How to Make Homemade Stevia Extract

how to make stevia extract

I have a sweet tooth.

There. I said it.

As much as I would like to be one of those people who can happily chug black coffee and has no problem passing up dessert, I’m just not.

Now, as my real-food journey has progressed, I have gotten much better than I used to be. White sugar is pretty much banned from our house, and I don’t even use as many unrefined sweeteners as I used to. Eating a piece of fruit generally satisfies my cravings for sweetness (which have lessened considerably), and I’m pretty darn creative about using small amounts of maple syrup, honey, or stevia to sweeten stuff instead.

Stevia is amazing stuff. It’s pretty popular right now, but in case you haven’t jumped on the stevia train yet, here is a quick run-down: Stevia is simply a plant. Yup– a plant. It’s not created in a laboratory and it’s most definitely not one of those scary artificial sweeteners. Stevia is 200-times sweeter than sugar and you can grow it right in your garden. That’s my kind of sweetener!

growing stevia

Of course, there is some debate surrounding stevia, (because, quite frankly, there is debate surrouding everything these days…) Some people question if it is safe to use in large amounts, and other folks don’t like the more-processed forms of stevia powder on the market today.

However, I feel pretty confident in simple stevia extracts, especially when you make them yourself. Just remember– stevia is SUPER sweet, so you’ll only want to use a drop or two at a time!

homemade stevia extract

How to Make Homemade Stevia Extract

You will need:

  • Fresh stevia leaves (Dry leaves can work too–see the note below)*
  • Vodka*
  • Clean glass jar with lid

*The amount of ingredients you need will depend on how much stevia extract you want to make.[Continue Reading]

How to Whitewash Your Barn and Chicken Coop

how to whitewash a barn or chicken coop

Wanna know how you can instantly feel like a homesteading rockstar?

Whitewash something.

I say this because:

(a) It’ll make all your friends give you a weird look (I always enjoy that)

(b) It’s delightfully old-fashioned

(c) It actually does provide some benefits to your barn/coops (besides just making you feel cool)

Whenever I think of whitewashing, my mind instantly goes to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. But before we dive into a bucket of whitewash, let’s talk a bit about why this is something you’d even want to mess with.

What is Whitewash?

Sometimes you’ll hear people referring to “whitewash” as simply painting something with white paint, but in the most traditional sense of the term, whitewash is powdered lime (lime as in limestone, not the green fruit!) mixed with water.

Whitewashing has been a favorite paint/sealant in farms and homestead for centuries because it is effective, simple, and cheap. It’s also safe for animals, and you don’t have to worry about paint fumes.

It’s important to pay attention to what type of lime you are using in your whitewash–be sure to select hydrated lime (also called mason’s lime)– NOT dolomite lime or garden lime. We were able to find ours at our local building supply store, although you might check feed stores too. Hydrated lime is different than the type of lime you spread on the ground/garden, so make sure you have the right stuff!


Why to Whitewash?

Whitewash is the perfect coating if you want a bit of old-fashioned charm, but it also has some practical applications too. The main reason I chose to whitewash my chicken coop is to brighten the dingy, dark wood. Whitewash also has some antibacterial properties, which makes it a handy option for sealing tough-to-clean surfaces against bacteria and insects.… [Continue Reading]

11 Creative Ways to Use Old Egg Cartons

ways to use egg cartons

My name is Jill and I am an egg carton hoarder.

It’s not entirely my fault though… Well, sort of…

People know we have chickens, so people give us egg cartons. Lot of ‘em. Which is awesome, because we do need egg cartons. But we probably don’t need hundreds… *a-hem* I guess I just have a hard time saying “no” to a good carton.

Therefore, I have a giant, precarious stack of them in my basement that falls over and whacks me in the head every time I walk by.

I think I need an egg carton intervention.

Of course, when you’re a homesteader, the most obvious use of egg cartons is to use them to hold your farm-fresh eggs–especially if you are sharing them with family and friends. However, my little flock of chickens can’t seem to keep up with the sheer volume of eggs cartons I’ve been collecting lately…

So it’s time it figure out some alternative ways to use them.

Recycling and composting are two very viable options if you are in a state of egg-carton-overflow like I am, but I’ve also found some more creative uses for those egg cartons that I think you’re gonna love.

11 Creative Ways to Use Egg Cartons

Photo Credit: Upcycle That

Photo Credit: Upcycle That

1. Make Egg Carton Flower Lights: 

A bit of creative cutting, a strand of Christmas lights, and a dab of paint can turn a boring carton into an adorable floral lighting string. Check out this egg carton light tutorial from Upcycle That.

2. Give ‘Em to Your Chicken-Owning Friends:

But not if they have an egg carton hoarding problem. Then you’ll just be enabling them.

3. Grow Seedlings in Egg Cartons

The small cups are the perfect size for smaller seedlings. This post has a bunch of other ideas for frugal seed-starting systems, too.[Continue Reading]

DIY Aromatherapy Playdough

essential oil playdough

Motherhood has really taught me how to mellow out.

And it’s a good thing–especially considering my former uptight, perfectionistic ways.

I have learned how to:

  • Have people over without giving the goose poop on the deck a second thought.
  • Come to complete acceptance of the fact that there will always be crumbs on my floor.
  • Wear my pig-slimed jeans to town with pride.

I’m especially proud of my most recent development: I can now watch the kids mix up ALL the playdough colors, and I don’t even flinch.

Impressive, huh?

Speaking of playdough, I have the perfect homemade playdough recipe to share with you today–I’ve been mixing up batches of this stuff like crazy!

Homemade playdough recipes are a dime-a-dozen, but mine has a secret ingredient: essential oils.

Not only does the addition of essential oils make your homemade playdough smell pretty, but there are many health benefits associated with essential oils as well. As in scientifically-proven-benefit-stuff. So, your kiddos (or grandkiddos) will be getting added benefits as they roll out their  playdough snakes, cookies, and shapes.

The best part about this recipe is that it’s very flexible and forgiving (and cheap!)–so don’t hesitate to bring the kids into the kitchen to make it with you!

homemade essential oil playdough

Basic Homemade Playdough Recipe

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5 tablespoons liquid cooking oil (I used olive oil, since that’s all I had, but anything will work!)
  • Food coloring
  • 6-8 drops of essential oils of your choice (my favorite essential oils)


In a sauce pan, stir the flour, salt, and cream of tartar together.

homemade playdough recipe

Add in the water, cooking oil, and food coloring and mix until smooth.

Turn on the heat to medium-low, and stir until the mixture forms a ball.… [Continue Reading]