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We were in the market for a new outdoor chick brooder and decided to try out the chicken coop from Lehman's! We really enjoy this coop as our outdoor brooder. It also works amazingly well as a rabbit hutch and for just a couple of chickens as a breeding pen.

You can watch the full length video here...

The Lehman's Chicken Coop & Brooder - YouTube

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I'm not a soapmaker. Let's just start with that. However, I love homemade soap, and I have some amazing friends who are awesome soapmakers.

Soap making is one of those lost skills that truly does take a few tries to learn and get right. Thankfully, it's really not a hard or complicated process, it just looks a little scary when it comes to using certain ingredients.

Lye, specifically, scares the bejeezus out of me. However, when I got Jan Berry's book, Simple & Natural Soapmaking, a brand new sense of confidence welled up within me. This book is absolutely incredible and takes all the "scary" out of it! It's perfect for the beginner soap maker, and even the experienced one.

The photos alone are gorgeous to flip through, and Jan's ease of instructions are so inviting to the homesteader.

Here's one of my favorite recipes from her new book, which you can find here.

Plantain is a common leafy green weed found throughout the world that soothes, cools and moisturizes. This soap recipe features nourishing plantain infused olive oil, but for an extra dose of herbal goodness, you could also use cooled plantain tea in place of the water.

Before you make this recipe, you’ll first need to make plantain infused oil. To do so, fill a canning jar about half-way with dried plantain leaves. Pour olive oil over the dried herb until completely covered by several extra inches of oil. Cover with a lid and infuse for several weeks, then strain. For a quicker infusion, set the uncovered jar into a saucepan filled with a few inches of water. Heat the pan over very low heat for 2 to 3 hours. Cool and strain. Use in place of regular olive oil in soap recipes.

Plantain Leaf Herbal Soap

Makes 7 to 8 bars (2.5 lbs/1.13 kg)

Lye Solution
3.95 oz (112 g) Sodium Hydroxide (also called Lye or Caustic Soda)
8.75 oz (248 g) Distilled Water or Plantain Tea
1 tsp French Green Clay (optional, for pale green color)

Solid Oils
7.5 oz (213 g) Coconut Oil
4 oz (113 g) Mango or Shea Butter

Liquid Oils
13 oz (369 g) Plantain Infused Olive Oil
3.5 oz (99 g) Hemp or Avocado Oil

1.05 oz (30 g) lavender essential oil (optional, for scent)

Notes & Tips

If you don’t have mango or shea butter, try using cocoa or kokum butter, tallow or lard for a similar effect.

To further enhance the recipe, you could add 1 tbsp ground oats and/or 1.5 tsp honey (diluted with 1.5 tsp water) at trace.

All oils, butters, water and lye should be measured by weight. You need an accurate scale to make soap.

Step 1: Make the Lye Solution

Wearing protective gloves and eyewear, carefully stir the lye (sodium hydroxide) into the distilled water or plantain tea until dissolved. Stir in the French green clay, if using, for added color. Work in an area with good ventilation and be careful not to breathe in the fumes. Set the lye solution aside to cool for about 30 or 40 minutes or until the temperature drops to around 100 to 110°F (38 to 43°C).

Step 2: Prepare the Oils

Gently heat the coconut oil and mango or shea butter on low heat until melted. When the solid oils are melted, take the pan off the heat and pour in the liquid oils. This helps cool down the melted oils, while warming up the room temperature oils.

Step 3: Mixing

Pour the cooled lye solution into the warm oils. Using a combination of hand stirring and an immersion blender, stir the soap batter until it thickens and reaches trace. Trace is when the soap has thickened enough so when you drizzle a small amount of the batter across the surface, it will leave a fleeting, but visible imprint or “trace” before sinking back in.

Step 4: Add Essential Oils

If using, stir in the lavender essential oil.

Step 5: Pour in Mold

Pour the soap batter into a soap mold. Cover lightly with wax or freezer paper, then a towel or light blanket. Peek at the soap every so often; if it starts developing a crack, uncover and move to a cooler location.

Step 6: Cut & Cure

Keep the soap in the mold for 1 to 2 days, or until it’s easy to remove, then slice it into bars when it’s firm enough not to stick to your cutting tool. Cure on coated cooling racks or sheets of wax paper for about 4 weeks before using. The soap is safe to touch 48 hours after making it but it needs the extra time to allow the excess moisture to evaporate out.

You're done!
Enjoy your soap!

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We read blog after blog claiming things like elderberry syrup, fire cider, and some type of tonic all help to reduce cold and flu symptoms. My favorite misconception is that echinacea is a preventative to catching the common cold and flu. while in reality, clinical studies have been shown that echinacea does not, at all, prevent anything. However, it is a great herb once you get sick, and helps lessen the symptoms and length of the cold or flu. Just make sure you don't take it if you have a ragweed allergy, because you'll make yourself ten times worse.

So what happens when you spend hundreds of dollars in all of these herbs and then, they don't work? Well, I'll tell you what—your husband looks at you and bans you from ordering herbs off the internet for the next 6 months.

I kid...kind of.

As I study Master Herbalism, I find more and more that approaching health from a scientific herbal standpoint really makes a huge difference. For years, I've used the same Elderberry syrup recipe, and most years it worked, however, I saw some variances and I could never figure out why. This came from a lack of education on my part. I think about it now and I cringe at the advice I was giving others, but we live and learn. The reality is that my syrup was effective some times and not other times because I wasn't measuring my herbs by weight. But it was also because I wasn't using these herbs to their fullest potential.

Recently, I discovered I could make my elderberry syrup much more amazing with preventative benefits. My goodness, what a difference it has made in our family. 

The combination of elderberries and astragalus root have maximized our ability to prevent viral issues and the common cold. It has also helped us boost our immunity, as a preventative, when we are in situations where we need it. This looks a lot like taking this syrup before going to school, before going on a play date, to an amusement park, or even the grocery store. 

We all know that Elderberries have major health benefits, including immunity boosting and reducing the duration of colds and flu. 

Elderberry + Astragalus Syrup

100 g dried black elderberries

20 g dried astragalus root

15 g dried ginger root (or powder)

8 g dried clove

1 quart distilled water (or previously boiled water)

½ cup organic sugar (or evaporated cane juice)

1 cup raw honey


  1. In a large sauce pan, add elderberries, astragalus, ginger, clove, and water. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook down this mixture on medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture has reduced by half. This can take 20 to 30 minutes. 
  2. Remove from heat and strain your liquid into a bowl or container (glass). Measure your liquid, which will be about 1.5 to 2 cups, most likely. 
  3. Place your liquid back into a sauce pan with your sugar and honey. Bring your mixture back to a boil, stirring frequently to ensure proper mixing, and boil for 10 minutes, or until your desired consistency. We enjoy a thick honey like syrup, but you can make it as thin or as thick as you’d like. Consistency is not key. 
  4. Funnel your syrup into glass bottles once cooled a bit, and cap tightly. Preserving them in the refrigerator promotes shelf life and ensures less bacterial contamination. However, they can be stored in your pantry or medicine cabinet as well. 
  5. Make this recipe in smaller batches if only using for one or two family members. Double or triple the batch if making for larger families. 

Raw Honey Note: When using raw honey in syrups, you’re not always using raw honey for its medicinal properties, as those are destroyed during the boiling process. You are using honey as a means to deliver the herbal medicine, as a natural sweetener. You don’t have to use raw honey, you can use organic processed honey, but we always have raw honey on hand on our homestead.

You can certainly wait and add the raw honey after the mixture begins to cool to maintain its medicinal properties, however, you’ll most likely need to indefinitely store the syrup in the fridge to ensure a longer shelf life.

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