In Limbo

So it’s been four months since my last post, and I’ve been working relentlessly toward the goal of getting to the East Coast – but as with anything else, every day life tends to find ways to trip you up every step of the way.

A month ago, we moved our daughter into her dorm room…at University… three and a half hours’ drive from home.  I thought I might die…but I didn’t.  I miss her terribly, but I got used to not having her around the house rather quickly – so much so that I actually feel guilty about it!  Is that crazy?  Of course I want her home, but I know she’s okay, and that she’s out there chasing her OWN dreams, and that makes me so proud I cry when I stop and think about it too much.

Now, with her going to school – we’re not sure yet if it will be for four or five years – comes a hefty bill.  Student loans and grants are going a long way, but not quite far enough.  So now we’re not only saving to get out to where we want to be, but we’re also saving to pay the balance of her tuition.  It’s putting a bit of a damper on things, but I’m not giving up.

My husband seems to think we’ll be another couple of years where we are, before we can move…I don’t know if he’s a pessimist or a realist, or maybe I’m just really really hopeful and positive.  I’m really hoping to be out there this time next year, before the first snow flies…but I guess time will tell!

Soooo…. while we’re in limbo, I’m still making plans.

When we do move, we’re only going to be taking the best things with us, and then starting fresh out there…the less we move, the cheaper it will be for the moving service.  So I’m taking inventory of what we have, purging out what we don’t need,  don’t want, and making lists.  Oh, and giving new life to pieces I want to keep!

So this past weekend, I gave my bathroom a bit of a makeover.  Taking it from ‘Eeek to Chic’… I had this really old book shelf I’ve been using in there for storage, but it had literally been getting so jumbled and messy it was making the whole, already small bathroom, seem smaller, and look as if it belonged in a fraternity house.  Not really the look I was going for.

So armed with a couple cans of spray paint, I set out.  And I took it from this…

To this…

…and I have to say, I’m quite proud of myself!  Yes, my spray-painting skills need to be GREATLY improved on, but unless you’re looking real close, you can’t see the mistakes!  Some spray paint, new towels, and a new shower mat, and I’ve got a brand new bathroom…for under $100!!!  Crazy how a few little changes can make a huge difference!

Project number 2 – I desperately needed a big desk / work station / studio.  The corner of the living room was being misused – it was and eyesore and useless.  So the dog bed is going into the bedroom…the small desk will be my next project… and the space is now transformed from this… (ignore the horrible floor and big clumps of black dog hair!)

desk before

To this…

desk after

It’s not “pretty”, but it’s useful and will serve its purpose while we’re here.  The small stand at the end will get a new paint job to match the “teal/white/grey” theme I’ve got going, and I’ll hang some art work and a large cork board on the wall.

The adjustable saw-horses were on sale from $80 to $24, the sheet of press-board was $25, and the 2×10 hubby cut to keep it from bowing was free as it’s been sitting outside since last year.  So now I have a large work space for all my crafting and sewing and design work and even our regular boring office/bill/budget crap…all for under $75!

I’m taking advantage of every space I can use in this tiny 730 square foot home – and making the best of it while we’re here… which is hopefully not for too much longer!

 

Garden by Design – And it Begins

It’s finally that time, and I’m so excited!  No more snow, and I’m almost certain that frosty nights are almost a memory.  Time to start some seeds!!!  I have to say however, I need to get a better setup.  This sitting and bending forward – yeah, not doing it for me (or my poor back!).

Man, I just LOVE this time of year, digging in the dirt, new growth everywhere you look, it’s so energizing!  Like Mother Earth is waking up and she’s finally done with the morning grumpies.

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I love playing in the dirt…don’t you?  I love opening a new bag of soil and running it through my fingers.  It’s like the grownup version of mud pies.

I’ve got lots of work to do still, and a lot more seeds to plant, but at least I got a start on it tonight.  I even hit two of my ‘Garden by Design’ picks!

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I’ve got lots of basil because I plan on making some pesto (mmm!)…some spinach and chives, and thyme (another GBD pick!), five cucumber plants – I might just try my hand at pickles – and some corn.   Seriously people, I cannot live without corn.  If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be corn.

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I’ve also got some green bean bushes, and lettuce.  A lot of the seeds I’m planting now, I will plant more of in a couple of weeks.  I’m going to try some succession planting so that everything isn’t all ready at the same time and then finished.  I’m also going to try some companion planting.  I’m thinking peas to go up the corn stalks…what do you think?

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These little ones started off as little shoots sprouting off of a rutabaga I have sitting on my counter.  I picked them off, dropped them in a glass of water, and about a week and a half later, I had some roots!  …and I just picked three more little buggers off of it, so we’ll see if they do the same!

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All in all, I think it was a pretty productive evening.  I still have to get my little tomato seeds planted (and hope they grow!), but I’m also going to get other tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, plant the pepper seeds I saved, and lots and lots of flowers.

I wanted to do so much, but after thinking about it extensively, I feel that if I over-do it, I’m going to get overwhelmed and fail.  I want to do quite a bit still, but I think I need to cap it so I don’t sabotage myself with my first real garden.

Now I’ve got to finish some tasks I’ve already started so that I can get these in the ground when they’re ready!  1) Finish clearing out the flat area of the yard, 2) Get our burning permit so we can get rid of all of this wood (and save the ash for other homesteading projects), and 3) get the materials I need to build my raised beds and just Git R’ Done!

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Task 4… fill up this hole Tucker found so we don’t break a leg while mowing the lawn!  …I have to admit, it does look kind of cozy though!

Spring Fever

It looks like Mother Nature might finally be done sulking – today has been the most glorious day!  Warm, sunny, and just completely perfect.

The last few weeks have been a bit wonky.  Warm weather one day, a snow storm the next.  It has a way of making people miserable.  Add to that, that every single one of my little baby apple trees died and well, I haven’t exactly been a happy camper when it came to homesteading activities.

But with today being such a beautiful day, I figured I’d trade in my cabin fever for Spring fever!

I stepped outside, and almost walked right back in.  Yard clean up after years of owners completely neglecting it, is a daunting task.  But I rolled up my sleeves (and didn’t think to wear gloves or long pants – not my best moment).

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I’m pretty sure some of these dead tree limbs – lets face it, they’re too big to merely be “branches” – must have been here for years!  They’re so dry the pieces just snap right off.  Piles of branches, and what seemed like miles of this invasive vine growing everywhere and attaching itself to everything.

Once the bulk of it has been cleared out, I think the lawnmower will be the best line of defense against it.  It seems to just take root wherever it touches the ground – I’m really not sure what it is, but it’s completely taken over this part of the yard.

Three and a half hours later, I’ve made some progress.  Not close to being done just yet, but the pile of wood I dragged out of there is heartening!

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Tomorrow, we’re going to go pick up a burn permit.  Neighbors tell us they’re only $23 per year – a very small price to pay to get rid of all of this, and enjoy months of backyard fires, while avoiding the $250 fines for burning without a permit.

It’s always a good idea to inform yourself when you move to a new area.  You want to make sure you know the laws and follow them – it’s not worth the aggravation to be a rebel. 😉

I have to say, I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished today.  I’m not sure if I’ll be able to move tomorrow because every part of me aches, but seeing an end in sight puts a smile on this girl’s face.

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Now I face a conundrum.  This is the flattest spot in our yard.  It’s also home to some pretty big trees.  Trees = shade.  I want to put my raised garden beds here, but I also want to be able to grow a wide variety of vegetables.

The Summer sun will hit that spot when it’s high in the sky, so I can confidently guess at about six hours of good sun, and then partial / spotted shade.  The neighbors also advised us today that the very heavy population of rabbits ate their entire lettuce and kale crop last year, so I think some sort of fencing will be in order.

Another neighbor (his dilapidated garage shown in the picture) told us that wild raspberry is rampant back here as well, so it looks like I’ll be able to make a few jars of homemade raspberry preserves this year!  Bonus!!

Aching body, sore feet, and splintered hands aside, I’m so excited to finally be able to get started making this backyard jungle turn into an oasis.  And I can’t wait to take you all along for the ride!

Sunday Do-Da-Day

Today was a do-day.  Since yesterday ended up being rather less-than-ideal for reasons I won’t go into, I wanted today to be a productive day.

It started with my alarm waking me up at 1:00 AM so that I could pick up my daughter from work.  “I’ll be done at 1:30.” she’d told me.  I got there at 1:27…and waited until 2:23. Sigh.

But my bed embraced me like a lover when I got home, and I stayed there until about 9:30. When I woke up, it was to a veritable Winter Wonderland!  Big fat beautiful snowflakes were falling slowly, making it feel as if we were in a snow globe..and it seemed they had been doing so all night!  About 6 or 7 inches I would say, and it was still coming down.

I know many places have been completely pummeled by Father Winter in the last few days, and our measly half-foot is probably laughable to a lot of people.  But we had about a centimeter on the ground before last night, so a beautiful picture to wake up to this morning!

I think workouts that aren’t an actual ‘workout’ are the best ones.  Good old fashioned hard work in the great outdoors.  Shoveling heavy snow has to be one of the best in my opinion.

Before I joined hubby outside to shovel, I put a big pot of homemade vegetable broth on the stove.  It’s my first attempt at it, and I’m proud of the outcome!  I see lots of soup in our future!

Now that I know how easy this is, my freezer will never be without lots of this stuff.  You can do so much with it!!

Everything went in – from the bunch of celery that had long ago seen it’s prime and was laying rather…um…unmanly…in the bottom of the crisper, to ends and peels from the carrots, parsnips and turnips I chopped up as part of the week’s food prep – even dried up rosemary sprigs and the stems from a bunch of parsley!  When we walked in after an hour of hauling snow, the house smelled yummy!

I’ve got about a dozen freezer bags now filled with either broth or chopped veggies ready for the slow-cooker as this week’s meals!  One of the main topics of our last family meeting was being better organized for meal-time.  We’re now deciding the meals we’ll be eating for the week ahead on the weekend, and I’m prepping as much as I can ahead of time so make things easier during the week!  Tomorrow…Beef Stew!  …and of course something vegetarian for my daughter.

Tonight it was just hubby and I for dinner, so I made us some homemade poutine with some vegetarian gravy my co-worker gave me with strict instructions to give him my absolute honest opinion.  …I’ll be asking for his recipe tomorrow!  Went a little bit rebel-child with the cheese, mixing it up with some sharp yellow Cheddar and some jalapeno Havarti.

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Oh, and can’t forget my little surprise this morning when I checked oh my baby orchard!!  They are all popped!!  All nine of them!!  I’m so fricken excited!!!! 🙂  I can’t wait until they start looking like little baby trees!

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So now it’s nearly 11:00 PM on Sunday night, my feet ache for being on them all day, and I don’t want to go to bed because as soon as I do the weekend is over!

Hope you all had a good weekend, and wishing everyone a good week ahead!  And for those especially in the areas that have been and are still getting hit with insane amounts of snow, please stay safe!
*** UPDATE ***

Apple trees aren’t ALL doing as well as I thought.  While 1 and 2 are doing great, already showing off their first set of real leaves, 3 seems to have popped only to die.  4 and 5 are still showing potential, while 6, 7, 8 and 9 I’m afraid might be stunted but the next couple of days will tell.

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Breathe

Once in a while, you need to just take a breath.  With so much going on, every day…a constant merry-go-round of activity, sometimes you just have to step off the ride and sit on the bench for a minute.

Between homesteading projects, blogging, work, homework, non-profit, house-work, and just trying to stay sane…I need a breather.  Tonight – after I hit the ‘publish’ button – my butt is sitting in this chair and not moving unless absolutely necessary.

It’s going to be me, and my good friend Netflix.

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Tomorrow, I’m back at it.  Between laundry and dishes, sweeping and sorting/purging stuff that’s still sitting in bags and boxes since the move – I’m going to attempt my first try at turning solid Castile soap into liquid Castile soap using this as a guide.  I got my bars on Tuesday (super fast delivery service from Amazon!!), and I’m excited to get started on my base for my products including dish soap, laundry soap, and foaming hand soap (among many others).

But tonight… I do nothing.

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Rub It In

Physical labor often comes with hearty helpings of muscle soreness and aches and pains.  And although we don’t yet have land, we have a decent size yard and I’m anticipating loads of physical labor come Spring time.  Couple that with Hubby being a contractor (construction), and you can probably ascertain that muscle rubs are typically in demand in my house.

A few days ago, I attempted (and succeeded!) my very first DYI homemade product (See post here).  Now I’ve got my second under my belt, and I can wait to see how well it works in comparison to commercially and chemically engineered brands.  Hubby’s going to be my Guinea pig as he’s had a very sore shoulder for the past few weeks, and nothing seems to really help other than applying heat compresses.

I like knowing that what I’m rubbing on our skin is filled with only healthful and beneficial ingredients.  Nothing I can’t pronounce!  Knowing that whatever I put on my skin is flowing freely through my blood stream within 26 seconds, really makes me stop and think before I apply anything.  No wonder so many people get sick with cancers and other horrible and fatal illnesses.  Our daily lives are filled with chemicals and toxins that were never meant to come in contact with human skin, and yet we continue to slather in on day after day without a second’s hesitation.

Going back to the basics with homesteading should also mean going back to the basics with everything else.  I’m not saying you have to stop buying your favorite perfume, or sell your car.  I’m not here to tell anyone what to do.  I’m just saying we should really become more aware, and make better choices when it comes to what we allow into our bodies – whether through our mouth, or our pores.

To make this Muscle Rub, you’re going to need:

  • 4 tsp. organic beeswax
  • 1 cup organic virgin coconut oil
  • 12-15 drops vitamin E oil
  • 15 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
  • 15 drops *RC Essential Oil
  • 15 drops Lavender Essential Oil

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I chopped up the wax (I have to invest in a designated grater just for it…or bite the bullet and order the pellets online), and measured out the coconut oil into a bowl, and added the vitamin E oil.  I didn’t measure the oil, I used 3 capsules, which is about 12-15 drops.  I put my bowl in a large got filled with about 2 inches of water and set the heat to medium.  I didn’t want it boiling, but hot enough to melt the oil and wax.  When it’s completely melted, remove from heat.

You want to add your oils now, before it starts solidifying, and stir well so it’s completely incorporated.  (You can also wait until you’ve poured it into your jars to add your oils individually – in lesser amounts of course – but I prefer to do it all at once.

This gave me enough to fill three jars (about 3.5 oz each.)…the last one is almost full.  It doesn’t take very long for the mixture to start solidifying again.  Just set your jars on a flat surface and let them rest until they’ve cooled completely.

And now that it’s ready to use…Hubby is going to be my Guinea pig to see if this stuff actually works!!! 🙂 …update to come! 🙂

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My goal is to replace all – every single one! – of our chemical-filled products, with all-natural, skin-loving, health-saving, body-nourishing products.  One bottle at a time. 🙂

Here’s my breakdown:

Coconut oil – Same free container I used for the lip balm.

Beeswax – $5.99, and I only used about 1/8th of my piece.  Cost for this batch is about $0.74

Vitamin E Oil – $8.99 for the bottle, and it has 100 capsules.  I used 3.  Cost for this batch, $0.27

Peppermint Essential Oil – $27 for 15mL.  I used 15 drops – $1.01 for this batch

RC Essential Oil – $13 for 5mL.  I used 15 drops – $1.62 for this batch

Lavender Essential Oil – FREE – it was a gift.  If I had paid for it, it would have added $1.09 to my batch.

Glass pots – 2 @ $1.00 each & 1 @ $1.49 – $3.49

My breakdown:

Price of a 3 oz tube of Icy Hot: $10.49 (at my local drug store)

Price of a 1 oz tube of Voltaren: $11.99 (at my local drug store)

Price of three 3.5 oz. tub of my own DIY Muscle Rub: $7.13 ($8.22 if I had paid for the lavender)

Divided by 3 = $2.38 each. (or $2.74 with the lavender)

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*RC Essential Oil is a Young Living blend of Eucalyptus, Myrtle, Spruce, Peppermint, Pine, Lavender, Marjoram, and Cypress.  I wanted to use Eucalyptus but didn’t have any on hand, so I used what I had.  I know it already contains the Peppermint and Lavender, but I didn’t think a little extra would do any harm.

 

                                             ********** UPDATE **********

This muscle rub is a little bit finicky – it doesn’t warm like commercial brands, but I’m very happy to say that it does in fact work very well to alleviate muscle aches and pains!  The key is to keep it at room temperature…a little too warm and it’s too soft…a little too cool and it’s rather hard and you have to scrape it up.  *** NOTE: Less is more – a little goes a long way.  Make sure to rub in well as the main ingredient is oil and you don’t want your clothes to get oily.   

BONUS: The coconut oil also acts as a wonderful moisturizer for your skin 😉 

When Life Gives You Bananas

Ever since I’ve built my DIY compost bin, I’ve been a bit of a produce scrap monster.  Other than collecting it at home, and at the office, I also now have a co-worker bring me HER scraps (I didn’t ask, honest!!)…in return, I’m going to give her a bag of compost when it’s good and ready!  But being winter, everything is just freezing pretty much as soon as I throw it onto the compost pile.

Canadian winters – at least the last few years – can be quite unpredictable.  Gotta love global warming.  One day, it can be a blizzard, or an ice storm and -25 Celsius…two days later it can be 5 degrees and melting.  The last few days have been really mild – although they did include a pretty horrible attack from the ice queen – and now most lawns are completely melted.  My front yard is mostly still all snow, but my back yard has large spots of grass.  So when I got home tonight, I seized the moment!

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When I tossed all of my donated scraps in the compost after work, I noticed a large area at the top of the yard where the snow was completely melted, and copious amounts of still un-raked, beautiful nitrogen-rich maple leaves were just laying there, begging to be collected!  So I hunted out my rake and piled those suckers on top of the frozen scrap heap! These leaves have been sitting there so long, they’re already well into the decomposing stage, and I’m hoping will continue their process, providing heat to the rest of the material and give it a little boost in the right direction!

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I also got a bit of a treasure in today’s bag of scraps – bananas!!  Seven frozen and thawed, mushy bits of perfection!  Needless to say, those did NOT make it to the compost pile…but rather, ended up directly in my oven in the form of Coconut-Banana Cakes/Loaves (I only have 1 loaf pan, so the other one became a cake lol)!  YUM!  I even healthed-up (Edie-ism!!!) the recipe I found – replaced the sugar with honey (in lesser amounts) and substituted the all-purpose flour for whole wheat.  Couldn’t help myself…had a piece straight out of the oven!  I do believe I’ll bring her one tomorrow, a little present for her generous donations to my compost!

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Garden by Design ~7~

Am I the only one who finds that winter can sometimes be a little depressing?  I’m not talking about cabin fever, or even snow or cold.  I’m talking about the lack of color outside! But what about plants that can stay green and colorful right through the cold and snow? And what about when these same plants can give you a natural pain reliever…Nature’s Aspirin.

I’m talking about Wintergreen.  This one will be part of an experiment.  There are a few products I want to attempt to make – and Wintergreen is the major component.  And although I’m going to try making these products now (well, SOON!), with purchased Wintergreen essential oil – it’s going to be a project…I’m going to attempt (learn) how to make my own essential oils…starting with Wintergreen!  🙂

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Wintergreen has WAY too many health benefits to list…it just goes on and on and on!  The one that really attracts me the most is its analgesic properties!  And although I’m not currently ‘working the land’, one day I will be – and with that comes a lot of aches and pains.  Wintergreen will by my little sidekick – helping me keep Hubby and myself in tip-top shape!  Until I experiment with making my own various essential oils, I’m getting them from my good friend Amanda!  (Check out her link, she’s super nice and working very hard trying to build up her business…and did I mention she’s super nice?)

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Have you tried (and succeeded or failed) at making your own essential oils?  Do you have any tips or tricks?  Do you use Wintergreen for anything?

Garden by Design ~6~

I have to admit it.  I’m sorta, kinda, very much addicted to pesto.  I love it!  Pasta just isn’t the same without it, chicken and fish dishes rise to a whole new level, and roasted potatoes…I’m drooling just writing about it!  It’s like, summer in your mouth, with every single mouth-watering bite!  And I know these days there are thousands of recipes using all different types of herbs…but for me, the classic, fresh taste of basil remains the best!

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And if the bright green, fragrant and delectable leaves aren’t enough to entice any gardener,  the health properties should help tip the scales!  Not only is it good for heart health, but it also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties that will allow you to get healthy without the prescriptions.  I don’t know about you, but that’s a huge deal for me!  I found this amazing blogger (her image below with web address),  her posts are really informative and I think you’ll like her!!

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In the garden, it’s also a little sanity saver.  It’s been known to repel flies, mosquitoes (Yayyy!!!), asparagus beetles and whiteflies!  Now, I don’t plan on growing asparagus this year, but I could definitely do without flies and mosquitoes!!!  I think this one will be planted in the main garden beds AND on the patio garden!

And of course, as much as I love it and want to save every bit of it…I’m not completely greedy!  A couple of plants will be grown specifically to leave to flower, so I can give back a little by feeding the bees and other beneficial pollinators…and save a few seeds in the process!  It’s all about give and take with dear old Mother Nature!

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Garden by Design ~5~

After all of the pretty colors I’ve added so far, I think I’m overdue for some fragrant greenery.  I’m going to have a lot of fresh herbs for cooking but the first one I’m going to talk about is Rosemary.

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Not only does this grow in a beautiful lush bush, but it also has so many great benefits for your garden, your home, and your health!

In the garden, it can be your own little bodyguard for your carrots, cabbages, and beans!  I looked it up, and all of those veggies are okay to plant together – BONUS! – so the idea is to plan my garden so that I’ve got all three of those yummies growing in the same general area, and then surround them with a few rosemary bushes!  This green beauty will keep the carrot flies at bay, wage war on the cabbage  worm (cabbage looper), plan a secret attack on the slugs and snails, and organize a coup against the Mexican bean beetle!  I’ve found this list incredibly informative!

We all know that it goes wonderfully with a juicy rack of lamb, but it also does so much more.  When you look up the health benefits of Rosemary – the first one that usually comes up is that it does wonders in boosting your memory!  So if you’re anything like me (my long term memory is fabulous – short term?  Not so much!) you might want to also keep some in a pretty pot on your kitchen counter!  I haven’t done this just yet, but it’s definitely going to happen as soon as Hubby builds me my window shelves above the kitchen sink!

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It’s also said that the aroma will help combat stress, anxiety and improve your overall mood!  Feeling a little crabby?  Stick your face in this little cutie and inhale deeply a couple of times!

But that’s not all!  It also helps strengthen your immune system, relieve tummy troubles, fight bad breath and bacterial infections, help blood flow, and be a general natural pain reliever!  You can read more about all of these in the same place I did – HERE!

 

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All in all – a great addition to any garden, big or small!  What’s in YOUR garden?