I’ve talked about this before, but while I’ve always enjoyed and valued cooking from scratch, this past year I’ve discovered that I also really enjoy some more extreme kitchen-and-home DIY. I waxed rhapsodic about home-brewed kombucha, I plotted homemade yogurt, and I experimented with oil cleansing. A huge – huge — pressure canner took up residence in my kitchen. It has been a lot of fun, BUT it must be said. It has not all been successful fun. Here are the ways I have totally failed at my extreme DIY domesticity.
1. The kombucha.
So beautiful, right? – but where I struggled with homemade kombucha was both in execution and need. First, I have not been able to make a good batch of kombucha. I can’t seem to get it fizzy enough! However, I think a large part of my lack of success is because I just don’t have a lot of experience with it; you get better at most things by doing them, so I suppose if I were to keep at it, my kombucha skills would improve. The bottom line is, though, that I just don’t drink enough kombucha to make brewing it myself worth my time. I know, I know — there goes my merit badge. And I know, I know: ferments are so good for you! I do still have my collection of SCOBYs, though, so I may give it another go this summer just for fun when I start getting a lot of fruits and berries in my CSA. I do like peering at what’s growing in the jar as it ferments.
2. Oil cleansing. Now, the oil cleansing method sounds so intriguing, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it sound … too good to be true, maybe? THAT’S BECAUSE IT IS. I don’t know why I’m such a fool, but I experimented with oil cleansing for way too long and my skin is still trying to recover. I freely admit that I am jealous of the thousands and thousands of people who wrote glowing reviews of the OCM claiming that it was life-changing. I wanted this to work. It’s so natural! So cheap! So easy and promising and nourishing! I was (and still am) tired of feeling like my skin was dry and then slathering on a thick layer of moisturizer. But I finally had to throw in the towel, because my skin, instead of being dewy and younger-looking and fresh and glowing, was constantly irritated and inflamed. And there goes another merit badge!
However — I have found another cheap, natural and very hydrating and nourishing cleanser that is conveniently oil-free that my skin happens to love. Raw honey! Raw honey doesn’t remove makeup, so I usually only use it in the morning. Smear it on a dry face, leave it for a minute or two, and rinse off. Done! At night, I’m using a more traditional face wash that’s paraben- and sulfate-free, and things are getting back to normal. Lesson learned: if you have a good skin-care routine, don’t mess with it.
3. Homemade yogurt.
This pains me to write, because it’s not like I found making my own yogurt to be too inconvenient or time-consuming or messy or annoying. I didn’t. I actually really like making yogurt. No, it’s far worse than that. You see, the reason homemade yogurt and I are on a break right now is this:
I like store-bought yogurt better.
I know: it’s almost too horrible to comprehend, isn’t it? And yet, there it is. I like store-bought yogurt better. It’s the pectin. Homemade yogurt is too runny for my taste! I guess I was just raised with the thickened stuff and it’s what I’m used to and prefer. The other issue with the way I was making yogurt was that the yogurt maker I have has you culture it in seven small glass jars, which makes just over one quart of yogurt total. I could then strain the yogurt to thicken it, which I did several times — the only thing then is that you wind up with about a pint of Greek yogurt, and we can go through two quarts in a week.
Now, I will say that I haven’t yet tried making yogurt in my crock pot, but I have a friend who does that to great success; she strains two quarts of Greek yogurt every week. I am definitely interested in giving that a try if I can come up with a way to keep the milk culturing well enough. My friend uses a crock pot insulator, so maybe I’ll try that out. I know you can also use coolers filled with hot water, heating pads, towels … what I really want is a warming drawer under my oven, but that’s not a part of my life right now. Heh. But seriously, if I could make yogurt in larger quantities successfully, I’d definitely do it. So this hasn’t been totally taken off the table. Like Ross and Rachel, we are just on a break.
But take heart, my friends: my merit badges have not all been torn off my happy-hippie-homemade-scouting vest. For one thing, canning is going well — I processed twenty-seven jars of strawberry jam a few weeks ago, and I’ve also tried out chicken and beans to great success. A few more weeks and canning season will be going strong, with tomatoes, peaches, and pickling cucumbers getting ready to ripen. My goal is to can a ton of tomatoes to use throughout the next year, and I am looking forward to making my own bread-and-butter pickles, hopefully with cucumbers from my garden! I am also hooked on home-canned chicken (excellent for salad toppings and casseroles) and beans are super easy if I can remember to soak them the night before.
I’ve also had a lot of success with homemade deodorant. (Stick with me here.) Mine is a mix of coconut oil, cornstarch and baking soda, with a few drops of jasmine essential oil; it works every bit as well as Dove ever did and there’s no potentially harmful ingredients in it! Plus it costs a fraction of what conventional deodorant does. I am also using a shampoo bar. I have never had much of an interest in doing the whole baking-soda-as-shampoo thing (it’s too utilitarian for my tastes), but I love my shampoo bar! It works every bit as well as conventional shampoo, with all natural ingredients and much less waste. I was following it with an apple cider vinegar rinse, but I ran into a few issues with that: the same utilitarian feel (I like luxury bath products, ok?), plus it kind of smelled like vomit and I found the actual rinse kind of awkward and would often wind up spilling it on the floor of the tub behind me. These are terrible problems, I realize, and I appreciate your sympathy here.
Overall, though, I think I’m finding a happy medium when it comes to an all-natural lifestyle. When I’m trying new things I like to jump all in and then assess to see what I want to keep and what I can let go of. I did the same thing when I started running; I’ve spent enough time out on the road (and the treadmill) by now to know that I love running — but I have absolutely zero interest in a marathon. I’m coming to similar conclusions here. I love and highly value a natural lifestyle, but I am not going to forgo Western medicine in favor of herbs and essential oils, and I’m okay with buying my yogurt at the store simply because I like it better than the stuff I make myself. It’s all a work in process, though. I’m sure I have many more merit badges to earn still!