Through my journey with the Rogue Wood blog, I've become more and more interested in self-reliance and living a little more harmoniously with the land we live on. Moving our family out to the country was a catalyst of sorts, initiating a lot of internal shifts - but we also just had to figure out how to take care of some of the things that came with our new lifestyle. Something that was initially pretty harmless, has led to this deep exploration of what it means to really take control of my own life, and I have found myself looking back to the way things used to be done.
I've been extra curious about a few of the generations before me - the way my grandmothers and great grandmothers did things, and why they seemed both simpler and harder at the same time. My mémère's giant herb garden seems like a forgotten trove of treasures that nurtured colds and even labour pains. The twelve loaves of bread my grandma would make each week were good enough to trade with neighbours for things needed around the home.
Looking through some of these forgotten ways and applying them to the modernness we live in now has been extremely rewarding. Difficult, but rewarding. For whatever reason, there is a true true magic in doing things - yourself.
Here are some of my favourite tricks for the homestead, to repurpose items, abolish pesky country problems, and even natural remedies using basic ingredients.
REUSE YOUR COFFEE GROUNDS
After you make that glorious morning chemex, instead of discarding your used coffee grounds, sprinkle a small amount in some of your house plants, and add the rest to your garden soil or compost. The coffee grounds add acidity back into the soil, along with some essential nutrients for your lovely dirt. Bonus: coffee grounds also help keep pests away!
OAT BATH FOR IRRITATED SKIN
If your skin feels dry - or your feet have already begun to crack along the heels and behind the toes (sandal problems) - add a cup of oats to your hot bath. Oats are a natural colloidal treatment and help to moisturize the skin while leaving it feeling silky soft. Grind your oats in a blender, and sprinkle the powder into your bathtub.
POUR ROSE WATER IN YOUR IRON
A great natural way to add scent and freshness to your clothing is to pour your floral water, such as rose or chamomile water, straight into your iron. Release/spray the water onto your clothing, and iron over it to remove wrinkles while giving your clothes a great scent. Our floral tonics are safe for this.
ATTRACT BEES TO YOUR GARDEN
Bees are wonderful garden helpers, and since they've hit the endangered list, our awareness around their importance has started to grow. If you want to attract bees to your garden - helping your garden thrive while providing an oasis and sanctuary of sorts for these threatened insects - forgo the colour red! Bees can't see the colour red, so when picking your flowers, opt for some bold blue, purple and white blooms to catch their eye.
CHILL YOUR CANDLES
To keep your candles from warping and losing their shape (and sometimes tunnelling too deeply), chill your candles in the fridge before using them! They will even burn longer, extending their life and your money spent on their sweet scents. Or, you know, make your own candles with beeswax to really save a buck and siphon toxins from the air.
REMOVE SCUM AND BUILDUP FROM YOUR KETTLE/COFFEE MAKER
We have well water at my home, and the residue our water leaves on some of our kettles, coffee makers and teapots can make things seem a little grimey. And rusty looking. Gross. Add vinegar to your kettle or tea pot and bring it to a boil to help remove all the mineral buildup, bringing the sparkle back to your appliances.
LAVENDER BUNCHES IN THE CUPBOARD
Lavender is known for its soothing scent, but it also keeps an array pests away - from deer in the yard to bugs in the kitchen. Keep a few dried bunches in the cupboard for a blast of freshness and to keep moths and bugs away from your dishes and food. Or of course, tuck a dream pillow filled with lavender beneath your pillow!
MINT PINCUSHIONS FOR YOUR SEWING TABLE
When it comes to self-reliance, the only thing more satisfying than baking your own pie or cake, is making your own clothes or linens! To bring a little magic back to your sewing table, gather some of your garden mint, dry it, and stuff it inside a piece of fabric, carefully bunching and sewing it into a tiny cushion that fits in your palm. This homemade pincushion - the resting place for your pins when they aren't in use - will release minty sweetness every time you stick a needle in it.
PAINT WITH PAPER PLATES
My uncles were painters, and growing up with their handy influence has always stayed with me. I've been known to paint the house on a dull afternoon! Painting can be a messy job. Glue a paper plate to the bottom of your paint can to prevent spills and from avoiding moving your protective linens around on the ground to save your floors. After you pour your paint out into your tray, always run your paint brush along the can's rim to remove the excess paint and prevent your lid from becoming stuck.
SAVE YOUR WOOD ASHES FOR SLIPPERY SPOTS
A bucket of salt is basically a decor item for front and back doors during cold prairie winters, but those salts are potent and hard on a wide range of materials - including your land once all the snow melts. Instead, keep a bucket of ashes from your summer bonfires or fireplace, and sprinkle the ash on the slippery spots near your home. It won't melt the ice, but it will provide traction to prevent slips and trips.
SNIP THOSE LILACS AND BRING THEM INSIDE
It always seems that lilacs bloom for a short time, and everyone bursts with excitement over their beauty for a few short weeks. The debate of whether to let them bloom or bring them all inside is one that I always struggled with. But! By snipping your lilac blooms, you also encourage new growth for the following year, particularly on the underside where the sun doesn't always reach (or inside really thick shrubs). Scientific studies have shown that the scent of lilac significantly eases anxiety, so bring them in and place them around the home to create a calm environment.
COOK RICE WITH LEMON
Cooking rice stresses me out. I always seem to get more stuck to the pot than in my belly. To prevent rice from sticking to your pot or pan, squeeze the juice from half of a lemon into the bottom of the pot before adding the rice and water.
PLANT-TEA TO BOOST YOUR GARDEN'S HEALTH
Save your weeds! When picking your weeds and trimming up your plants/herbs that have begun to lose their lustre, save the remnants and add them to a bucket of water. Let the water and discards sit for one month, stirring occasionally, and then strain the juices from the plants into a large mason jar. The water is chock full of nutrients, perfect for watering your garden and houseplants with for a nutritional boost. Add a bit of the plant-tea to your watering can, and fill the rest up with water. It won't smell pretty - but it will help them thrive.