diy milk crate composter

A couple years ago, we bought one of those fancy (and expensive!) tumbling composters at one of the big box home improvement stores. While we are happy overall with the purchase, we also have a few complaints: 1) It’s an awfully big barrel. That means if you want the material to fully compost, you have to put only so much in it and then let it do its thing. You’d need another one to add new stuff to while the first one was composting. 2) It needs to be turned every couple days. That’s not a huge deal, but it can be a bit heavy and cumbersome to turn. 3) Despite the hefty price tag, they don’t hold up well to the elements. They have lots of springs, hardware, and tiny moving parts. Add rain, wind, and snow to those parts, and they just don’t last.

Usher in the DIY milk crate composter. If you look at my three complaints above, I’ll tell you why I love this one! 1) Each crate will be composting material in different stages. That means while two crates are busy doing their thing, you can add to the third. By the time all three are full, the first crate you filled should be ready to use. 2) You never have to spin these guys. When the the top crate is full, you just shift it down and cycle to a different crate. 3) The crates have no moving parts and are cheap (or FREE if you already had them lying around like we did), so you don’t have to worry about the effects of the elements. Ok, enough talking about it, let’s get making!

Materials Needed:

  • Three milk crates
  • Landscape fabric or other mesh or screen material (to keep the material from spilling out the sides while still allowing for airflow)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Wood for lid (we used 2x4s and 1x2s)
  • Nail gun and nails or drill and screws and/or wood glue (for the lid)
  • Old newspaper (to line the bottoms of the crates)

Make It:

  1. Cut landscape fabric to fit all sides of each crate up to the handles (12 pieces total).
  2. Use the hot glue gun to attach the fabric to the inside of the crates.
  3. Measure the top of your crate, and cut 2x4s to the appropriate length to cover. (We ended up using four pieces of 2×4, so the lid would hang over the edges of the crate a bit.)
  4. Cut two pieces of 1×2 to run the opposite direction on the underside of the 2x4s. Keep them short enough fit down into the crate. (These are optional but will help with stability of the lid and with keeping it on the crate.)
  5. Nail and/or glue 2x4s together.
  6. Nail and/or glue 1x2s to the bottom of your 2×4 lid.

Use It:

  1. Level an area of ground in your garden or other outdoor area 3-4 inches wider than the crates.
  2. Stack the crates on the ground. Check for levelness, and adjust your ground as needed.
  3. Place 2-4 layers of newspaper on the bottom of the top crate, and begin filling with your compostable waste.
  4. When the top crate is full to just below the handles, shift it down to the middle space.
  5. Place newspaper in the bottom of the new top crate before filling.
  6. Continue shifting crates down as the top crate fills.
  7. By the time your third crate is full on the top, you should be ready to use the material in the bottom crate (depending on how much you’re putting into the composter, of course).

coconut oil dog treats

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If you’ve read any of my other posts about homemade dog treats, you know how much I LOVE coconut oil for dogs! It provides many benefits for their skin, coat, hips, and joints. I use it in all of my baked treats. Many people mix some right in with their dogs’ food. If you’re looking for a simple, beneficial treat for your pups, look no further!

There’s just one ingredient: coconut oil. And, you can make as many or as few as you want! Simply melt the coconut oil, pour it into molds, and freeze them until solid. Once they set, pop them out of the molds, and store them in an airtight container or freezer bag in the freezer.

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I like to fill a spouted, glass Pyrex measuring cup with the coconut oil and microwave it. I use the one cup size and fill it to the top. It takes about two minutes in the microwave to melt to liquid. Then I pour the oil into the molds (I got these on Amazon). *TIP: Place the molds on cookie sheets before filling them, or you’ll have a heck of a time moving them when they’re full of liquid! Set the cookie sheets in the freezer, and allow the treats to set. I get about 48 small treats out of this much coconut oil.

 

all-natural foaming face wash for all skin types

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I’ve struggled with acne my entire life (even now well into my 30s), and I’ve never found anything that I thought really helped. A few things made it a bit better, but nothing cleared me up completely. Fast forward to about a month ago when I got into making A LOT of my own health & beauty and cleaning products. I decided to give face wash a try, and WOW! After a good deal of research on which ingredients to use, I came up with this awesome recipe. It will work well for ALL skin types, and it helps with acne and other breakouts!

Some of the most sensitive skin on our entire body is on our face. Now, keep that in mind, and take a look at the ingredients in your current face wash. No really, go look. How many things are unrecognizable? Unpronounceable? Artificial? All that stuff can’t possibly be good for your skin – especially the sensitive skin of your face. This recipe is all-natural, making it ideal for all skin types and for sensitive skin.

Since it doesn’t have preservatives, I make it as needed in small batches. The recipe below will fill an 8-ounce foaming pump bottle about 2/3 full. Not sure where to get the bottle? Check here.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 2 tbsp liquid castile soap
  • 1 tbsp carrier oil of choice (Not sure which one to choose? Check out this post. I use grapeseed oil.)
  • 15 drops essential oils of choice (Not sure which ones to choose? Check out this post. I use 10 melaleuca and 5 lavender.)

Make It:

  1. Add all ingredients to a foaming pump bottle in the order listed (I find a funnel to be helpful).
  2. Shake gently to combine.

Use It:

  1. Shake gently before each use.
  2. Use one pump per wash.

Cost Comparison:

  • This recipe: 31 cents per ounce
  • Aveeno Positively Radiant Scrub at Walmart, $1.29 per ounce

Looking for a great lightweight moisturizer? My homemade lotion recipe is great for the WHOLE BODY! I use it every day on my face!

diy flea/tick repellent collar (for dogs only)

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My family has had dogs forever, and we’ve always used either Frontline or K9 Advantix for flea/tick repellent. Luckily, we’ve never had any negative side effects, and for the most part, we’ve never had any problems with fleas or ticks. All that said, though, I know plenty people who have had problems, and I know plenty more who haven’t had a ton of success with those products. When our family got on the “natural kick” a while back, we of course brought the dogs on board as well. One of the first questions people asked was if I knew of any natural, DIY flea and tick repellents. After a great deal of research, I’ve come up with a recipe that is easy, inexpensive, and effective.

You can use a regular nylon or other cloth collar, or you can use a bandana or scrap of fabric like I did. I actually like to visit the fabric sections of craft stores whenever possible to see what they have available for swatches. Often, they have small little pieces that are plenty big to make dog bandanas or collars from, and you can get them for just a couple bucks.

As always, be sure to use only pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils, and NEVER use essential oils on cats. I use and recommend doTERRA oils. The recipe will make enough solution to soak two collars or bandanas. Simply half it if you only have one dog.

*Note: depending on the type and size of material used, you may need to increase the solution. The collar should be fully soaked with enough to wring out a little before hanging to dry. If it’s not wet enough. Add equal amounts of water and oils to ensure saturation.

Ingredients:

  • 4 drops geranium essential oil
  • 4 drops lavender essential oil
  • 4 drops cedarwood essential oil
  • 4 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 1/2 cup filtered water

Make It:

  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a flat, shallow bowl.
  2. Submerge collar/bandana/fabric in liquid; let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Remove collar from liquid, and wring out excess.
  4. Hang to dry.

Use It:

  • When the collar is completely dry, simply tie around the dog’s neck. Be sure to get it snug enough so as to not come off or catch on things but loose enough to be comfortable. Use the two-finger rule: you should be able to comfortably get two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck.
  • Replace the collar every 2-4 weeks depending on insect population, weather, etc. I have a number of fabric swatches in a cabinet for the dogs. When I need a new one, I simply throw the one they’re wearing in the wash and start with a clean one.

The oils I use are great at repelling all sorts of bugs, not just fleas and ticks. This collar should help repel mosquitoes, flies, and other insects too!

 

homemade, all-natural foaming shave soap

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The downfall to making your own health & beauty and cleaning products is the whole process of trial and error. I have tried several shaving “cream” recipes, tweaked several, and finally came up with one I love! I should note: this is NOT a traditional shaving cream. If you’re looking for something you can smear on and “shave off,” this isn’t it. In fact, I’m not sure that exists in the homemade health & beauty products world. If you can get yourself past that expectation (and believe me, it’s easier said than done), you’ll love this stuff too. You’ll need a foaming pump bottle (feel free to re-purpose an old one so long as you clean it out good) for this recipe. Need to buy a new one? Check here.

Ingredients:

Make It:

  1. Pour all ingredients into foaming pump bottle (I found a funnel to be helpful).
  2. Cap and shake.
  3. Shake before each use.

Notes:

  • Since this recipe uses no preservatives, I recommend making just one bottle at a time.
  • Store in a cool, dark place when not in use.
  • Be sure to shake before each use, as the ingredients will separate.

Cost Comparison:

  • This recipe: 38 cents per ounce
  • Aveeno at Walmart: 57 cents per ounce

my top 8 essential oils

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Did you know there are nearly 100 essential oils? Some are pretty common like lavender and lemon. Others are more obscure like cardamom and helichrysum. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s also important to consider the quality of the oils you choose, as they are not all created equal. I use and recommend doTERRA oils. They are therapeutic-grade and pure; that makes them far more effective.

Now I know what you’re thinking…nearly 100?! Where do I even start? I’m going to tell you about my eight favorites and their uses to give you a starting point (in alphabetic order):

Cedarwood

  • Relaxes the mind and body, easing aches & pains, anxiety, restlessness, and more
  • Supports healthy respiratory function
  • Promotes clear, healthy skin
  • Repels insects
  • Used in my recipes: flea/tick repellent collar, bug spray

Frankincense

  • Clears the mind and allows for better focus
  • Is anti-inflammatory, making it great for headaches, arthritis, sore muscles, sore joints, and more
  • Used in my recipes: pain relief roller, soothing muscle cream

Geranium

  • Hydrates dry skin
  • Repels bugs, making it great for homemade bug spray and flea/tick collars for the dogs (recipes coming soon!)
  • Used in my recipes: flea/tick repellent collar

Lavender

Lemon

Melaleuca (tea tree)

  • Clears blemishes like acne and blackheads
  • Is anti-bacterial
  • Soothes minor skin irritations from things like scrapes, rashes, burns (including sun burn), and skin allergies
  • Used in my recipes: butt balm, face wash, lotion

Peppermint

  • Eases cough, congestion, and sore throat
  • Soothes upset stomach, including diarrhea, morning sickness, and indigestion
  • Reduces aches & pains like headaches and muscle & joint soreness
  • Used in my recipes: deodorizing spray for dogs, pain relief roller, flea/tick repellent collar, bug spray

Wild Orange

emergency funds and why YOU need one

Call it an emergency fund, a rainy day fund, or an “Oh crap I just got laid off and now the world is ending fund.” It all handles the same problem. When something unexpected comes up in your life that airs on the unfortunate side, an emergency fund is used to soften the blow to your financial well being. I say “on the unfortunate side” because it is used to cover bad things that happen like car repairs, appliance break downs, or broken pipes (and NOT happy impulse things like a new puppy or flat screen TV).

An emergency fund is just that, a cash cushion that takes care of small to mid-level emergencies so as not to totally destroy your finances. Gallup did a survey about a decade ago and found that 40% of Americans didn’t have any kind of emergency savings. A more recent survey (2016) found that number has climbed to 47%; THAT’S THE LEARNING CURVE!  They defined an “emergency” as an unexpected expense of $400. That means in today’s America, nearly half of the country would be financially destroyed by a $400 expense. It means payments become late, mortgages get behind, and the financial hole continues to deepen all because we didn’t have the hindsight to save a little more.

I write this post for two specific reasons. The first is user feedback and their questions about emergency funds. The second is I’ve seen this issue happen more times than I care to among my own friends. I’ve seen people get destroyed and go into a downward financial spiral because of a flat tire, and it breaks my heart to know it could have all been avoided.

Virtually all financial figureheads, planners, and speculators agree that EVERYONE needs to have an emergency fund. The notion of an emergency fund makes sense, but the disagreement is in the amount to save. Depending on which book you read, you’ll probably find an answer between three and six months’ worth of your personal expenses. That means if you spend $2,000 per month to keep your household running, you should save somewhere between $6,000 and $12,000. Now I’m fully aware that’s a lot of cash to just allocate to nothing but sitting in a savings account, but let me explain how I handle mine, and maybe that will help set you at ease.

First, I don’t think you need to save it all at once. I side with Dave Ramsey on the option where you should stop spending on everything discretionary (movies, eating out, the coffee shop) and save $1,000. Just as a place to start, stop spending, and save that first $1,000. Your not having an emergency fund is a BIG EMERGENCY. It will only take a short time to save it up if you focus. If you have trouble, try to sell a few things on Craigslist you no longer use (like many of the things we own, unfortunately). As we come upon tax day, I highly recommend setting aside your entire refund (if you get one) to your emergency fund.

Everyone should have at least $1,000 set aside for emergencies. This simple step can cover you for a large majority of emergencies. Some big emergencies that $1,000 won’t cover are losing your job or a car accident totaling your mode of transportation. I hope you never experience either, but don’t think it can’t happen to you. Just last week I watched my sizable and stable employer dismiss 15% of its staff without warning regardless of their longevity.

One of the biggest complaints, aside from the difficulty in amassing such a large sum of money, is that the money is sitting stagnate and doing nothing. I take a number of issues with this statement. First, I often notice those making this statement don’t actually invest their money and are just angry they can’t spend it on something they don’t actually need. Second, the money can be put into a number of places where it is safe and can still grow. Finally, the money isn’t “doing nothing”; it is serving a greater purpose bringing you peace of mind and helping you sleep at night.

To make this more palatable, I’ll walk you through what I do for my emergency funds. I used to have multiple savings accounts across various platforms to hold money. I had some money in a personal savings account (easily accessible), a digit savings account (internet bank, still easily accessible but more cumbersome to get at) and in a money market account (still easily accessible in my opinion but earning better interest). I have since modified my approach and combined the funds into a single account but still think of them separately in my mind.

  • First, I keep $1,500 for quick emergencies. This is to handle any repair-related expenses that come up unexpectedly.
  • Second, I have a fund of $8,500 in case of something more major like suddenly needing a new car or being laid off.
  • Finally, I own rental property, and for my own sake, I keep another $10,000 of my personal money stored in this fund to cover things like broken pipes, a new roof, and other unfortunate repairs in the real estate world.
  • My grand total is a hefty $20,000 safety net. This comes with a side note that the money for my rental property is being returned to me at some point. I treat the property as its own business entity with its own money. As the coffers of the house increase to where it has its own emergency fund, I will then swap my money out, freeing up a nice $10,000 paycheck for myself for my stewardship. I also don’t plan to take a dime out of my rental property until this threshold is met; after that point I will begin to collect a paycheck from that as well.

Being the investor type that I am, I don’t like leaving $20,000 just sitting in the bank earning me .01% interest – I’m looking at you Wells Fargo.  I did originally have the bulk of this in a money market account or in a bond index fund to grow a little more, but that earned around 4-5% interest and wasn’t really jiving with my thoughts on keeping it safe. Remember the market could take and wipe it all away!

Enter the Kasasa savings account and Frontier Bank! A friend of mine turned me to this bank, and I left my prior bank, moving all my personal funds over for one simple reason: Checking accounts earn 3% interest. Yep, you read that right, and I know what you’re thinking: Ka-Ching! There are a few simple rules to follow like maintaining a balance (the easy part since it doesn’t get low) and having a certain number of transactions in a month. I meet this by putting my personal checking account in the same account and using it as normal. Now this is where it takes a great deal of discipline. When you look at your checking account and notice you have $20,500, you have to be able to block that out and change it to read $500.  This is how I view it, that way I get the maximum return for my money without the volatility of the markets without any extra effort on my part. The best part is I now have exemplary customer service on top of earning $50 of free money each month for doing nothing different in my life!

If you happen to be interested in an account like this, let them know I’ve sent you! (My name is Peter Krentz.) Sometimes they give you free money when you get referred by a friend.

Learn more about Kasasa Personal Accounts.

homemade dishwasher detergent tabs

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Wow! These were easy to make, and they work! Scrap those expensive dishwasher detergent tabs, and make your own!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups washing soda (find it by the laundry stain & odor removers)
  • 3/4 cups Borax (find it by the laundry stain & odor removers)
  • 1/2 cup coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup citric acid (find it in the canning aisle)
  • 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 10-15 drops lemon essential oil

Make Them:

  1. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Slowly stir in vinegar.
  3. Add essential oils.
  4. Press into ice cube trays or molds. I found full-size cubes in an ice cube tray were much bigger than necessary (especially since we have a water softener), so filling halfway is perfect.
  5. Allow to dry at room temperature for at least 24 hours.
  6. Pop out of trays or molds and transfer to an airtight container to store. Store in a cool, dark place.
  7. Yield: approx. 32 half-ice cube tabs (two ice cube trays)

Use Them:

  • Tabs don’t have to be placed in the detergent compartment. If your dishwasher has a special location for tabs, use that. Otherwise, you can just toss one on the bottom of the tub.
  • For rinse agent, I use distilled white vinegar with lemon essential oil – 20 drops oil per quart of vinegar. Shake before filling compartment.
  • These tabs are also multi-purpose!
    • Drop one in your garbage disposal, run hot water, and let the disposal run for 30 seconds to a minute.
    • Toss one on the bottom of your dishwasher tub, and run an empty hot cycle with sanitize (if your dishwasher has that option) to clean your dishwasher tub and lines.
  • Have an extra-greasy load? Hard water? If you answered yes to either (or both!) of those things, add just a couple (no more than three) drops of regular dish soap to your dishwasher when you run a load.

Cost Comparison:

  • This recipe = 5 cents per load
  • Finish tabs at Walmart = 17 cents per load

homemade, non-greasy lotion

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I like body butter, but I don’t like how greasy it leaves my skin – especially if I use it on my hands. I tried several different things to create a non-greasy lotion, and I finally found one I like! The recipe doesn’t use any butters or coconut oil, so it doesn’t leave your skin greasy. I use an immersion blender, but you could also use a hand mixer for this recipe. The essential oils are optional, but they add a nice fragrance and can have other benefits depending on which oils you choose. One other awesome thing about this lotion…it makes a great facial moisturizer as well! It works for all skin types. I like to include melaleuca, as my skin is a bit prone to breakouts.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup carrier oil of choice (Not sure which one to choose? Check out this post. I use grapeseed oil.)
  • 1.5 tbsp beeswax
  • 1 cup pure aloe vera gel
  • 10 drops essential oil of choice (Not sure which ones to choose? Check out this post. I like orange, lavender, and melaleuca.)

Make It:

  1. Melt beeswax and carrier oil together in microwave, approx 1.5 minutes.
  2. Pour melted beeswax and oil into a tall, cylindrical container (if using an immersion blender) or medium bowl (if using hand mixer).
  3. Begin blending, slowly adding aloe. Pause periodically to scrape the sides with a spatula.
  4. Add essential oils, and continue blending until you reach the desired consistency.
  5. Transfer to half-pint, wide-mouth jars for storage (yields two jars).
  6. Store in a cool, dark place. Unused jars can be stored in the refrigerator to extend life, up to eight weeks.

Cost Comparison:

  • This recipe = 36 cents per ounce
  • Aveeno at Walmart = 50 cents per ounce

homemade, all-natural peanut butter dog treats (grain free)

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I should start by saying I am not a baker. I don’t mind cooking, but baking is definitely not my thing. However, I like knowing exactly what goes into my dogs’ treats and food, so I make an exception when it comes to them.

Due to some health issues, one of our dogs has to have grain-free food and treats. These biscuits use coconut flour and coconut oil. Coconut oil is really good for us, and it’s also good for our dogs! It has anti-inflammatory benefits, and it’s good for the skin and coat. I also include turmeric in this recipe because it, too, is anti-inflammatory (our oldest dog has arthritis).

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (optional)

Make Them:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Measure coconut oil in its solid form. Melt in the microwave, approx. 1.5 minutes.
  3. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. Roll out dough, and cut using a cookie cutter of your choice, OR press into silicone molds, OR form into discs using your hands (by far the easiest option!).
  5. Bake molds directly on a cookie sheet if using molds, OR bake on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, approx. 13 minutes or until edges brown slightly.
  6. Allow to cool fully before storing.
  7. Store in an airtight container or bag in the refrigerator.
  8. Yield: approx. 65 mini bones using the molds I purchased here.

Notes:

  • Try these with pumpkin puree or mashed sweet potato (or any combination of all three)!
  • I made these in the mold because they’re super cute. However, pressing the dough into the molds is tedious and time consuming. Most of the time, I like to just form the dough into discs with my hands and bake them that way. If your dogs are anything like mine, they probably don’t care what shape they are anyway! I bought the molds on Amazon; get them here.
  • Because these have no preservatives, they will keep best in the refrigerator. They can be kept in an airtight container or bag at room temperature if you’ll be using them within 3-4 days.
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