The Prairie Homestead Homesteading | Self Sufficient Living | Living off the Land Sat, 28 May 2016 01:46:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Story of Our Prairie House Wed, 25 May 2016 14:45:08 +0000 Once upon a time, there was a house. A little prairie house. It was born in 1918, a homesteader’s dream, built to shelter a growing family from the harsh conditions of the high plains. It’s seen a lot in the past 98 years. Lightning strikes. Blinding snowstorms. Rattlesnake infestations. A shop fire. Tornadoes. The Blizzard of ’49. […]

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Once upon a time, there was a house.

A little prairie house.

It was born in 1918, a homesteader’s dream, built to shelter a growing family from the harsh conditions of the high plains.

It’s seen a lot in the past 98 years.

Our first winter

Lightning strikes. Blinding snowstorms. Rattlesnake infestations. A shop fire. Tornadoes. The Blizzard of ’49. And relentless wind. Oh, the wind.


Many families came and went after the original family left. There were some who loved the little homestead, and planted lilacs and Siberian Elm trees carefully in rows behind the house to protect it from the pounding west winds. They raised sheep and cattle, and candled their eggs in the tiny hand-dug basement. Each spring a lone tulip can still be found rising from the middle of the yard where their flower beds once stood.

But as the years rolled along and the homestead continued to change hands, it slowly fell into disarray and began to lose its shine.


The fence lines crumbled. The outbuildings weathered and slowly fell apart. The windmill atop the original well was torn down. Gaping holes were dug in the yards and pastures in an effort to bury the ever-accumulating trash, and during the worst years, a small horse lived inside the house.

The shop and barn were waist-deep in junk. There was a washing machine in the back pasture. The carefully planted trees filled the back yard with broken limbs as they aged, shattered, and died. Bits of clothing, carpet, and assorted trash seemed to grow from the prairie as the wind blew the soil from the hastily filled dump holes. No one wanted to live in such a tumble-down shack, so it stood empty for several years. Until…

These crazy people walked onto the property one day.


That’s us. (Way back when.)

People tried to talk us out of buying it– they told us were were nuts. And as I look back at some of the photos, I see their point. The house was tiny, the outbuildings were trashed, the fence lines were destroyed, and it was miles and miles from the nearest grocery store. But we were blinded by potential, and couldn’t hear the naysayers whispering in our ear. Plus, we were newlyweds with a determination to live within our means and budget, and choosing the minuscule 900 square foot house meant two former-city kids could afford to become the proud owners of 67 acres. 67 glorious acres.

Since the day we signed our names on the dotted line, this house has been much more than “just a starter home” to me. As someone who prayed for and craved country living since the age of three, buying this property was the realization of a longing that is so deeply ingrained in me I can describe it as nothing less than divinely inspired. It may sound strange, but I have a soul-connection to this land.

Over the last 8 years, Prairie Husband and I have become ‘sweat equity’ personified, but it has been a labor of love. We overhauled every single inch of the place (fence lines, gardens, pastures, landscaping, tree rows, siding, roofs, outbuildings, corrals, you name it…), EXCEPT the house.

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The good news was that the previous owner gutted the entire interior of the tiny house, so the inside had new sheetrock and flooring. The bad news was he had a “builder-grade” sort of style, so the house sadly lost much of its original character and ended up rather bland and uncharming (hello yellow plastic siding…). But it was clean and livable and it worked just fine for a while as we toiled away on our outside projects.

But then the babies started coming. And our home business grew. And the little 900 square foot prairie house suddenly got REALLY REALLY SMALL.


And we knew it was time for the last piece of the 100-year old homestead rebirth to fall into place. It was time to add on.


Remodeling was brutal. You can read all about our planning/demo/building process in this post. We tore off several rooms in the process, so our tiny house got even smaller for a while, and we found ourselves eating/living/schooling/relaxing in just one room for many, many months. More than once the Prairie Husband had to talk me off the ledge when I was sure I just couldn’t take the chaos for one more second. But all seasons come to an end, and hallelujah, that one is OVER.


It’s time for the big reveal today, my friends. I know many of you have been waiting a while for this, as I’ve been dropping sneak peeks on Facebook and Instagram for months. Is it entirely finished? Well, no. (Will it ever be? Probably not.) But I’m not going to make you wait any longer.

So without further adieu, may I present to you: the neglected and forgotten little prairie house made new.

The Story of Our Prairie House (in pictures)

The Outside:

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A shot from summer 2008, right after we purchased the property. The canvas camp chair lends a super classy touch– don’t you think? 😉


Spring 2015– we tore off the dining room and “laundry closet” on the back of the house and prepared to dig the giant hole in the back where the new addition would go.


Stripped down to the tar paper...

When we ripped off the lovely plastic yellow siding, we discovered many of the boards underneath were rotted and the insulation was almost non-existent. So we had to take a detour and replace boards and install insulated panels before we could proceed with the new siding.

But this is what we look like now:



We still have a tiny bit of siding to finish on that one side, and I need to paint one more white door, but it’s quite the transformation, I think.



We agonized over siding choices for months, but we finally went with cedar siding with a steel wainscot. The wainscoting will naturally rust over time and I love the industrial/rustic feel it brings. Plus I can’t hurt it with the weed whacker.


The same tree– approximately 7 years later. (And no, trees do NOT grow fast here in Wyoming…)


The Inside:

Old Dining/New Laundry Room:


This was our old dining room, aka the dining “closet”. We added the window in 2014, but even then, it was still an awkwardly small room. The ceilings were short and crooked, and even a small dining table and chair set would barely fit. Entertaining guests was super-duper cozy. Ahem.

In order for the foundation of the new addition to fit on to the back of the house, we had to complete rip off this room. However, we rebuilt it on the original footprint (on the new foundation, with straight walls and ceilings…) moved the door, and turned it into the new laundry room.

farmhouse laundry room

Hard to believe it’s the same space, huh?

I went a little nuts with quirky additions to the laundry room, so I wrote a entire post with all the juicy details. You can find all of that (along with the name of my “heifer head”) in my farmhouse laundry room post.

The Kitchen:


This was the kitchen right after we bought the place. Builder-grade oak cabinets, no dishwasher, and extremely limited counter space. (By the way– my decorating style has changed considerably since then… thank goodness.) 

In 2012, I got the wild idea to paint those builder-grade cabinets white (and we’d also installed an island and dishwasher and moved the sink by then, too).

how to paint cabinets

I loved the white look for quite a while– it felt airy and crisp. And then I had Prairie Boy and suddenly my white cabinets weren’t so white anymore (the kid is pretty much a walking ball of stickiness), and the cheap-o cabinets began to fall apart, too.

Thankfully, the kitchen was right on the edge of where the old house met the new house, so it needed to be redone anyway. Once the remodel was “dried-in”, we ripped apart the kitchen too. Fun times.


As is common with old houses, the kitchen floor was pretty saggy. So saggy, in fact, that we likely could not have laid down the new wood floor without major issues. Thankfully, Prairie Husband is extremely handy and was able to jack up the house and build in extra support in the ancient basement underneath. It was an adventure, to say the least. But now our new floor is as level as you can expect a 98-year old house to be.

I’m pretty sure there’s some rule somewhere that says farmhouses *must* have white painted cabinets, but I’ve never been very good at following rules, so I opted for rustic hickory instead (partly because I’d already done the white thing, and partly because I couldn’t take the dirt anymore…)


Speaking of decorating styles, I have no idea what mine is… If I had to put a label on it, I’d call it eclectic-rustic-farmhouse-vintage-western-industrial. How’s that for some classification? While I like some aspects of the all-white farmhouse look, I still crave a lot of rich, natural tones and texture. I love rusty metal, leather, cowhide, richly grained wood, and natural elements. As much as I love to look at the crisp white farmhouses on Pinterest, I knew using that much white in my decor just wouldn’t fit me. Plus, I wanted my house to have a uniquely Wyoming feel. (More on that in a bit).



I wouldn’t have gotten this pot filler above the stove if it hadn’t been for Prairie Husband, but I’m sure glad he talked me into it– I love this thing. Super handy for filling up canning pots, too.


My first choice for counter tops was butcher block, but considering how messy I am in the kitchen, I decided it would be wiser to go with a material that doesn’t require quite as much maintenance. We opted for a grey quartz with a “fractured” edge, and I am loving it so far. It almost has a concrete look, and it’s super tough.


remodel18I requested the open shelving specifically as a place to store some of my dry ingredients and home-canned food. I’m not really into “knick-knacks”, but I love using functional items as decoration.


The Living Room:

Our old living room was painfully awkward, and it was one of the main reasons we needed to build the addition. It was a tiny box with awkward furniture placement, which made entertaining guests near impossible. (See the pics of it below) We decided to turn it into an office space instead, and build a spacious living room in the addition.


Hardwood floors were a must for our new living area, as I have dealt with carpet for FAR too long. We knew we wanted an open room with high ceilings and lots of natural light and seating for guests. I wanted this room in particular to have a bold, vintage Wyoming look, and I love how we were able to incorporate elements of our style into some of the trim work to make that happen.


I especially love the window trim– we distressed 2×6 pine boards with a draw knife, hammers, and chains, and then stained them a dark brown. Prairie Husband added the big black bolts for an extra rustic touch, and the result is stunning. No curtains for these babies.


I really wanted a taller baseboard trim (to mimic what I’ve seen in older homes) so we used 2×6 pine again, but this time with the top edge routered and stained to match the windows and doors as well.



Prairie Husband custom-built the sliding barn doors to hide the TV. I know, I’m pretty spoiled.

We moved our wood stove from the old living room into this new room. But instead of the faux stone we used previously, we lined the stove surround with leftover steel from the exterior wainscoting, and use grey pavers for the base.



I love this wall– the door was salvaged from our barn when we redid it, the antelope mount was from one of the Prairie Husband’s hunts, and the rope is a real rawhide reata that was my great-grandfathers. I love decor with a story.

And then we have the windmill… If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ve probably already seen the windmill, and I’ll probably forever be known as the crazy-windmill-lady because of it, but I don’t care. It’s absolute perfection. It was generously “donated” from the junk pile of one of the ranches down the road.


It hangs over the stairwell wall that leads down into the basement. The half-wall is covered with leftover windbreak wood we had hanging around in our trash pile.

The Old Living Room/Office


This was our tiny living room, circa 2008. (Ain’t that maroon chair a beaut?) The carpet looked decent back them, but it didn’t look so great when we pulled it out 8 years later. Let me offer an unsolicited bit of advice: if you’re considering putting carpet in your homestead house– don’t.

Little did I know the original hardwood floors lay waiting for me under that speckled Berber…


This was a day or two after we made our hardwood floor discovery, prior to repainting. It definitely wasn’t all pretty and shiny when we initially pulled up the carpet, but I knew there had to be something worth saving under the scuffs and scratches and dried paint.

Turns out, I was right.


A trip to town to get a drum sander, a coat of stain, and two coats of sealer later, we were in business! If only these floors could talk…

We couldn’t find any desks we liked, so Prairie Husband (have I mentioned how handy he is?) built a custom wall desk made from rough cut windbreak wood planks. He planed it, joined it, sanded it, and rubbed in several layers of tung oil until it looked like this:


Pretty snazzy, eh?

I love the industrial-look of pipe, so the supports are fashioned out of regular ol’ pipe, painted black. And there’s open shelving to match, of course.


I’ve had a home business since 2011, and this is the first time I’ve ever had an actual office space.


The decor and details in here are still a work-in-progress, but it’s coming together. And I love not having my laptop and planner in the middle of my kitchen workspace…


New Master Suite

Our old master bedroom was a typical, tiny, old-house bedroom– nothing special– so we gave our old room to the Prairie Kids, and build a new master suite off the side of the new living room.


It’s spacious and airy–which is a big improvement from our other room.



Originally we were going to go with a basic shower insert in the master bathroom, but it just looked too…. modern. So, we chose a weathered wood-look tile for the tub and shower. The only problem with that was Prairie Husband had to build the entire shower base and surround from scratch. Did I mention he’s pretty handy? If I had to do that, there would be water leaking through the floor into the basement as we speak, but he did an amazing job.


The pebble tile completes the natural look. (This photo is before we attached the glass door). It kinda cracks me up how much work we went through to make it look like you’re showering outside behind an old wooden windbreak, but I think it’s fabulous. 😉


I love the old-fashioned look of the copper vessel sinks, and we also scrounged in our scrap pile to find old bits of weathered wood to complete the mirror, towel rack, and tile trim.



This lilac bush sits right next to the homestead’s original well and cistern; the old, broken pump jack is still nestled beneath its branches. I walk by it every day on the way to the barn, and each year when it blooms in the spring, I stick my face deep into the purple flowers, inhale, and give a silent nod to the generations of homesteaders who loved this little chunk of land before we did. I sure hope they like what we’ve done with the place.


  • Hardwood Floors: Handscraped Tobacco Road Acacia by Lumber Liquidators (this is the solid wood, not laminate)
  • Barn Door Hardware:
  • Windmill and Scottish Highlander Pillow Covers:
  • Main Paint Color: Westhighland White by Sherwin Williams
  • Office Paint Color: Lovely Bluff by Valspar
  • Trim/Door Stain: Jacobean by Minwax
  • Kitchen Pendant Lights: Barn Light Electric
  • Dining Room Chandelier:
  • Dining Room Table & Chairs: American Furniture Warehouse
  • Industrial-Look Ceiling Fans: Home Depot
  • Hammered Copper Farmhouse Sink: Sinkology
  • Copper Vessel Sinks in Bathroom: Sinkology

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30 Essential Oil Hacks for Homesteading Wed, 18 May 2016 19:26:49 +0000 WHAAAAT…? That’s my response every time I get an email from someone who wants to know why I talk about essential oils on a homesteading blog. Okay, okay… to be fair, there was a time when I didn’t get the connection either. I thought essential oils were just expensive little brown bottles surrounded by a […]

The post 30 Essential Oil Hacks for Homesteading appeared first on The Prairie Homestead.

essential oil hacks for modern homesteading


That’s my response every time I get an email from someone who wants to know why I talk about essential oils on a homesteading blog.

Okay, okay… to be fair, there was a time when I didn’t get the connection either. I thought essential oils were just expensive little brown bottles surrounded by a bunch of hype. I still use herbs too, but I’ve found essential oils to be much easier to use as they are more “grab and go”.

Truthfully, I don’t know how I homesteaded B.E.O. (that’s “before essential oils”, for the uninitiated…)

Actually, I do know– I spent a more time and money at the feed store buying stuff, and didn’t feel remotely as confident as I know now when I had an issue that needed to be addressed.

We all know essential oils are great for health and wellness (well, I’m guessing you know that, if you don’t, you do now), and cleaning the house of course, but when I say I use essential oils regularly in my barn, coop, and garden, I mean it.

The other day I started counting off a mental list of all the ways I like to use oils in my homesteading adventures, and I even surprised myself with how many I came up with. I’m sharing the list y’all here today– and I included applicable tutorials/links for each one, none of this generic “oils are great for gardens and animals” stuff. 😉

You can purchase essential oils directly from me HERE >>

30 Ways to Use Essential Oils for Homesteading

homemade organic pest control spray recipe

1. Organic Garden Pest Control

No one likes their garden veggies to be destroyed by insects, but most of us don’t love spraying pesticides on our food, either. There are about 15 billion (slight exaggeration) different oils that are fantastic for spraying in your garden to repel pests, including:

  • Peppermint
  • Cedarwood
  • Lemongrass
  • Arborvitae
  • Patchouli
  • Sage
  • Spearmint
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Lavender
  • Oregano
  • Melaleuca (tea tree)
  • Clove
  • Neem

Here’s my recipe for organic pest control garden spray. It calls for peppermint essential oil, but you can substitute other oils, too.

fungal spray diy

2. Fungal Spray for Plants

Melaleuca oil (tea tree) makes an effective fungal spray for plants, and it’s easy to mix up a spray bottle at home. Simply mix 10 drops of melaleuca essential oil or patchouli essential oil with 2 cups water. Shake well, and spray it on affected plants, or use it as a preventative.

homemade liquid fence recipe

3. DIY Liquid Fence

Last year we were overrun with rabbits, which wasn’t a problem, other than the fact they were mowing down my poor garden. My stinky homemade liquid fence recipe calls for eggs, garlic, and clove essential oil. It seemed to work last summer, too, as long as I reapplied it every couple of weeks.


4. To Attract Pollinators

While many essential oils REPEL insects, there are some oils that attract bees and butterflies– and we definitely want those guys to hang around. Add 2-3 drops of one of the following essential oils to a cotton ball place them in strategic places in your garden to attract bees:

  • Lavender
  • Wild Orange
  • Coriander

deep mulch garden method

5. Garden Companions & Allies

It’s well known in gardening circles that some plants act as companions and have a mutually beneficial relationship if planted near one another. You can apply these same rules to essential oils as well– simply add 1-2 drops of the following oils to your watering can:

  • Basil essential oil: For asparagus or tomatoes
  • Chamomile essential oil: For the cabbage family or onions
  • Dill essential oil: For the cabbage family
  • Oregano essential oil: Cucumbers, melons, pumpkin, or squash
  • Peppermint essential oil: For the cabbage family, tomatoes, or peas
  • Rosemary essential oil: Carrots, the cabbage family, or beans
  • Sage essential oil: Carrots
  • Thyme essential oil: The cabbage family

You can purchase essential oils directly from me HERE >>

6. Goodbye Slugs

Like I mentioned in my deep mulch post, I thankfully don’t have any slug problems. However, I’ve heard rave reviews from people who have said they use a diluted mix of essential oil and water (I’d try 5 drops of oil in 1 cup water to start) to spray a ring around plants being bothered by slugs. These are the most commonly recommend oils for slugs:

  • White fir essential oil
  • Cedarwood essential oil
  • Peppermint essential oil

homemade fly spray recipe

7. Homemade Fly Spray for Animals

This is one of my most-used ways to use oils in the barn. Mixing up homemade fly spray is simple, and gives your horses, cows, goats, or sheep relief without those nasty chemical sprays. You can use a ton of different oils in fly sprays, including:

  • Peppermint
  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Melaleuca
  • Thyme
  • Lavender
  • Citronella

Click here for my full homemade fly spray recipe and tutorial.

8. Deter Mice

When you live in the country, mice are just a fact of life. Keep peppermint essential oil handy to repel the little buggers– you can place several drops on a cotton ball and stuff into areas where mice frequent, or try mixing up a peppermint/water spray and spritzing frequently in “mousy” areas.

9. Fighting Fleas and Ticks

Although we get occasional ticks, we have never had huge problems with them. However, these are the recipes I’d use if we had a flea infestation or frequent tick issues:

Flea Essential Oil Blend:

  • 2 tablespoons carrier oil (such as fractionate coconut oil or almond oil)
  • 10 drops clary sage essential oil
  • 12 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil

Apply 2-3 drops to neck, chest, or collar to repel fleas. (Lemon can cause increased sun sensitivity, so please do not apply to exposed skin– only hair or a collar)

Tick Essential Oil Blend:

  • 2 tablespoons carrier oil (such as fractionate coconut oil or almond oil)
  • 6 drops geranium essential oil
  • 6 drops lavender essential oil
  • 4 drops myrrh essential oil

Apply 2-3 drops to neck, chest, or collar to repel ticks. Repeat as needed.

You can purchase essential oils directly from me HERE >>

homemade fly spray recipe

10. DIY Insect Repellent for Humans

Sometimes I get so consumed with keeping the bugs off my critters, I forget about myself. Until the pesky flies or mosquitos start attacking my legs… You can use your essential oil stash to mix up all sorts of insect repellents for yourself and your family as well. I actually have a free downloadable cheatsheet to help you figure out your own formulation, since I more tips for that than can fit in this post.

Grab the free DIY insect repellent cheatsheet here >>

11. Away with Ants!

Peppermint essential oil is a gem for repelling ants– regardless of whether they are in your garden, your house, or your barn. Mix up 15 drops of peppermint with around 2 cups water. Shake and spray where you see the ants entering. Plus, it smells pretty, too.

homemade bug bite relief stick

12. Bug Bite Remedy

Sometimes even the repellent measures we take still leave us with a few bug bites here and there. This is my FAVORITE quick remedy to soothe bites– we used it a bunch last summer and the Prairie Kids sought it out whenever the mosquitos or biting flies got the best of them. It stars peppermint and lavender essential oils—>

DIY Bug Bite Stick Recipe


13. Calm Critters

I’ve found my dogs, horses, and even the cows seem to like essential oils just as much as I do. When one of our four-legged homestead members needs a bit of extra calming or soothing action, I break out lavender or frankincense essential oil and massage it into their neck or back. (This is particularly handy for dogs who hate thunder storms…) doTERRA’s Balance blend is another one that’s fabulous for this.

Tip for Using Oils on Animals: always allow the animal to smell the oil first, before you apply it. Some animals have dislikes for certain smells, and I figure it’s polite to “ask” their permission before smearing it all over them. 😉

Also– there is a LOT of debate of whether or not oils are safe for cats. I’ve used oils on cats with zero problems, and have talked to veterinarians who’ve done the same, however, there have been instance of toxicity. So proceed with caution, and if in doubt, just skip oils on cats.

14. Soothing Irritated Skin

I’m trying really hard to follow FDA guidelines in how I say this, but lavender, frankincense, or melaleuca essential oils are all very soothing when applied to “occasional skin irritations” in animals. 😉 You can use them diluted in a carrier oil or make a simple salve with them. Just follow the rule of letting the animal smell them first and don’t use them without diluting first.

You can purchase essential oils directly from me HERE >>


15. DIY Udder Balm

I LOVE this recipe– and Oakley the milk cow agrees. This is all I’ve used for years to soothe dry or cracked udders on my cow and goats. It works like a charm.

Grab my homemade udder balm recipe here >>

16. Homemade Udder Wipes

Sometimes I just use water to wipe down my cow’s udder before milking, but I also mix up this recipe on occasion, and it works like a charm. It can be used on goats or cows and used lavender and melaleuca essential oils.

Homemade Udder Wipes Recipe >>


17. DIY Animal or Dog Shampoo

Our newest dog addition to the family (he goes by Tiny Turbo…) is a big fan of fresh cow pies and MUD. This is the recipe I used after his latest manure-laden adventure:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup mild castile soap
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil
  • 2 drops cedar wood essential oil

Massage onto the wet dog and rinse well.


18. Chicken Coop Spray

This won’t take the place of regular coop cleanings, but I love spritzing this DIY chicken coop spray around the nesting boxes and feeders after I give the coop a good cleaning. I also suspect it helps to cut down on flies.

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake well, and spritz generously in the coop wherever flies congregate.


19. Essential Oils for Bees

I don’t have bees (yet), but it totally makes sense that a natural plant product like essential oils could have benefits for beekeepers. This beekeeping club website has a ton of solid info for you—>

Essential Oils for Beekeeping

20. Sticky Tree Sap

Get sap on our hands while chopping firewood or trimming trees on your homestead? Simply apply 1-2 drops of lemon essential oil, rub in thoroughly, and rinse off. Bam!

21. Easy Label Remover

Speaking of lemon essential oil, it’s also great for removing labels from jars or eliminating sticker/glue residue. (Because I don’t know about you, but I’m always repurposing glass jars!). Rub 1-2 drops of lemon oil into the sticky area, scrape off loosened glue, and rinse with warm, soapy water.

homemade hand cream recipe

22. Relief for Gardening Hands

Homestead hands take a beating– especially if you prefer to garden without gloves like I do. This is my #1 favorite way to soothe hard-working hands– and many of you have written me to say it’s your favorite too!

DIY Gardener’s Hand Cream Recipe >>

natural homemade deodorant

23. DIY Coconut Oil Deodorant

You’re gonna get sweaty when you’re outside cleaning pens or doing garden chores, so mix up a batch of the homemade natural deodorant to combat the stink. Adding several drops of melaleuca or lavender essential oil will boost its odor-fighting power, too.

DIY Coconut Oil Deodorant Recipe >>

homemade dandelion salve recipe

24. And Tired Muscles

Homesteading is a labor of love, but sometimes all that laboring can make you a little stiff and sore at the end of day. I created this recipe that calls for dandelion oil, marjoram, and white fir essential oils. Your muscles and joints will thank you!

Homemade Dandelion Muscle Rub Salve >>

homemade sunburn spray recipe

25. After Sun Spray

I have a light complexion, so I always wear a hat outside and generally try to keep my skin covered. However, every once in a while, I forget and require a bit of extra skin-soothing after a day spent gardening in this sun. This is my top remedy for that– and the Prairie Family agrees.

DIY Soothing After-Sun Spray >>

how to make beeswax candles -- a simple tutorial!

26. Candle Making

Whenever I make tallow or melt-n-pour beeswax candles, I always add some essential oils to the mix. You’ll find they aren’t quite as strong as some of the fragrance oils, but they do add a bit of scent and you don’t have to worry about chemicals in your candles.

My tallow candle recipe >>

My beeswax candle recipe >>

homemade hot process soap recipe

27.  Soap Making

If you’re looking for a super strongly-scented soap, you probably *won’t* want to use essential oils, as it takes a LOT of oil to make a potent-smelling bar. However, I usually add oils to my homemade soap when I want a lightly smelling bar, and that has worked great for me. Here are my soap recipes for you to play with, too—>

homemade laundry detergent recipe

28. DIY Laundry Detergent

This recipe is so darn frugal, you won’t believe it. A BIG batch costs just a few bucks to make, and it’ll last forever. Add lemon, lavender, or melaleuca essential oil to boost its cleaning power. Be sure to line-dry in the sun after you wash, too!

DIY Laundry Detergent for Pennies >>

how to roast a pastured turkey

29. Meat Bird Brine

There are a bazillion ways you can use oils in cooking, and this post is long enough as it stands right now, so I won’t list all of them. However, I love adding herbal oils like thyme, rosemary, or basil to my brines when I am preparing to roast a turkey or chicken. They add a strong pop of flavor, and it only takes a drop or two.

My Turkey Brine Recipe (but it works for chickens too!)

pico de gallo recipe, fresh salsa

30. Super Awesome Salsa

I never seem to have lime juice or fresh cilantro when I need it, and the store is 40 miles away, so I rely heavily on lime and cilantro essential oils when I make my favorite pico de gallo salsa from garden tomatoes. Cilantro is also a fabulous addition to chili or chicken tortilla soup. Just remember to only use ONE drop– it’s potent!

Homemade Salsa with Lime and Cilantro Oil >>

Purchase essential oils directly from me HERE >>

essential oil hacks for modern homesteading


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Deep Mulch Gardening FAQs Thu, 12 May 2016 16:34:19 +0000 Back in the day, I was known as the “goat blogger”… …thanks in part to my Goat 101 series and our small herd of extremely hard-to-contain dairy goats. But as I drifted away from the world of goatiness (hello big beautiful Brown Swiss milk cow!), I’ve found myself taking on a new identity: “That mulch […]

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mulch potatoes

Back in the day, I was known as the “goat blogger”…

…thanks in part to my Goat 101 series and our small herd of extremely hard-to-contain dairy goats.

But as I drifted away from the world of goatiness (hello big beautiful Brown Swiss milk cow!), I’ve found myself taking on a new identity:

“That mulch garden girl”

Yup. That’s me. And I’m happy to claim it.


I won’t go into the back story of how I got into the whole mulch thing because you can read all about it here, but needless to say, I’m going on my third year of heavy mulch, and don’t plan to go back to bare dirt gardening anytime soon.

In my garden, deep mulching has:

  • Cut my weeding time down to almost nothing
  • Reduced the amount of water my garden requires
  • Reduced the frequency I have to water
  • Improved my soil (there are worms everywhere now!)
  • Helped me fall in love with gardening again

Even with all those benefits, inevitably when I start talking about spreading mountains of hay on my garden, I get a number of folks who think I’m slightly insane. Not that I blame them or anything– it does look rather bizarre at first. And then after the sideways glances fade, the questions come…. Through email, through Facebook, through blog comments, you name it. You wanna know the details, and that’s good, because that’s why I’m here.

If you want the FULL scoop on the plan, purpose, and process of deep mulch gardening, you definitely want to grab my free mulch ebook– it includes pictures and ALL the details.


But today I’m specifically going to answer some of the most common objections and questions I get regarding this unorthodox method. If you’ve been considering this method, hopefully you’ll find the As to some of your Qs below:

Deep Mulch Gardening FAQs

Q: You say to mulch with hay. Won’t this introduce hay seeds into my garden and result in a whole lot of unwanted grass?

A: As long as your mulch layer is thick enough (at LEAST 8 inches), you should NOT have problems with hay seeds. If you do end up with a thin spot and grass poking up, simple cover with more hay. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a deep enough layer, though.

Q: I’m still worried about hay seeds. Can I use straw instead?

A: Sure! I prefer hay since it is easier for me to obtain, but straw will work too. You can also use leaves or really any mulching-type material you have available.

deep mulch garden method

Q: Have you heard of the Back to Eden method? Why don’t you use wood chips instead?

A: Yes, I am very familiar with the Back to Eden method and love the concept. There are a few reasons I chose to go with hay mulch rather than wood chips:

  1. Hay is much more readily available to me in our local area
  2. I have heard from a few people who tried the Back to Eden method with sketchy results. I suspect this may have something to do with the nitrogen content in various soils or how long the garden had to age and mature. I personally was nervous about hauling in loads of wood chips, dumping on the garden, and then having to remove them all if it didn’t work like I had hoped.
  3. This post written by a fellow homestead blogger sealed the decision for me.

Q: Doesn’t the deep mulch attract lots of mice or rodents?

A: I personally haven’t had mice issues in my garden, but maybe that’s because they are all in my house… In all seriousness though, I have yet to find evidence of mice tunnels or nests in my mulch, even though I have plenty of mice in the barn, chicken coop, and yes, house.

deep mulching garden

Q: Does the deep mulch attract lots of snakes?

A: We have a decent population of bull snakes and rattlesnakes in our area, but I have never had issues with them in the garden. I do suspect our free-ranging chickens help to deter them from around our yard/barn area, so maybe that plays a part.

Q: What about slugs and snails?

A: I get this question a lot, but unfortunately don’t have an answer since we don’t really have slugs or snails here in Wyoming. If you do deep mulch in an area with slugs, I’d love for you to let me know your experiences!

Q: And voles? Do you have vole problems?

A: I wish I had a clear answer for this, but voles are not prevalent where we live, so I have not had experience with them in a garden or otherwise. Sorry!

Q: What about moldy hay? Can I use that?

A: You bet. Rotten hay will work just fine. Just be cautious when handling or spreading moldy hay and be sure to wear a dust mask, as that stuff can really mess up your lungs.

mulch potatoes

Q: Do you have to remove the hay so you can till in the spring?

A: I’m going on my 3rd year of deep mulch and the rototiller is still sitting in the shed collecting dust. Last year and this year I have planted with zero tilling. I simply pulled back the mulch, “roughed up” the dirt in the row with a hoe or a stick, and planted as usual. The mulch kept the soil soft and wet– no tilling required.

Q: What about fertilizer?

A: The rotting/decomposing hay will provide some nutrition and organic matter for the soil. Beyond that, the Queen of the Deep Mulch method, Ruth Stout herself, used cottonseed or soybean meal to fertilize. I personally prefer not to use cottonseed or soybean meal, so I have been amending rows with finished compost as needed. So far, so good, but I plan to keep experimenting with this. Stay tuned…

Ready to jump on the deep mulch train and cut down your garden chores drastically?

Download my free Deep Mulch eBook!


Other Deep Mulch Posts:


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Dandelion Salve for Muscles & Joints Tue, 10 May 2016 16:31:25 +0000 It’s that time of year… …when shriveled dandelion bits litter my kitchen, and desk, and float in random cups half-full with water. Every single time my 3 year old brings me a fistful of fuzzy yellow flowers, I can hardly bear to throw them away, even after they have wilted beyond recognition. Picking dandelion blossoms is a […]

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homemade dandelion salve recipe

It’s that time of year…

…when shriveled dandelion bits litter my kitchen, and desk, and float in random cups half-full with water.

Every single time my 3 year old brings me a fistful of fuzzy yellow flowers, I can hardly bear to throw them away, even after they have wilted beyond recognition. Picking dandelion blossoms is a childhood rite of passage.

I used to consider the predictable yellow flowers popping up each spring to be a nuisance. Something to be eliminated or (*gasp*) even sprayed. But I have seriously changed my tune, even before I had grubby little toddler fingers picking them for mama.

As I’ve learned more about the plants growing wild on our homestead, I’ve come to wholeheartedly agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson when he said, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtures have not yet been discovered.”

I’ve learned how to enjoy lambs quarters, purslane, prairie mushrooms (no, NOT the hallucenogenic kind, thankyouverymuch.), and yes, even dandelions.

The only weed I have yet to reconcile with is the stubborn yellow dock that is attempting to overtake my garden (yes, even WITH my heavy layer of hay mulch…) but I haven’t given up hope that I’ll find a use for that eventually. (But for now, I’m hacking it with my hoe, because it’s driving me crazy.)

It’s boggles my mind how obsessed Americans are with eradicating dandelions when they have SO MANY potential health benefits, including:

  • Supporting liver & kidney function
  • Providing anti-inflammatory properties
  • Soothing skin irritations
  • Easing pain of sore muscles and arthritis

Although there are tons of ways to eat the things, I have been especially interested in dandelion’s muscle soothing properties lately and wanted to make a dandelion salve for those long days spent outside working in the garden or fixing fence.

The Prairie Kids were THRILLED to have a new purpose in their incessant dandelion harvesting, and it only took us a few minutes to fill a colander with enough dandelion blossoms to make a big batch of muscle salve.

dandelion salve recipe for muscles and joints

Dandelion Salve Recipe for Muscles

To Make Dandelion Oil:

  • 1 cup dandelion blossoms
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil (or other liquid oil like almond oil or apricot oil)

Allow the dandelions flowers to dry overnight to remove a bit of the moisture content, then add the wilted flowers and olive oil to a small saucepan and gently bring to a very slow simmer. Allow the flowers and oil to gently simmer for 2-3 hours.

homemade dandelion salve recipe

Strain out the flowers, and store the finished oil in a cool, dark place.

(Alternatively, you can do a solar infusion and simply add the flowers to the oil and allow them to sit in a sunny window for 2-4 weeks. This will give you the same result (a dandelion-infused oil), but just takes longer)

To Make Dandelion Salve:

  • 1/2 cup dandelion oil
  • 2 tablespoons beeswax pellets
  • 10 drops marjoram essential oil (optional)
  • 10 drops white fir essential oil (optional)

In a double boiler*, gently heat the dandelion oil and beeswax pellets.

Stir over low heat until the beeswax is fully melted.

Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for several minutes, then add the essential oils (if using). Pour into small glass jars or tins, and allow the dandelion salve to set up for several hours.

dandelion salve recipe for muscles and joints

Store in a cool, dry place and rub onto joints and muscles after those long homestead work days.

*If you don’t have a double boiler, simply place an oven-safe bowl or cup in a small saucepan filled with water, and melt the beeswax/oil mixture in the bowl or cup.

Dandelion Salve Notes:

  • IMPORTANT: Please only pick dandelions from areas you know have not been sprayed with herbicides.
  • I added marjoram and white fir essential oils to this recipe, as they are known for their ability to soothe muscles and joints. However, you can omit them if you like, or substitute other oils instead (such as lavender, peppermint, etc). These are my favorite essential oils in the whole wide world.
  • For a firmer salve, slightly increase the beeswax. For a softer salve, slightly decrease the beeswax.
  • I don’t have an exact shelf-life for this homemade salve, but I know my other versions generally last quite a while (3+ months).
  • Check out my Gardener’s Hand Cream Recipe if your hands are feeling extra dry and crusty after a day in the garden.
  • And if you want to play around with more herbal salves, here’s a recipe for Homemade Comfrey Salve.

dandelion salve recipe for muscles and joints

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