Monday, May 17, 2010

Sweet Melissa

We have lots of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) growing around one corner of our house and driveway. It was planted by a previous inhabitant. At first I was shy about using it and just let it grow and go to seed and spread around - it is pretty and smells nice. After educating myself the last couple of years about herbs and their uses, I'm not so shy now about actually using the plants I can find and identify!

Today, the kids helped me harvest the perfect leaves and make some herbal honey with the lemon balm from our yard. I had some local honey that had crystallized. After putting the jar in some warm water and breaking it up, I poured it all into a stainless steel pot and warmed it all up until it was smooth. I put several fresh lemon balm leaves into 4 sterile jelly jars. Once the honey was pretty warm, I poured it over the leaves and put on the lids/rings. I'm going to let it sit for at least a week before eating it. These would also make cute gifts. And herbal honey is easier to make than jam or jelly! Next time I want to try lavender. I've had lavender honey before and it is yummy.

I also chopped some of the lemon balm up finely and placed it in another jar. I covered the chopped leaves with apple cider vinegar to make a child-friendly tincture. This jar will sit in a sunny, warm window for about 4-6 weeks. Then, I'll strain out the herb and put the tincture into amber bottles. Dosage will be taken drops at a time for pain relief and stress relief. It is also good for winter illness, strengthening the immune system, and the digestive tract.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Homemade Soaps and Such

I have a few friends who have talked about how they make their own laundry detergent. I thought that was a little overwhelming, but after seeing an actual recipe, it doesn't seem all that hard. The hardest part is finding where to buy washing soda. Here is the recipe a friend shared with me:

Laundry Detergent Recipe

1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

1/2 cup Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
1 bar of Ivory soap, or any 100% pure soap
5 gallon bucket w/lid

Use a cheese grater to grate the bar of soap and place in a saucepan with about 4 or 5 cups of water. On medium-low heat, put in the grated soap and stir. Heating through until soap is completely melted. While the soap is melting, pour 3 gallons of hot water into the 5 gallon bucket add the borax and washing soda and mix well until dissolved. Then pour the melted soup into the bucket and mix well. Then, fill up the bucket with water, leaving about 3 or so inches of space at the top. This will give you room for stirring later. OPTIONAL: If you want to add a fragrance to the soap you can add a drop or two of an essential oil.

Now you have a large bucket of hot soapy looking water. Cover the bucket and let it set for 24 hours. As it cools it will gel into a lumpy mixture. You will want to break this gel up. I use my hands and break/stir it all together again.


1/2 cup for a full load of laundry

1/4 cup for a small load of laundry

This detergent is low sudsing and works well in high efficiency machines. I stir my soap each time before I use it.

This yields about 442 ounces of detergent and will wash about 110-115 full loads of laundry, which should cost less than a penny per load.

I've made several batches of melt and pour soap over the years. I would like to try cold process soap. In the mean time, this recipe works well:

2 cups glycerin soap base, melted in a double boiler or microwave
2 tbsp shea butter, melted separately
Several drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)

Mix well, pour into molds (you can use regular food storage containers), and cool. is a great source for buying soap making supplies.

Yesterday I stumbled upon a site telling how to make your own shampoo! I'm gonna try this...

Including the kids in these projects teaches them self-sufficiency and how to be frugal - both valuable lessons! Not to mention teaching them the fact that making our own soap and cleaning products is better for the environment since we are using less plastic and using more all natural ingredients that are better for the earth.