Urban Homesteading and Sustainable Living

A Joyful Homestead

Category: Homesteading

Easy Knit Fish Dishcloths

In my group of close friends, I am known for my knit “fishy” dishcloths. I recently contacted the creator of the pattern that I use and got her permission to share the free pattern and sell the colourful dishcloths that I make. I love making them, and like to give at least one as a gift to each of my friends before I will accept paid commissions from them.

When I first started, I followed the pattern completely and used one solid colour, but soon branched out from that and changed up the colour for the “lips” and tails. I don’t think any of my solid colour dishcloths are still around.

Next, I started varying the colours in the cloth by using coordinating colours. This leads to a ton of extra work in weaving in the ends, but I feel it’s worth it. When I discovered scrubby yarn, I started making my dishcloths with a 2-inch strip of scrubby in the middle of the cloth, then added it to the tail as well.

Here is the link to the original pattern. It is very similar to the basic knit dishcloth that many knitters know, but with a fun twist. You can also buy a print-ready version of the pattern and support the designer on Ravelry.

Let me know if you’ve tried the pattern and please share your finished cloths on Instagram!

5 Best Natural Pumpkin Spice Lip Balm Recipes – DIY

Why jump on the pumpkin spice train?

It’s pumpkin spice season! I adore pumpkin pie, but have been slow to hop on the pumpkin spice bandwagon because I tend to avoid things that I deem “too trendy”. I realized how silly this was, considering my love of pumpkin pie. I’m also a self-confessed lip balm nut (one in each room!), so I went in search of a great recipe and tutorial for making pumpkin spice lip balm.

I reviewed 13 DIY recipes and tutorials for making pumpkin spice lip balm and chose the 5 best. You can read the details of my criteria in detail below the list.

My criteria for rating the lip balms:

  • All natural – no petroleum jelly or highly processed ingredients
  • Easy to follow instructions
  • Attention to safety considerations
  • Quantity – I wanted a small batch, so I don’t have pumpkin spice lip balm all year
  • Authentic flavour/smell – bonus points if it contains actual pumpkin oil or puree

#1 DIY Natural

  • Instructions

The instructions for this DIY lip balm are concise and scored full points for ease of reading and following. The ingredient choices are explained clearly.

  • Attention to safety considerations

This tutorial includes a warning against using cinnamon, clove or nutmeg essential oils for skin care. It advises using a double boiler or a mason jar in a pot of water, which are both safe options for melting beeswax and heating oils.

  • Quantity

This recipe makes about 4 tins of lip balm. This isn’t explicitly stated in the tutorial but is clarified in the blog post comments. Unfortunately, the author does not indicate the size of lip balm tins she used. I tried this one myself and it made 4 tins plus 3 small tubes.

  • Authentic flavour/smell

The addition of pumpkin seed oil gives this balm an authentic pumpkin smell and colour. It is also a great moisturizing, nourishing oil. While the recipe calls for premixed pumpkin pie spice, a link to a recipe is given as well. I had a hard time finding pumpkin pie spice, so I appreciate that this recipe link was included.

Bonus: Includes a link to a great 3-ingredient diy recipe for pumpkin pie spice lip scrub. I would add some crystallized raw honey to this recipe as a humectant and extra exfoliant.

#2 Hello Glow

  • Instructions

Hello Glow’s recipe exceeded my expectations for ease of reading and following. The author adds some important information in the introduction, yet doesn’t get too wordy.

  • Attention to safety considerations

This is where this blog post really caught my attention. She has a medical doctor who specializes in skin health review her recipes. While she doesn’t go into the dangers of using too much cinnamon or other spices, the fact that she has a dermatologist review it makes up for that. This tutorial’s method for melting the beeswax also meets the safety criteria, as she advises the use of a double boiler. While this is a kitchen tool that not everyone has (I don’t!), you can easily substitute a two layer steamer pot with water in the bottom, or even put a Pyrex measuring cup in a larger pot of water.

Improvised double boiler – The safe way to melt wax and oils
  • Quantity

This one only makes one 15 ml or 0.5 oz tube or tin. This is perfect for someone who is not sure if they will love it and the recipe is so easy to scale up if you do.

  • Authentic flavour/smell

While there is no pumpkin oil or puree added, this one calls for pumpkin pie spice and honey, which make for a terrific pumpkin pie smell & taste.

Bonus: This blog post also has a super easy 4-ingredient edible pumpkin pie lip scrub recipe!

#3 The Squishy Monster

  • Instructions

This tutorial is so easy to follow, and also includes a great video, but could be clearer on exactly what temperature to melt the beeswax at if using the microwave. She mentions to do it low and slow, but doesn’t give specifics.

  • Attention to safety considerations

The recipe calls for powdered spice, which I believe is safer than hot (spicy) essential oils. She gives the reader the option of using a double boiler on the stove or using the microwave on low, but doesn’t give clear directions for safe microwaving of beeswax.

  • Quantity

Both the pumpkin spice and hot cocoa lip balm recipes in this blog post make 3 to 4 pots or tubes of lip balm, which is perfect.

  • Authentic flavour/smell

This recipe calls for either coconut oil or pumpkin seed oil, so the pumpkin flavour factor is really up to personal choice. You could even do half coconut oil and half pumpkin seed oil as an alternative.

Bonus: The YouTube video of this tutorial is embedded in the blog post (rather than opening in a new window), and the hot cocoa bonus lip balm sounds delicious and rich.

#4 Humblebee and Me

  • Easy to follow instructions

While this tutorial has easy to follow instructions, the measurements of the ingredients could be clearer. It includes both metric and imperial, but has all the ingredients in ounces and grams, where perhaps teaspoons and tablespoons would be easier. She advises weighing the ingredients, but not everyone has a kitchen scale, especially one that can accurately measure very small quantities. I do have a kitchen scale, as it is so useful for both cooking, canning and DIY projects.

  • Attention to safety considerations

This is one of only 2 tutorials in the top 5 that calls for essential oils rather than powdered spices. The preamble to the recipe includes a warning about how stimulating the cinnamon oil can be and advises against increasing the quantity. The melting instructions call for placing a glass measuring cup in a shallow pan of water that is just barely simmering, and allowing 10 minutes for the beeswax to slowly melt. Be sure to follow the recipe carefully and don’t burn yourself with too much cinnamon oil.

  • Quantity

The yield for this recipe is 8 to 9 tubes, which is a bit more than I would prefer of one flavour.

  • Authentic flavour/smell

While I haven’t personally tried this recipe because I currently have no other use for cinnamon or clove essential oils, I believe the combination of pumpkin seed oil, cinnamon & clove will make the flavour suitably pumpkin-y.

Bonus: The YouTube video that accompanies this post is very well done and shows each of the steps clearly.

#5 Mom off Track

  • Instructions

One thing that I really love about the instructions in this tutorial is that the author includes a link to her other lip balm tutorials and urges caution for beginners. The steps are easy to read and follow. The recipe includes cocoa butter which will add a luxurious richness to the finished lip balm.

  • Attention to safety considerations

While the recipe does call for essential oils, which can be irritating to sensitive skin, there is a safety warning included. The method used to melt the beeswax (double boiler or improvised version) is the one I have used myself. The instructions also include safety considerations of using plastic or glass pipettes to fill the lip gloss tubes.

  • Quantity

This recipe makes 6 tubes, which is great if you want to have some to share.

  • Authentic flavour/smell

As with the previous recipe, I will not be trying this one because of the use of hot essential oils. If I do try it one day, I’ll update this post with a more complete review. I like that the recipe not only has pumpkin seed oil, but also calls for a bit of nutmeg rather than just cinnamon and clove.


There are absolutely no ads on this blog, which makes it so easy to read. I’m looking forward to reading more of her tutorials and recipes. As a fellow blogger, I do understand why many choose to monetize their blogs with ads, and I still might do so myself, but I really love how clean this blog looks.

Honourable Mentions

Saved by Grace

This was the only recipe I found that includes pumpkin puree, so it gets top marks for authentic flavour. The only reason this one didn’t make the top 5 list was that the quantity isn’t clear. At one point in the blog post she says it will make 8 tubes, while in another place it says the yield is 3 to 4 tubes. I do intend to try this one when I have some canned pumpkin puree open for a baking project. As it only calls for 1 teaspoon of puree, I can’t justify opening up a can without finding a reason to use it all.

Living Well Mom


  • Easy to follow instructions with good pictures of each step
  • Excellent tips and troubleshooting for making DIY lip balm in general


  • Instructions show melting the beeswax in a pan directly over the heat, which is not advisable for a beginner. It’s much safer to heat it slowly with your pan or pyrex measuring cup in a larger pan of water.
  • Recipe makes 12 tubes, which is a lot unless you have friends and family you can give some to. I am a self-confessed lip balm addict and I typically go through about 1 tube a month.

Everything Pretty: Your Beauty Blog

I included this tutorial because it gives instructions for making coffee infused oil to make your lip balm like a pumpkin spice latté.

Why it didn’t make the top 5: It calls for the use of 4 essential oils, all of which could be considered potentially irritating to the skin, and doesn’t include a warning about using them.

Criteria for Ratings


There are 2 basic ingredients to any DIY lip balm recipe: beeswax and an oil (often coconut or almond). Some recipes also include a butter (usually shea, cocoa or mango), and some include honey as a humectant (attracts moisture). I wanted to find recipes that would be easy for a beginner, and have only the essential ingredients. As you get more experienced with making your own lip balm you can add extras such as vitamin E oil or honey.

Essential Oils or Ground Spices?

The 13 pumpkin spice lip balm recipes that I read and analyzed reviewed fall into 2 clear categories: those that call for essential oils, and those that call for ground spices. After reading through thirteen different recipes, it became clear to me that the use of ground spices was likely slightly more skin-safe than the use of essential oils (EOs). Either way the spices & oils can be irritating, and mixing a set amount of spice versus just a few drops of oil seems less error-prone. Recipes that called for both EO and ground spices with no safety precautions got lower ratings.

Other Safety Considerations

Another safety consideration when making lip balm is the heating method: stove-top or microwave. The stove-top method using a pan or pot of water (or a double boiler if you have one) is the safest, as it allows you to melt the beeswax slowly and safely. I did a quick google search on the dangers of microwaving beeswax & found this cautionary tale. If you must use a microwave, be sure to only go as high as medium and melt it in short bursts followed by stirring.

Bonus Points and Demerits

I gave bonus points to recipes that included actual pumpkin ingredients, such as pumpkin seed oil or pumpkin puree, and further bonus points if the blog post included anything extra such as a complementary lip scrub or alternate balm recipe. Posts with videos in addition to pictures and easy to follow written instructions were ranked higher too. I also awarded bonus points to any recipes that mentioned the skin-safety considerations of cinnamon and other warm spices.

Recipes were ranked lower if they didn’t specify the number of tubes or pots of balm it should make or if the instructions were not clear enough. I didn’t include any recipes that I felt were totally unsafe or missed too many of my main criteria. All of the recipes reviewed below are based on all-natural ingredients, so I’ve removed that from consideration in the rankings.

Have you tried any of these recipes? If so, let me know in the comments. I tried the recipe that I rated #1 but added 1/2 teaspoon of honey to it. It has a subtle pumpkin pie smell and feels soft and moisturizing.

honey garlic ferment

Fermented Honey Garlic

Fermented garlic honey is one of the easiest concoctions to make, yet it looks, smells and tastes like you put much more effort into it. I like to give small jars to friends as Christmas gifts, but it’s great at any time of the year. This fermentation does not produce more than a trace amount of alcohol.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using the link.

Honey on garlic

Why make a honey garlic ferment?

First of all, it’s delicious. I use it as a base for marinades quite often. Friends tell me they like to spread it on toast like preserves. It is reportedly good for immune system support and is wonderfully soothing for a sore throat. I don’t bother buying throat lozenges anymore unless I am travelling. When I wake up in the night with a sore throat, I get up and take one spoonful of the mixture and go back to bed. Many people take a spoonful daily as an immune booster. It is great for adding to your daily dose of fire cider. Let me know in the comments how you have used your honey garlic.

Here are the basic ingredients needed:

  • Raw honey (unfiltered and unpasteurized)
  • Several heads of organic garlic
  • A large mason jar with a lid (I use a quart size jar)
Ingredients for garlic honey ferment.

Raw Honey

I buy raw honey from a local apiary. Raw honey is essential for the fermentation process, as it contains wild yeast and bacteria necessary for the process. Raw honey contains antioxidants and probiotics, has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, and has been used for thousands of years as a folk remedy. Read more on the health benefits of raw honey here.

Do not, under any circumstances, feed raw honey to anyone under the age of one, as there is a risk of botulism. The number of cases of infant botulism reported in Canada between 1979 and the present is relatively small (42 cases) but despite that, all sources I have read on raw honey strongly advise against feeding it to infants. If you are concerned about botulism, you can test your honey garlic mixture with a pH strip or digital pH meter.


Any type of garlic will work for this, but I recommend using organic, locally grown garlic when possible. Commercially sold garlic is sometimes treated with chemicals to prevent it from sprouting, and you do not want that in your mixture. I grow my garlic, but also buy some from the farmer’s market as I do not have the space to grow enough for the year.

Honey poured over garlic

Jars and lids

For my ferments, I typically use a quart or litre size mason jar, but you can make as much or as little as you desire. I recommend using a plastic mason jar lid, such as these by Ball. You can use the metal canning lids that come with the jar, but I prefer to save those for canning. The plastic lids are easy to wash and re-use, and eliminate the potential for rusting if the rings contact the honey garlic mixture (and they will).

You can also use silicone fermenting lids, but I have not tried this method, as it would still require either the solid lid for turning over or stirring with a spoon. I find the honey to be too thick to stir for the first few days. I may try this as an experiment, but I am happy with the loose lid method that I am currently using.

The amount of garlic you need will depend on the size of your jar. You ideally want to fill the jar 3/4 full with the garlic. For peeling large quantities of garlic, I use a pint-sized mason jar with a lid. Separate the cloves from the heads and place them all in the jar. Secure the lid and shake vigorously until you see the skins start to loosen. Dump the cloves onto a cutting board, and remove any skins that are still attached.

Honey garlic fermenting


  • Fill mason jar with peeled garlic to between 2/3 and 3/4 full. Garlic should be slightly bruised from the peeling process (see above). If they are not, gently press on them with the flat of a table knife to bruise them. You do not need to cut them, but I like to take off the end of the clove (the end that was attached to the bulb centre).
  • Pour or spoon raw honey into the jar until the garlic is covered. Leave about 1” to 2” head space. If your honey is quite crystallized, you may want to gently soften it first by either running the container under hot water, or placing the container it in a bowl of hot water. Do not put your honey container in the microwave.
  • Cover the jar by loosely screwing on the lid.
  • Place the jar on a small plate or saucer. Some of the honey mixture will bubble up and leak out of the jar.
  • Turn the jar over about once a day, after first tightening the lid. Remember to loosen the lid slightly when returning the jar to its upright position. If your honey is runny enough, you can shake the jar rather than flipping it.
  • Your garlic will be finished fermenting in about one month, but you can use it earlier if you want.
  • Some of the honey may remain crystallized, and that is quite normal.
  • You can add more honey and more garlic to the jar as you use it, or you can start a new batch when you get low. I usually add to mine when the jar is about half empty.

Over the next few days and weeks, the honey will become more liquid, as the moisture from the garlic is absorbed. Try to keep the garlic covered with honey, especially in the first two weeks. Turning the jar regularly should be sufficient (see instructions above). Keep the jar out of direct sunlight.

That’s it! How easy was that?! Let me know in the comments if you have tried this or have any questions before starting.

Fire Cider Recipe, Instructions and Tips

Fire cider was invented by master herbalist Rosemary Gladstar and some of her students in the late 1970s. The original recipe only contained 7 ingredients:

  • Apple cider vinegar

  • Onion

  • Garlic

  • Ginger

  • Horseradish

  • Hot peppers

  • Honey

Rosemary Gladstar has authored several books on herbalism over the years, including a new one that I’m excited to check out: Fire Cider!: 101 Zesty Recipes for Health-Boosting Remedies Made with Apple Cider Vinegar, published by Storey Publishing in October 2019.

The recipe that I use has several more ingredients in addition to the ones listed above.

This is my third year making fire cider with this recipe, and I only make it once a year because it makes a gallon (approximately three litres). I usually give at least one litre of it away to friends.

I use it in the fall through spring as an immune booster. Friends of mine discovered that it is also great for sore throats, but I highly recommend watering it down and adding a spoonful of honey if your throat is feeling raw.

Ingredients Fire Cider

Chop of the all ingredients below as thinly as possible (or in 1/2” to 1” chunks if you are pressed for time). Be prepared to be chopping for up to an hour. I prefer to hand chop the ingredients rather than use the food processor, but that is totally an option to save time and labour. I’ve provided both metric and imperial measurements. Here in Canada we tend to use a mix of both.

  • 1 orange with peel

  • 2 lemons with peel

  • 1/2 lb (226 g) ginger root (peeled or not – your choice)

  • 1/2 lb (226 g) horseradish root (easy to grow!)

  • 1 large yellow or white onion

  • 2 whole heads of garlic (the peeled weight should be 2-1/2 to 3 oz or 80 g)

  • 2-3 large jalapeno peppers (peppers with similar heat can be substituted)

  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme (I use lemon thyme)

  • 3-4 sprigs of rosemary

  • 1/2 cup of chopped parsley

  • 2 tbsp turmeric powder (or fresh turmeric root chopped finely)

  • 1/4 cup whole peppercorns (rainbow peppercorns are fun to use for this, but use what you have on hand).

  • Apple cider vinegar, unpasteurized, with the mother – approximately 1.5 litres (1.58 quarts)

Ginger, Garlic, Apple Cider Vinegar

Place all the ingredients in a 1 gallon or 3 to 4 litre size glass jar, or other glass container. Pour in the apple cider vinegar. If your jar has a metal lid, cover it first with wax paper or plastic wrap before screwing it on. If you skip this, the vinegar will corrode the metal lid. You don’t want rust in your fire cider!

I used a 3 litre size fermentation jar with lid for this batch, but you don’t need to get that fancy. For my first batch I used a sterilized fish bowl covered with plastic. I got the fish bowl at the thrift store for $2.

If you want to start off with a smaller sized batch, I suggest looking at a different recipe. There are many online to choose from. Here is a link to a good one from Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment that uses a quart size jar. This one from Homestead & Chill uses a half-gallon size jar. I honestly prefer to make a larger batch, so that I have enough for a full year, but beginners might want to start smaller.

Shake or stir the mixture daily for 3-6 weeks. Strain the mixture through either a fine metal strainer or cheesecloth. Store in glass bottles or jars, with rubber stoppers or plastic lids (no metal lids). Drink 1-2 oz a day, watered down and sweetened with honey if desired. I don’t always water mine down, and I rarely add honey, but that is personal preference.

Fire Cider in litre bottles

After straining the solids, you can compost them, but I recommend dehydrating them if you can. I froze mine because it was too cold to dehydrate outside when I strained it. I don’t recommend dehydrating the solids inside, as the smell will be quite strong and over-powering. You can grind the dehydrated solids into a powder and use it as a spice to add heat to dishes.

Fire cider solids
Fire cider solids after straining liquid
Dishwasher detergent

Easy DIY Dishwasher Detergent

Homemade dish detergent is easier than I thought. I wanted to find a simple DIY recipe that used very few ingredients and would be environmentally friendly while still doing a great job of cleaning. If you’re already into eco-friendly, natural home cleaning, you may already have the ingredients for this in your cupboards. I’m sharing this recipe with you, in the hopes that you can save money, reduce harm to the environment, and make fewer trips to the store. I’ve been using this since 2019 and love how easy it is. 

The three basic ingredients are washing soda, citric acid and vinegar. I buy a large box of washing soda about twice a year for $6-8 a box, and a large bag of citric acid sells for $11 on Amazon. I have also recently noticed it in the laundry and cleaning products aisle of grocery stores. I buy large jugs of white vinegar wherever I see it on sale, as it is my most commonly used household cleaning product.

Washing soda is sodium carbonate and has a high pH (alkaline), so it is best to keep it out of reach of children and avoid prolonged contact with the skin. It is rated as safe by the EPA and FDA. For more safety information click here. You can make your own washing soda by heating baking soda in your oven, but unless you are on a very tight budget, I recommend saving yourself some time and just buying it from the hardware or grocery store. Here in Canada, I buy it at Safeway or Canadian Tire.

Citric Acid occurs naturally in all citrus fruits (and some other fruits like strawberries and pineapple), but the citric acid you buy is typically synthetically manufactured. You can buy food grade citric acid that is safe to use as a food additive. It is one of the most common food additives and is typically used as a preservative or flavour enhancer. While it is rated for safe ingestion and handling, I find that it irritates my skin, so I always use gloves when handling it. It is great for cleaning soap scum and mineral scale, so it is my go-to product for cleaning the bathtub and sinks. This also makes it ideal for adding to the washing soda to give the dish-washing powder a boost. If you are concerned about the safety or price of the citric acid, there is an easy, affordable alternative: unsweetened lemonade or other citrus-based juice crystals. Check the ingredient list carefully to make sure there is nothing unnecessary added to the juice crystals like colour or artificial flavour. You could also use watered down lemon juice, but unless you have an excess of lemons and nothing better to do with them, that would not be very cost-effective.


This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using the link.

Dishwasher detergent ingredients


Fill a quart-size or litre jar with washing soda, leaving about 2 inches of space on top. Add 4 tbsp of citric acid and stir or shake the jar. I recommend Ball or Bernardin plastic lids if you don’t want to use your metal canning lids. I have started storing mine in a quart-size glass storage container with rubber seal (pictured above). The wide mouth makes it easier to scoop out. 

Fill your dishwasher’s detergent container, close it, and you’re almost ready to go. The final ingredient, vinegar, gets added to the bottom of your washer and will help keep your glass dishes spot-free, as well as acting as a disinfectant. I use about a half cup but I honestly don’t bother measuring how much I splash in anymore. It is not a necessary ingredient if you are on a budget and don’t mind a few spots. The washing soda and heat of the water is sufficient to clean and sanitize your dishes.

We are a two-person household, and typically fill and run the dishwasher once a week. When we have family visiting, this can increase to up to 4 times a week, but even with annual month-long family visits in the summer, I only need to buy the washing soda twice a year. I go through citric acid and vinegar a bit faster, as I use both for general cleaning.

Some DIY dish-washing powder recipes also call for coarse salt and baking soda, but unless you find your dishes aren’t as clean and spotless as you want them, don’t bother with adding them. The citric acid softens the water much as the salt would, and baking soda is generally added to break down grease on dishes. I pre-rinse the majority of my dishes, so I don’t find that baking soda is necessary.

Let me know if you try this recipe and it works as well for you as it does for my household! We are on city water, so this recipe will likely need some tweaking if you are on well water that contains more minerals. Remember that you can add a cup coarse salt or Epsom salt to the detergent if your water is especially hard.

Update Sept. 18, 2020

I ran out of citric acid and tried using just washing soda and vinegar. The dishes still came clean, but some of my glassware had a cloudy film. I had to then rinse them by hand. After I added citric acid back in this week, there is no more film, so it is an essential ingredient.