring little ziploc bags and take some home with them, and it was adorable!  I’ll be growing what’s called “Salad Bowl” lettuce, since those are the seeds I have on hand.:-)
  • Zucchini Squash - The first two years I grew this, I had terrible luck.  I didn’t understand those people who had zucchini coming out of their ears.  I don’t think I did anything different, but somehow the 3rd year was the charm, and I’ve had MORE THAN enough zucchini since!  Love it, and I love that it makes me feel like I know how to garden, because not everything I plant makes me feel that way.  Speaking of….
  • Pumpkins – I’ve never had luck with my pumpkin patches.  I suppose it’s okay, because I grow them mostly for the decorative value come Halloween, but man, I don’t think I’ve ever grown more than 2 pumpkins in a year!  I have no clue what the heck I’m doing wrong!  This year I’m growing Connecticut Field pumpkins.
  • Sweet Corn - This is another one that I don’t get great yields with.  I’ve only tried for 2 seasons, but never had a ton of luck.  I don’t have a ton of space, and I think that may have something to do with it.  I guess we’ll see what happens, right?  I’ll be growing Sugar Dots.
  • Cucumbers – My problem with these is that they end up bitter.  I heard it could be a watering thing, so we’ll attempt again with more water this year.  If they end up bitter, does anyone know if I can still pickle them?
  • Tomatoes -  I love me some fresh tomatoes.  I think we’ve had decent luck with our tomatoes, and we always harvest more than we can eat right away.  My goal this year is to have so many dang tomatoes that by the time the harvest ends I’m sick of them.  I want to can tomatoes, salsa, spaghetti sauce, etc.  I want to eat a BLT with fresh tomatoes from my garden.  I want to can tomato soup and maybe a batch or two of ketchup.  I want to go crazy with the tomatoes.  This year we’re trying some new varieties:  Abe Lincoln Heirloom, Box Car Willie Heirloom.  We’re also going with a few known varieties, the Better Boys, Roma and Cherry tomatoes.  
  • Yellow squash – I love me some fresh squash, but I’m not big into canning or freezing it, so I’m hoping to get some, but I’m not too stressed about getting a ton.  If we get more than we can eat, I know I have family/friends that would love to take some off my hands!
  • Peppers (Bell and Jalepeno) – I cannot grow peppers well, particularly Bell peppers.  Not sure why!  I’m gonna try giving them a little more shade this year, as I heard that can help.
  • Carrots – I love my carrots, and we get a decent size crop, but man, my carrots are always short and stubby!  I’m gonna try again this year though, and I’d love to can some carrots for the first time!
  • Potatoes – We may or may not do potatoes…and I know I need to decide soon!  My favorite thing about home-grown is picking them when they’re still small and making Potatoes and Cream.  

 

Herbs:

 

  • Cilantro – because I simply love it!
  • Mint – I’ve heard this stuff goes crazy, and I’m excited to find out.  This’ll be my first year growing mint.
  • Rosemary – this is a maybe.  I’m not sure yet if I’ll grow it but I think it’d be fun to try.

 

Fruits:

  • Peaches – Our 2-year old peach tree has 2 blossoms on it!  I’m very excited to eat 2 fresh peaches from my baby tree this year.:-)
  • Pears – Our pear trees are fairly young as well.  Last year was the first we got a harvest, and we enjoyed 3 pears:  2 Bartlett and 1 Asian.  Our trees are full of blossoms this year, so we’re hopeful.
  • Raspberries –  Every morning during raspberry season, my husband and I take our kids outside and eat breakfast.  Those kids love raspberries more than almost anything in this world.  We’re able to get a few handfuls for each of them every day.  My husband went crazy last year and planted half a dozen new plants of different varieties (including white and black raspberries), so we’re excited to see if we get any yields from them.
  • Apples – We have 2 dwarf apple trees, and they don’t always get a ton of fruit, but enough for me to make a few pints of applesauce in the fall.
  • Grapes – We have purple Welch’s grapes that are delicious, but they have seeds, so we only use them for fruit.  This year we have a couple of new varieties…a Candice and another that I can’t remember.  The new ones are seedless, which will  be nice.
  • Bush Cherries – This is what I’m most excited for.  We planted some bushes the fall before last, and this will be the first year to get a harvest.  I LOVE bush cherries, I think they make the best jam and Homemade Nutrigrain bars EVER!:-)

So…that’s our plan for the year.  I’ll update throughout the season and share my successes, and yes, the inevitable failures as well.

 

I am convinced that gardening is a good thing for so many incredible reasons.  It can save you money.  You know where your crops are coming from, and you can prevent pesticides and other chemicals on them if you choose.  Fresh garden treats always taste better.  Having a garden tends to increase the amount of fruits/veggies you get in your diet, because it’s right there, begging to be eaten.  Gardening can be extremely therapeutic.  There is something satisfying about putting your hands into the earth, feeling the soil, and appreciating the land you live on.  There is also an immense thrill when harvest time comes.  Expert gardener or not, I will enjoy gardening the rest of my days.:-)

Journey To Self Reliance Tip #2 of 25

The second tip in this article is one I’m excited to incorporate into my journey.

 

2. Learn New Skills

Learn one homemaking skill a month.   Things like gardening, sewing, crochet, making your own laundry soap, ANYTHING that you can learn to do to help your family become more self reliant is a victory!  Heck, if you know the basics of gardening, you can still learn something new by trying a new fruit/vegetable to grow. 

The skill I’m working on this month?  Making my own chapstick.  Yeah, so maybe crochet would be more useful, but I just happen to have a current NEED for chapstick (as I’m just about out) and I’d really like to start making my own so that it’s a more natural, less processed version, a version that I know all the ingredients to.  Plus I think it’ll be dang fun.

 

(photo)

*Update on tip #1:  Get rid of debt

Still working on that car loan.  Our monthly payment is $208.  We were able to pay $1,250 to the loan this month.  This won’t be typical…we have a tax return to thank for the bigger amount this month.  The hope is that we’ll be able to pay $500/month to it.

 

*Feel free to join in on the journey to becoming more self reliant…start with step 1, 2, or whatever you prefer!!

Becoming More Self Reliant – 25 Tips and my Journey

I recently came across this fantastic (I think) article about becoming more self reliant.  The author shares 25 tips to help get you on the path of self reliance.  In my mind, self reliance equals more freedom…freedom from debt, freedom from commercialism, financial freedom, etc.  If I can live a self-reliant lifestyle, then I can be better prepared for what’s coming my way…at least, that’s how I see it.

 

So, I’m excited to put the article into action in my own life, and I’ll try to share my “journey” with you all.

 

The first step is to get out of debt.

You may remember me posting a victory speech about a year ago, announcing that my household was finally debt free (except for the mortgage)!  It was a big moment, and I was SO happy.  However, shortly after, we lost a car and had to purchase a replacement.  Gosh dangit!  So…while we are still credit card debt-free, we can no longer claim the debt free claim.  Since the first step is losing that debt, I’ll be putting together a budgeted plan to pay off that car early.  Our monthly car payment is $208, and our interest rate is 3%.  I’m thinking that we should be able to put $500 a month toward it, but I’m not sure; I’ll have to go over the budget.  I won’t be working over the summer, so money may be a little more tight then, but then again we won’t be paying ten million a month to heat our ultra-thin walled house…so I think it’ll even out. 

In order to make bigger payments, we’ll need to make sacrifices.  Going out to eat less.  Making sure to not let food go to waste.  Conserving energy in and around the house.  I’m ready and willing, so let’s do this!

Are you free of debt?  If not, what are YOU willing to cut out?  Share your awesome ideas with me and we’ll ALL move forward on the path to self reliance.  After you…