Posts from the ‘DIY’ Category

New Resources Added to The Learning Academy

We’ve added:

to The Modern Pioneer Learning Academy. Available to read online or download. We recommend printing them out just in case. More coming soon!

self-sufficiency

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How-to: Gravity-fed Rainwater Harvesting Off-grid Plumbing System

Off-grid gravity plumbing system hooked up to barrels for rainwater harvest. No electricity, no pumps.

Homesteading: How We Do It

People often ask, so here is a short rundown of how things work here at Twin Lamps Farmstead.

What is a Composting Toilet?

A must-have for off the grid lifestyles, a composting toilet is economical and easy to use.

5 Best Essential Oils for Your First Aid Kit

Time to get that medicine box ready!

Why You Shouldn’t Homestead

Basic Homemade Pasta Recipe & How-to

Making pasta is so easy, you are going to wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. The recipe is ridiculously simple and the prep is a cinch. I am embarrassed that I did not start making it years ago. However, let us not dwell on the past! I am making it now and I will show you how you can, too.

The Recipe

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons of water

See? That’s literally all you need. Combine the flour and the salt, then make a well and add the lightly beaten egg. Mix these together, then add the water and work it until a stiff dough forms. (It’ll be very crumbly, so keep working at it with your hands until all the flour is incorporated.) Once you have a ball of stiff dough, knead it for 4 minutes and then let it rest for at least 5 minutes so that it is a little easier to work with, otherwise it’ll be too difficult to roll out.

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After the dough has rested, roll it out with a rolling pin until it is thin enough to fit in between the rollers on your pasta machine when they are set at the widest setting (on mine, this is 7). If you don’t have a pasta maker, just keep rolling it out. If you need one, this one is like mine.

pasta9

When it’s thin enough to fit between the rollers, just roll it through.

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Dialing down the settings on the machine, decrease the space between the rollers so that the pasta gradually gets thinner and thinner. Once mine gets down to 4, it is usually pretty long, so I cut it in half.

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You can make the pasta as thick or thin as you want. I usually stop at 2, where it is thin enough to see my hand through. The picture below is on 3.

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The end result is two very long, very thin pieces of dough.

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Now, I feed them into the fettuccine attachment on my pasta maker and cut them out. If you are not using a pasta machine, then once you are done rolling (which will take quite a while), you can then use a very sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut your pasta noodles out.

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Once they are done, put them in a bowl, dust with flour and toss them to coat so they don’t stick. You may still have to pull some apart.

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From this point, they can be prepared, frozen or hung and dried. I hung a few batches the other day so that I can store them. I don’t have a pasta drying rack (yet), so I just sterilized two plastic hangers and used them. Worked just fine.

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If you dry the pasta, it needs between 8 and 24 hours to dry, depending on how thick it is and the humidity factor in your home. When they dry, they are pretty brittle, so be careful when handling them. You can add basil, spinach or many other herbs to the egg before you add it to the flour for an added zip. Bon appetite!

Greywater System-Friendly Natural DIY Laundry Detergent

If you’re using a greywater recycling system on your homestead, you already know that harsh detergents and soaps are a no-no. You can buy natural detergents, but some of them are ridiculously expensive. The point is to spend less money not more, am I right? After looking around, googling, thinking and experimenting, we have come up with a very simple recipe for DIY laundry soap that is safe for your greywater system. It won’t hurt your plants and won’t harm the soil or the environment. It’s also pretty cheap to make. Cool, huh?

You will need: IMG_20160229_070151

This recipe is very easy. You simply combine equal parts of everything (like maybe 1/4 cup each) and mix it all together in a container. One small scoop per load does the trick. Most recipes call for lye or Fels Naptha soap, but with the yucca root powder or soapnut powder, it isn’t necessary. They are the “soaps” instead of lye or Fels Naptha. This recipe has no fragrance, but you could add an essential oil to it if you want it to smell nice. You could also technically use soapnut or yucca powder all by themselves as a totally natural laundry soap.

If you don’t want to buy washing soda or if you have an absolutely humongous box of baking soda (like we do for some reason), you can make some washing soda by spreading baking soda on a cookie sheet and baking it at 425 for up to an hour, stirring about halfway through the time. (At 400 degrees, baking soda undergoes a chemical process that changes it into washing soda.)

When rinsing your laundry, add 1/2 cup of vinegar to every 5 gallons of rinse water to soften and remove odors. You’re done! Laundry comes out fresh, clean and odor-free. More importantly, the greywater is nontoxic to your garden or your land.

*NOTE: Like many things, both Borax and washing soda can become dangerous to plants if too much is used, so don’t overdo it. This recipe works very well and you don’t need much; a little goes a long way, especially if you are using rainwater (it contains no minerals and it’s naturally soft).

An Alternative Method For Homestead Laundry

If you read our “Laundry on The Homestead” article, you know there are quite a few different methods for doing your laundry on the homestead, ranging from the very labor-intensive to the more laid back. There is however an in-between method. It combines some of the labor of hand-washing with the confidence and ease of a machine to create a middle-of-the-road product that we are very satisfied with.

Meet The Wonder Wash. It’s cheap, it’s cute, it works and to be honest, I wish I’d thought IMG_20160229_052050of it. Seriously, it’s so simple and works so well. You just add water (about a gallon and a half for a full load), add soap, add up to 5lbs of clothes, seal the pressurized lid and turn the crank. The instructions tell you how long to turn it per load, but to me it doesn’t seem long enough. I usually turn a full load for about 4 minutes. Then simply attach the drainage pipe and let the water out. You can either rinse the clothes in the washer by adding clean water and cranking some more (which I do now) or in a rinse tub (which I will do on the homestead). Wring and hang dry. Very easy and it cleans your clothes just fine.

We use this all the time already because though I adore my electric wringer-washer, this is much easier to use and requires less water. Sheets, small blankets, jackets and heavy sweatshirts fit in this little guy just fine as well, but for heavier blankets or coats, you’ll need to use a different method or go to a laundromat. You could probably smash them in there but it’s debatable how clean they would actually get.

It’s hard plastic that does not feel flimsy but obviously will break if treated too roughly, and it could use some stabilization when it is being cranked, because it moves a bit and that requires more work to keep it in place. It does have suction cups but they don’t prevent it from sliding. We plan to use screws to attach it to the countertop beside the sink at the homestead in order to fix this.

PROS:

  • It’s compactIMG_20160301_085849
  • It’s lightweight
  • It requires zero electricity
  • You have full control over how long clothes wash
  • It can use hot or cold water
  • It works

CONS:

  • It could use some stabilization to hold it while cranking
  • The drainage pipe is tricky and can be messy before you master it
  • For some reason, my washer has a pinkish tint; this is not a huge deal but… yeah
  • We recommend using a wringer; even with draining, clothes come out soaked

Overall, this little washer is definitely worth the $40 we paid for it. The purchase of the wringer will raise the cost of it overall, but a wringer should be purchased anyway, regardless of which method you use to do laundry. They are not essential, but your clothes will dry much more quickly if you use one. (You might think you can wring them out well enough by hand, but after you try a wringer, you will see that the difference is huge.) We are still taking our electric wringer-washer to the homestead but as we intend to build on to our solar energy system gradually, we won’t be using it for a while.

*This review is my own opinion and I was not compensated in any way. Bought the product with my own money.

Want to Bring Your Electronics to The Homestead Without Draining Your Main Solar Energy System? This Works!

So we’ve been testing out this little solar battery charger by RAVPower for the past few days. It’s a 15w solar panel that charges basically anything with USB charging capability. That means it can charge not just cellphones and tablets, but lanterns, lamps, radios and lots of other things. We bought it to charge cellphones and tablets on the homestead, that way they would not be a constant drain on the main solar energy system. (Larger systems are pretty expensive, so the less one needs to power, the better.) The way our current house sits is in a weird place between two large buildings; it doesn’t get sunlight all day on any one part of the house. To test the panel, we hung it out an upstairs window onto the porch roof in the morning.

Happy to report that it works like a charm. It provided a full charge to a 10 inch tablet in about an hour with full sun and in about 2 hours on a very overcast, snowy day. (This is at like 9:00AM in February, people.) It charged a 7 inch “phablet” type of phone and the 10 inch tablet together to almost a full charge in about an hour as well with full sun. For $50, we are pretty impressed with it. We also bought this battery pack to go with it, just in case. The battery pack came fully-charged (a very nice bonus), so we have not been able to test yet how long it will take the panel to charge the battery pack. ravpower

PROS:

  • It’s lightweight
  • It’s compact and foldable
  • It seems very sturdy and stitched together well
  • Has two USB inputs so it can charge 2 devices at once

CONS:

  • It’s not waterproof, so it cannot be left out in the rain or in a heavy snow
  • USB ports in general break or stop working easily
  • The charging capability is reduced quite a bit by overcast days
  • It does not work well indoors, even with full sun coming through the window

Even if we weren’t moving to the homestead, we are still glad we have the panel. We paid $50 and can now charge any of our devices for free, anywhere there is sun. This includes while driving and in any emergency. You can’t beat that.

*This review is my own opinion and I was not compensated in anyway. Bought the product with my own money.
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