Category Archives: DIY

How to Make a Chaste Berry Tincture

Hello Lovelies,

DISCLAIMER:  I have a few male readers, so if you are male, this post isn’t for you.  Sorry guys 😉

Often times women have female issues, whether it be balancing, or even some support.   In researching, I have found the amazing Chaste Berry.  It is said to be great for PMS, PMDD, PCOS, and numerous other ailments and symptoms.  Chase Berry goes by a few names, but one common name is Vitex, which is popular among those trying to conceive.  I am not a doctor or a healthcare professional, so please do some research before trying. In my case, I bought the Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine which you can find on Amazon. It is a fantastic book and very informative!

Per the American Family Physician website at www.aafp.org,  Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus), or monk’s pepper, is the fruit of the chaste tree. It is native to western Asia and southwestern Europe, and is now common in the southeastern United States.  It has been used for more than 2,500 years to treat a variety of conditions. In ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, it was used for many gynecologic conditions.

With our homesteading venture, we have made many changes to how we live and heal ourselves.  People often tackle a few changes but are those changes really worth the trouble if you only change a few things?  It is like exercising everyday expecting big results and not changing your diet.  It is counter intuitive. Recently, we have made the decision to add Herbalism to our skill set.  An act of producing your own medicine for common ailments such as colds, flu, burns, and wounds to name a few.

Out of all of the ways to use Chaste Berry, I chose to make a tincture.  An herbal extract of the berry.  Chaste Berry tinctures do not work overnight.  They must be taken over a period of time.  A tincture is an alcoholic infusion which extracts medicinal properties of plants, herbs, roots, berries, and flowers, basically the entire plant. Any part of that plant can be used and may be used for different uses.

Here is what you will need:

  • Glass pint jar with a lid
  • Whole Organic Dried Chaste Berry
  • 90 or 100 Proof Vodka (some use Brandy)

With a mortar and pestal, grind the berries coarsely to expose as much surface area as you can.  This makes sure that all of the goodness of the berry is extracted. Fill the jar half way with the berries and fill the jar up with Vodka.  As it sits, you may have to top off with more Vodka because the berries will reconstitute and absorb the alcohol.

 

Shake well and store in a cool, dark place upside down. Let sit for 2-3 weeks, then strain the berries.  Put the berries in a food processor and puree them.  This ensures that you are getting every possible property out of the berry.  Add back in your jar and let sit for another 2-3 weeks.  Then strain and compost the berries.  For my own purposes, I use 1 tbs twice a day in the morning and at night.

Herbs, berries, and roots can be found at the Bulk Herb Store or any natural health store.  I am not sponsored in any way, this is where I got a lot of the herbs and berries that we use. In natural food stores, I found they were kept over by the bulk spice section and not within the supplement section.

Total Cost:  Estimated $6.25

For the books I have purchased and the many methods of herbal extraction please visit the Herbalism Page.

Easy Smokin! Nothing Tastes Better Than Food That’s Smoked

Here is an easy, frugal way to smoke your food that won’t break the budget.

20170704_170114

Smoking food can be costly especially if you purchase those big bulky smokers. We lack available patio space and it really is not a good idea to put something that heats up on a grassy area. It not only kills the grass (which I hope happens because grass is useless, but don’t tell my husband that!) but it can start a fire. We went the frugal way instead to not only save money but space as well. This works in a pinch and takes less than 5 minutes to make and in less than 10 minutes…you’ll be smokin!

Here is What You Will Need

  • Aluminum foil

  • Small wood chips or shavings

Tear off a piece of aluminum foil about 12 inches long. Fold the aluminum foil in half to get a 6 inch piece. Now, fold a seam on 3 sides pressing tightly leaving one side open for filling with wood chips or shavings. Fill the open end with wood chips about half way. Any more than that and you risk the packet opening or not smoking properly.  Trust me. Fold a seam on that side to close your packet. Lay the packet flat on the counter and using a knife, gently poke a slit which will act like a vent. Place on the hottest corner of your grill and let the grill heat up. After about 5-10 minutes, smoke will be coming out of the vent and you are on your way to deliciousness. This doesn’t last very long, so I don’t recommend using this technique with expensive large pieces of meat such as brisket or a roast. But this works wonders with wings, chicken tenders, fish, veggies, or burgers. Make sure you don’t peek too much or you will let the smoke escape.

Smokers can cost hundreds of dollars and if you are like our family, this is a once in awhile thing. To us, an expensive smoker isn’t really such a frugal purchase. By buying a small bag of wood chips or shavings, you will spend around $3-$4 per bag lasting you as often as you use it. Aluminum foil is a pantry staple and most have this on hand. This not only saves money, but also time and space. Perfect for a balcony grill or small patio. If your grill is larger or if you are smoking a lot of meat, you can make more than one pouch or make it larger to suit your needs. Once done, simply let the packet cool off completely and toss. Seeming these chips are heated and may contain drippings or food particles, they are not suitable for composting. 

Wood chips or shavings come in a variety of flavors and sizes. You can find flavors such as walnut, pecan, pear, apple, hickory, or mesquite to name a few.

Total Cost Breakdown

Bag of wood chips or shavings $3-$4 per bag

Smoker between $40 to more than a few hundred dollars

____________________________________

Let’s Get Social!

Everyone is on social media these days and often people are pressed for time. All blog posts automatically upload to our Facebook page. Our page also includes posts that you won’t find on our blog. Spontaneous projects, impromptu meals, and everyday happenings. Don’t forget to share the love!

Questions Lead to Knowledge

Everyone is frugal in their own way. This is how we’ve learned everything we know. From blogs! There is a plethora of knowledge among the blogging community. Learn from those around you, those who inspire you, and those with a common goal. Feel free to open discussion on posts, ask questions, and let’s have some fun ;P

DISCLAIMER: Being frugal generally means not spending money or pinching pennies. Our goals do not include a fancy camera or lighting. All content and pictures are ours created with a cell phone, natural or indoor lighting, and around our own homestead. If you would like to use an image or post, simply ask and give us credit. Easy peasy!

Make Your Own Homemade Flavored Vinegar From Fresh Herbs

Hello Lovelies,

It has been a long time!  Our family has been dealing with some health issues, but God is great! We are healing and on the up and up.  About a month ago, I started drying most all of the herbs that we grew in our garden.  I couldn’t let them to go to waste, but couldn’t use the fresh version up in enough time.  Due to lacking freezer space, I tried another alternative such as making flavored vinegar.  After the herbs were cut down to just stems, the purple basil started regrowing leaves and eventually flowered.  But what I didn’t know, was that you can use the entire plant and make flavored vinegar!  I had heard about it in books and online, but never gave it a try.  It is a great way to use most all of the plant to get the most out of it.  Here is how to make it.

Purple Basil Vinegar

-Cleaned and drained basil leaves and flowers

-Sterilized Mason jar

-White Distilled Vinegar

20170729_190942Fill the bottom of the mason jar with freshly cut leaves and flowers of whatever herb you are wanting.  In this post, it is purple basil.

20170729_191210_001Pour over white distilled vinegar and cover tightly.  Shake gently and put in the refrigerator.  Let it sit in the refrigerator and in two weeks you will have flavored vinegar.  Simply strain the leaves and flowers and keep in the fridge.

20170814_15241520170814_152437

You can make any flavor you’d like with any herb you’d like.  The vinegar has a pretty strong fragrance and can be used in so many recipes for a boost in flavor.  First thought that comes to mind is spaghetti sauce and chicken! Other ways to incorporate vinegar is in sauces, canning, or even in pickled vegetables.  The two pictures to the left and right are what the vinegar looks like after two weeks.  It smells soo good ya’ll!

 

Other Flavorful Ideas

  • Parsley
  • Tarragon
  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Lemongrass
  • Combinations such as a sprig of rosemary, basil, and oregano

Total Cost:  An estimated .50 cents for the vinegar to fill a quart jar and my 3rd round of basil.  Store bought version on average for flavored vinegar is $5-$6 with no guarantee it is made from fresh herbs.

sig

 

7 Easy Steps to Make Homemade Fermented Sauerkraut

Fermenting food is a lost art, but gaining momentum recently.  It is one of the original ways of preserving food.  Yet most do not realize that we already eat some fermented foods.  Coffee, olives, and soy sauce to name a few.

Vegetables though, are fantastic when they are fermented.  Why? The nutrition within that vegetable is kept, enhanced, and preserved by the fermentation process.  It allows some of the nutrients to become digestible when they would not be raw.

Natural bacteria produces vitamins and enzymes that are very beneficial for digestion and a variety of other things.  But I am not a doctor or a fermentation expert, so I cannot tell you all it can do, but I can tell you this…PROBIOTICS! The best natural bacteria ever. It is found in supplements and more commonly within yogurt, but eating naturally fermented and or cultured foods, gives the highest level of probiotics and is more beneficial than store bought remedies because of the natural process. Everything is better homemade!

Basic fermentation is nothing more than a brine of filtered water and salt.  We know that salt draws out moisture, but it also aids in the development of lactic acid, the main component of fermentation. One of the easiest foods to get started with is sauerkraut.  It is tangy, vinegary, cabbage goodness that you can put on hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches like hot reubens, or eat on the side.  In my opinion, the homemade version tastes nothing like the stuff in a jar.

Making sauerkraut is ridiculously easy!  Trust me!  It takes less than 10 minutes to start and 4 weeks to finish.  What is easier than that? This recipe is tailored for a quart jar.  A rule of thumb is for every 5lbs of vegetable, you would use 3 tablespoons of salt.  So adjust it according to the vessel you are using.

20170618_152346

Step 1: Take a head of cabbage, any will do, and shred it into bite size pieces.

Step 2: Take 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt and sprinkle over the shredded cabbage.

Step 3: Smoosh, squeeze, squish the cabbage and the salt together. This releases a lot of the natural water within the cabbage itself creating its own brine.

Step 4:  When the cabbage is wilted enough (not smooshed so much that it looks like overcooked cabbage) transfer into a quart glass mason jar.

 

 
Step 5:  With the back of a wooden spoon, pack in the cabbage as tightly as you can! Keep pushing!  Pack it some more.  As you pack the cabbage you are eliminating air bubbles and pushing out all of the water still left within the cabbage.



Step 6: Get a sandwich size ziplock bag and fill a quarter of it with water.  Zip it tight and push into the opening of the mason jar pushing it down over the cabbage.  You should have enough brine on top of the cabbage to completely submerge the cabbage.  Push the baggie into the brine creating a barrier.  This will keep the cabbage submerged so oxygen cannot get in causing it to spoil. Oxygen is the enemy in some fermented foods, sauerkraut is anaerobic.  Meaning without oxygen.

Step 7: Leave the cabbage out of the sun and in dark corner somewhere. As it ferments, more water will be released possibly overflowing your jar, so be sure to check on it frequently.  The process takes about 4 weeks, but if you like the flavor stronger, you can ferment it longer.  Taste as you go and as it ferments because you may like it at 2 weeks.  Some like it at over a month or two.  The longer it sits, the stronger it will be.

After a few days you will start to see bubbles forming and rising to the top of the jar.   The bubbles are releasing carbon dioxide. This is completely normal and proof that it is working.  When the mixture starts getting a little cloudy,  this is what is called lactic acid. It is the main component in this type of fermentation.

Note: Watch out for any mold on the surface as that is caused from oxygen.  Scoop it off and rinse the baggy, and reposition over the cabbage. If a little mold is on top and you can’t get it all, do not worry. It is safe, just mix in the sauerkraut as once it is below the surface it cannot live.  It will die from lack of oxygen.  Too much mold, throw the batch away and start again. This means you didn’t completely submerge the cabbage and mold developed or you went too long before checking it.

Total Cost: $.89 for a head of cabbage.

sig

 

DIY Brick Outdoor Rocket Stove for Less than $50

Hello Lovelies,

One of my favorite places is outdoors!  Cooking outdoors bring a whole new meaning to to the word “cooking”.  There is something so very rewarding about cooking with fire, that you created, and coming up with something yummy that you truly made yourself. What better way to reuse old materials than to build an outdoor rocket stove and the possibilities and design are endless.

Wh14264847_1210957648926211_5468490531987005512_nat is a rocket stove?  It is a structure that is built with a hollow middle that uses combustion and wood to cook. No electricity needed! It costs less than $50 to build including the metal grates (we are in Texas so pricing may vary). You can use any metal grate whether you purchase one to fit the diameter of the stove or just a used grate lying around.

To make your own rocket stove, simply create a base so that it doesn’t destroy your lawn or patio. We used flat cinder blocks, but you can use additional bricks or lay directly on the patio or cement pad if you wish.  Create each row with bricks until the desired height by lining up the bricks in a square. Make sure you leave an opening at the base to feed the wood through or your stove will not work correctly.  The next row, overlap the bricks making it sturdy.  Be sure you do not have a row of seams causing it to become unstable. See picture.  Once your stove is complete, testing begins!

To feed your stove, gather sticks, twigs, branches, or wood and put in the bottom opening.  The easiest way to get the fire started is by using a toilet paper roll filled with used dryer lint.  The best part is, that part is free.  So be sure to keep saving toilet paper rolls and dryer lint! It is highly flammable and will ignite quickly.  Next, put a log or solid piece of wood in the center from the top to create a vacuum and to increase the temperature of the heat.  Once the fire is good and started, you are ready to cook! We did not reinforce the bricks together because we currently rent our home.  It is movable so you can bring it with you or move to another location.  If you desire, you can cement the bricks together to create a more permanent structure. The number one safety rule I cannot stress enough is to make sure your bricks and bonding agent if you choose to make it permanent are fire safe.  

This stove is fantastic for cast iron pans and cooks really well.  It will boil water and cook just about anything.  A little tip:  This is not ideal for holding pressure if you would like to use this for canning.  You would have to build a much bigger stove to generate more constant and consistent heat.

Happy Cooking!

sig