Cleaning with Essential Oils

Essential Oils are so trendy..or they were..maybe I’m behind the times. Are they still trendy?

Essential Oils – amazing little bottles of scent for so many tasks around the homestead!

They are the distilled heart of the herbs and flowers we interact with everyday. And they’re great for cleaning!


I like dropping some lemongrass in with my Murphy’s Oil Soap and hot water then wiping down all the wood in my house until it gleams.

Or mixing baking soda and Lavender oil in with a little water to make a paste that scrubs away the soot and mildew stains after a long winter. (Yurts tend to have some condensation issues when snowy winter cold on the outside competes with wood-stove warmth on the inside.)

I love mixing lemon oil in with vinegar to spritz on our windows, and wipe them clean before laying them out in the sun to brighten up. I don’t have lemon right now though, so I’ve been using orange instead.


And in the winter when I deep-clean and the whole house feels a bit tired, I put quite a lot of drops of bergamot and lavender and yarrow essential oils in the big iron dragon on the wood-stove. I fill him up with water and let the scented steam come pouring our to make all things fresh again.

Essential oils all have different properties. Some, like tea tree and lavender destroy mildew, others, like coffee, are better added to a counter/cutting board wood balm and rubbed into the wood. The coffee oil gives wood an extra sheen and moisture, and it smells amazing!




7 Quick Takes: Rebuilding and Renewing

1. Tearing down the house and putting it back up again was so hard! Oh my goodness I’m still exhausted..that might be due in part to last night’s mini-sickness – both kids woke up a few times to vomit a bit and then sadly drift back to sleep – I didn’t get to sleep in between episodes of sickness though, and they we awake and nestling in bed with us by 5, so yeah, exhaustion.


But the house-cleaning was a huge undertaking..that canvas roof is super heavy! We scrubbed the interior walls, aired everything out, wiped down wood, and painted the wall panels before putting it all back together again. Now Seth is painting the ceiling and rebuilding all our problematic essentials, like the door. We have a tapestry up now to give the impression of a door.

Between all the house-stuff and homeschooling, we’re insanely busy these days, hence the neglected blog..but my house is going to look amazing this fall and winter! So it’s all worth it.


2. I’m delving into a new level of homesteading this year..fermentations! We’ve made saurkraut and sour pickles before, but right now, I’ve got a kombucha SCOBY growing, beets, carrots, and onions lacto-fermenting on the shelf, pickles and dilly beans perched up beside the flour, saurkraut in the big crock on the floor, and a new sourdough started doing it’s thing on between the jars of fermenting roots. Oh, and honeys too: garlic, peach, blackberry and tulsi, basil, and rose-hip honeys in the pantry. It’s an exciting time! We’re stocking up on things for late fall and winter, trying to be more homesteady and less self-indulgent, and loving it all!

3. I’m also steeping some Fire Cider for winter healings: peppers, onions, garlic, rose-hips, the last of the bee balm, ginger, turmeric, horse-radish, and a golden beet are all chopped up and drowning in apple cider vinegar. This stuff is such a germ-killer, I can’t wait to have it all bottled and dose-able.


4. With all this fermentation and homesteading-hardcore, we’re moving as a family to a more traditional, whole-foods approach to eating. Ok, we’re always been pretty whole-food-y, but now we’re not just rejecting stuff because it looks and tastes kinda yucky, we’re building on the food-culture that naturally exists in a home with two really good cooks and lots of homegrown much as sometimes I love eating a plant-based diet – Yay Lent! – its not something that I can sustain or enjoy long term. I have the Nourishing Traditions book coming soon, and I’m digging back into healthy, sustainable, traditional foods! It’s exciting and fun so full of variety right now that I really just want to go out and refresh our entire pantry, but…

5. It’s a tight-budget season for us as well. There is so much to do in preparation for winter, and so many repairs and replacements happening that despite some awesome work, it’s a tight time financially. Not painfully tight, just one of those times that has me putting off enthusiastic purchases that will renew everything..good training in learning to want less and make do with more! My husband is fantastic at this, he always finds something to use in building something new – our goat-shed was built entirely with material we had on hand, and he’s doing the same with most of our yurt renovations! He’s just amazing! It’s actually (as dorky as this might sound) an inspiration to watch him change something worthless into something beautiful.

6. We haven’t moved everything back into the yurt, and I don’t think we will. I am in love with all the space and the open walls, I want to bring things in very, very slowly, find a home for each object and stop when the house feels done. I don’t want my house to be full of distractions and toys and little bits of whatever. I have nothing under my bed right now and it looks so good!! And the kids can play under there, Luba can sulk under there, it’s such a nice little spot right now. I want it to say nice and clean and happy.  So I think this is the time to go forward with minimalism. No more half-hearted little purges, so much is going out the door forever this fall! Good-bye toys, good-bye 2nd and 3rd copies of books, good-bye unrepairable bits of pottery!

And at some point, goodbye clothes I’m only partially attached to, but right now, with 90% of my wardrobe falling in that category, I’m putting off the big-clothing-purge. Sometime before the new year though, I am determined!


7.  I might take another social retreat this winter, maybe start off the New Year with one. Has anyone done this? Time away with no visitors, limited tech – I had phone hours last time, and the rest of the time my phone was off, off facebook, very intentional blogging times and essentially just a lot of solitude with my little family and Jesus. It’s seriously one of the most reviving things I’ve ever done. I really want to make it a regular practice, but I’m not sure of an ideal time. The new year seems like a nice choice…what do you think?


Tearing Down the House

We’re doing it! We took the walls off on Sunday and scrubbed them down, they’ll be painted today or tomorrow. This morning Seth is taking down the dome and we’ll be re-adjusting the lattice, cleaning the beams, and taking off the roof for cleaning and painting. It is so exciting. I can’t wait for my house to be all refreshed and ready for autumn!


Right now, we’re tenting in the yard. The kids have been having a blast running wild, helping with clean up, and snuggling down in the nest of blankets our little tent has become. It holds the heat so well, the tent is warmer than the house would be during these chilly nights, and we can hear all the night noises just a little bit more clearly: the goats stamping and kicking their walls, the guineas waking up early, the rustling in the trees – just out of sight. Luba curls up in the tent with us, feeling deeply loved and taking up much more than her fair share of blankets.



We’ll be busy this week with all the cleaning, painting, fixing up, and putting back together; and then afterwards we’ll be redecorating a bit. Replacing old shelves with something stronger, purging out all the things we don’t want to put back in the house, and getting ready for the cold weather that is coming oh-so-soon!


Rain Week

My rain barrels are close to overflowing! They were empty before the rain started last Sunday. The chicken run, the goat yard, the driveway, are all muddy and messy now. But it’s a happy, autumnal mud. Russian folklore would have me give over early September to St. Paraskeva-the-dirty, patron of fertile fields and muddy roads.


The beaver pond was low, almost a stream again before the rain. It’s high up the shoreline again. Hopefully our beavers are still there, settling in for winter, taking down trees for us to burn later.

It’s warm again this week. Summer temperatures, but with that fall scent in the air. People are out buying autumn decorations at the stores – but I don’t need them! I have two eager kids collecting red and gold (sometimes brown and crumbly) leaves, little stones, ferns, and pretty sticks for me to place on the altar; picking goldenrod and tansy for the table, and filling the house with baskets of woodland beauty.


I also have blackberries scattered all over the land. Enough to add to pancakes, muffins, quick-breads, and sauce-less pizzas. And, if you’ve never made grilled cheese with blackberries, basil, and fresh mozzarella..well, you need to come see me before the berries are gone!

Bookish Homeschooling: September Breakfast Reading

We’re a week into schooling – and the structure of the day is holding up, for the most part, to distractions, spontaneity, and all the little things in life!


We start the day with breakfast..well, the kids start the day trying to intrude on my early morning time, actually. They’re supposed to stay in bed until at least 7 while I instagram (@beautifulcrows if you’re interested), journal, make coffee, and pray..this is a new system, so it’s taking time to adjust to for Ilya who is used to running around like a wild man in the morning asking for ban’a and fig. Yarrow loves it though, she reads quietly in her bed, I read quietly at the table.

At breakfast though, when everyone is permitted to be up and we have bowls of oatmeal or plates of toasts with almond butter and grapefruits before us, I read books from our ‘morning basket’. We start with the Bible, a few poems, and then there could be selections from the art book, people around the world, our current saint book, nature reading, catechism, Spanish, alphabet books, or history. I try to mix it up so that there are a few books that are just on Ilya’s level and a few that challenge both of them. The books that I want Yarrow to narrate from after reading I read last, and right after an Ilya book. I also invite him to narrate as well – because he loves feeling big! – and give him lots of help.

Right now, we’re reading Matthew in the Bible, such inviting language for the kids! Two or three poems from our favorite Sing a Song of Popcorn poetry book; or two poems in both Spanish and English from The Tree is Older than You Are; Tomie dePaola’s Life of Mary (we love starting tbe school year with Her); an illustrated book called People by Peter Spier; The Story of Painting by the Jansons. And occasionally, selections from A Gospel of Wild Flowers, Star Maps, and Dahlov Ipcar’s ABC books. For Catechism Yarrow is currently reviewing the Faith and Life first and second grade books and Ilya is listening to My First Catechism: the Catholic Faith for Little Ones. But Faith and Life has gotten super dull for Yarrow, and I’m thinking of switching us to My Catholic Faith, an early 20th century catechism text that seems more interesting. History texts are still up the air..


We don’t read all this every day, right now so much is just review..but we love having a book-heavy start to the morning, and a cozy early morning with coffee, books, ideas, and all the pretty pictures is such a gentle way to get little minds working again after a long night of dreaming.



( I feel like a real homesteader now!)


Aren’t they pretty!

Lilith, Pele, Freja, and Inanna arrived Wednesday. They’re nubian does, none of them are milking currently, but we hope to have two of them bred this fall if possible. Right now, they’re just settling in and loving their new home.


The kids are in love..they’re learning to handle themselves around slightly larger-than-Luba animals, learning that goats don’t always respect personal space, and happily feeding hay and grasses to the greedy goats.

It’s so much fun.


They also read to them, because what goat doesn’t want to hear the story of ‘The Fortune-Tellers’ or ‘The little Red Caboose’ three or four times a day? Our girls are an attentive audience. Most of the time..

We have a bit to learn about goat-tending, and the does have some learning to do as well..none of them has walked on a halter – though they’re pretty well behaved, they don’t know how to be led. So we’re learning together!

And while we do, our overgrown, briar-filled land is being tamed. It’s a delightful new adventure.