DIY Mason Jar Soap Dispenser

I’ve eyed the useful mason jar soap dispensers made by creative people and thought I’d try to make one myself. Was it difficult? Not at all. This DIY project takes a few minutes to pull off.

All you need is a mason jar with a wide mouth lid, a push pump from a discarded soap or hand cream dispenser (I had to cut mine down so it would fit in my pint jar,) a pair of pliers, and a Sharpie.

Mason Jar + Lid, Pliers, Sharpie, and Pump. Photo © Liesl Clark

Find the center of your flat mason jar lid and punch a hole in it with a can opener (oh right, that’s one more tool you’ll want.)

Making Your Center Hole. Photo © Liesl Clark

I was able to make a hole quite easily with my pliers. Draw a circle around the hole that’s in the center of your lid, is in my first picture, and start to pull the hole apart, making it wider and wider.

Starting to Make Your Center Hole Wider. © Liesl Clark

You simply keep pulling the pieces of metal wider and wider around the edges of your circle until they’re just wide enough for your pump to fit through.

It Will Start To Look Like a Flower. Photo © Liesl Clark

When you have sufficient room for your pump, slip it through but try to keep the fit quite tight.

Thread The Pump Through the Hole. Photo © Liesl Clark

I pressed the edges of the metal lid down tight against the lid to prevent any future cuts when I need to add soap to my dispenser. You can use a silicone sealant to lock the pump down to its center hole and smooth out your sharp edges.

Sealed Soap Dispenser. Photo © Liesl Clark

This whole project took 5 minutes once I had gathered my supplies.

DIY Soap Dispenser, Ready For Use. Photo © Liesl Clark

When we went away on vacation our cat knocked over a pretty glass dispenser I gave my husband for Christmas. My husband is the dishwasher after dinner and I wanted him to feel like he had a cool “tool” to use at the sink.

Our cool new kitchen 'tool:" Our DIY soap dispenser. Photo © Liesl Clark

We mostly use baking soda for our dishes, but this liquid soap gives great suds if you like ’em and makes a mild hand soap, too. Our current liquid soap is an extremely watered-down (like 6:1 water to soap) biokleen dish soap.

DIY Dish Soap Dispenser. Photo © Liesl Clark

DIY Cat Scratching Post

Give your kitty what she wants and make a real-tree natural cat scratching post! My theory is that your average carpet-remnant cat scratch tree only encourages your furball to scratch up your carpet or upholstery. If you give your cat what she wants, an actual tree branch to sharpen her nails on, she’ll leave your furniture alone. That’s what our cat does…mostly.

A Real Tree Cat Scratch Tree!

So, we went out to our brush pile and found the perfect curving fat tree limb with two Y branches growing from it so our kitty could have a few spots to climb to. I found a piece of particle board to screw the sawed-off limb onto. It was as simple as that. This scratching post has lasted 4 years and our cat still uses it happily.

We often attach bits of string with fun things for our kitty to bat at, to make it a fun playspace for her.

She loves her real tree cat scratch tree.

But here’s the best thing about this cat gym: When we’re done with it, we can break it down and burn it in our fireplace. No issues about waste here.

Do you have a DIY cat scratching post you can share here?

Make Your Own Off-The-Grid Yogurt

I’m amazed at how hard it is to find yogurt in glass. Supermarket yogurt is mostly in plastic containers and if you’re trying to keep your family plastic-free, yogurt would have to be taken off your list. Unless you make your own.

We’ve been making yogurt for about 12 years now and it wasn’t until 4 years ago that I realized I didn’t have to make it in a yogurt maker with those tiny little jars. When I was 16, I recall making yogurt on the beach in a big camp pot when my big brother and I were camping during the summer on the island of Corsica in France. The simple process of making yogurt in a pot, bowl, or jars in the sun or by a fire should’ve stuck with me, but somehow I became complacent, thinking I needed a yogurt maker to make the good stuff. Not so.

Off-the grid yogurt with honey from our bees. Photo © Liesl Clark

Off-the grid yogurt with honey from our bees. Photo © Liesl Clark

Today, I make yogurt in bulk — large quart mason jars of it so I can share starter with friends or barter it for other fresh produce or home-made goodies. I don’t need any electricity to make it so I call it off-the-grid yogurt, reminiscent of my teen days in France.

This yogurt is the best I’ve ever made or tasted. All started from organic Greek full cream goat’s milk yogurt. But now I simply use our local organic whole milk as the yogurt’s main ingredient, which is delivered once a week to our home. This yogurt lasts in the fridge for months without molding!

All you need is a couple of tablespoons of leftover yogurt as your starter for the next batch. We usually make at least 2 quarts of yogurt.

Ingredients:

Whole milk (at least 1 quart)

2 Tablespoons yogurt (I prefer organic)

Jars with lids

Pour your favorite whole milk into a pot. There’s no exact measurement for this, just pour as much milk as you want yogurt. It’s basically a 1:1 ratio of milk to finished yogurt.

Pour whole milk into a pot. Photo © Liesl Clark

Pour whole milk into a pot. Photo © Liesl Clark

Set your timer for about 8 minutes so you don’t let the milk boil over.

You want to heat up the milk until it scalds. You’ve scalded it when little bubbles start to appear on the sides of the pot and a film develops on the surface.

Scald your milk. Film on top is proof of scalding. Photo © Liesl

Scald your milk. Film on top is proof of scalding. Photo © Liesl

Turn the heat off and take the yogurt off the burner to cool. Let it cool to room temperature. Add your 2 tablespoons of yogurt and with a wire whisk, whisk the yogurt completely into the milk. Pour the milk/yogurt mix into jars.

Place your jars of yogurt into a pot of warm water. You want to create a warm water bath. I simply put my pot of water over our pilot light and that’s enough to keep the jars warm overnight. You can also place the jars on a warm lintel above your fire in a towel or blanket for warmth. The key is to have a spot that is consistently warm for 8-12 hours. The longer you let your yogurt mixture sit in the warmth, the firmer it gets. I go about 12 hours.

Water bath pot over pilot light method. Photo © Liesl Clark

Water bath pot over pilot light method. Photo © Liesl Clark

When it’s to the consistency you like, put it in the fridge to let it cool. Enjoy!

Off-the-grid yogurt in a quart jar. Photo © Liesl Clark

Off-the-grid yogurt in a quart jar. Photo © Liesl Clark

My friend Rebecca has another method, which I call the warm cooler method: It involves putting your yogurt jars-in-the-making in a cooler surrounded by other jars of warm water and some blankets and towels. Check out her excellent method here.

Do you make your own yogurt? What method do you use? Let us know in the comments below!

Reuse Your Wreath Frames!

Rosemary Wreath, All From Salvaged Materials. Photo © Liesl Clark

Rosemary Wreath, All From Salvaged Materials. Photo © Liesl Clark

When it’s time to take down your wreath after the holidays, get out your pruning clippers and cut the wreath frame free from the pine boughs, compost your pine boughs and you’ve got a wreath frame for next year.

Last Years' Wreath Adorns the Chicken Yard and Still Smells Nice. Photo © Liesl Clark

Last Years’ Wreath Adorns the Chicken Yard and Still Smells Nice. Photo © Liesl Clark

We place our aging wreaths around the chicken coop fence to adorn their abode and when Christmas comes around the next year, I reuse my frames. But this year I was lazy. My husband, Pete, and friend Rebecca found 3 wreath frames on the beach when we were on one of our “Mapping Plastics” legs circumnavigating our Puget Sound Island.

Plastic Wreath Frames Rescued From the Beach

Plastic Wreath Frames Rescued From the Beach

Seems some islanders throw their grass, tree, garden, and bush clippings along the banks of the shore, including their wreaths. This is a long-standing practice as evidenced by the number of yard debris dump sites we’ve found along the shore. Residents want to fortify their bluffs and low banks with grass, sticks and garden waste. But now there’s evidence this practice isn’t great for our waters.

Pete and Rebecca, Recovering Plastics Embedded in the Bank. Photo © Liesl Clark

Pete and Rebecca, Recovering Plastic Wreath Frames Along the Banks of Puget Sound. Photo © Liesl Clark

According to Island County’s Shore Stewards News, “If you use fertilizer or other chemicals on your lawn, those chemicals will make it to the shoreline along
with your clippings, killing fragile marine life. Grass without chemicals can be dangerous, too, as the excess nitrogen can raise temperatures and pose a danger to marine life.”

Yard Debris Piles Along the Banks of Puget Sound Pose Problems for the Marine Ecosystem. Photo © Liesl Clark

Yard Debris Piles Along the Banks of Puget Sound Pose Problems for the Marine Ecosystem. Photo © Liesl Clark

The dense organic debris in piles, which will ultimately end up in the Sound, can pose problems for shellfish beds, too. Our discovery of the wreath frames wasn’t a surprise, after all, because they’re plastic. They were destined to begin a journey onto our waters, but we plucked them from the bank as they easily rested on top of some sticks. We had no idea what they were at first and it wasn’t until we later inventoried the plastics that we determined their purpose. I shared some on our local Buy Nothing group, saved one, and now I have a homemade wreath to show for it!

Rosemary Bush Gets a Haircut, Photo © Liesl Clark

Rosemary Bush Gets a Haircut, Photo © Liesl Clark

Truth is, my rosemary bush needed a haircut. Pete pruned it and I’m using the clippings for my wreath. A trip to the back yard with pruning shears resulted in a few sprigs of salal and holly. And with a few pieces of salvaged thin wire found on the beach, I wove together my rosemary wreath — all from salvaged materials.

A Rosemary Wreath Smells Lovely. Photo © Liesl ClarkA Rosemary Wreath Smells Lovely. Photo © Liesl Clark
Share with us your own homemade wreath ideas!