50+ Ways To Use Wood Ash

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Burning wood for heat means we end up with quite a bit of wood ash. I have a few go-to’s for using it around the homestead but I recently decided to research what else I could use it for. Turns out wood ash is amazingly useful! So, weather it comes from a bonfire or a wood stove, save that ash and put it to use!

But first… a talk about Safety!

Many fires are caused each year by wood ash being improperly collected and stored. Wood ash should always be collected into an empty metal container, after being allowed to cool fully. Only use ash from fires burned from wood without chemicals (like many pallets). Also, don’t use black walnut ash as it will kill plants it is spread over. Gloves should always be worn when making or using lye water, and goggles should also be worn for making lye.

Lye and Lye water are NOT the same product. Never use lye in place of lye water as you could endanger your health.

Now that we’ve had the safety talk, some of the uses I’ve discovered or used wood ash for include:

1. Outhouse Deodorizer

We don’t have indoor plumbing, so I’m well acquainted with this use for wood ash. Just scoop your ash into a metal can and stash it in the outhouse. As for when to use, I find that one scoop per poop works well to limit smells 😉

2. Chicken Dust Bath

Add wood ash to sand for super cleaning power in chicken dust baths. Wood ash acts as a desiccant on lice and mites, killing them and keeping your chickens healthy and happy.

3. Enrich Compost

Wood ash is high in calcium, and contains phosphorous, potassium, and boron. This makes it a great addition to any compost pile. Just be sure not to use too much as wood ash contains salt. A sprinkle now and again will keep the compost from becoming to alkaline.

4. Deter Garden Pests

Sprinkle wood ash around the edges of garden beds with young plants. Slugs and snails dislike the salt in wood ash and will be deterred from snacking on newly planted beds. Angi at Schneider Peeps has more information on using wood ash in the garden here.

5. Melt Ice And Snow

Because of the salt in wood ash it makes a great ice and snow melt. It won’t stain concrete or asphalt like some commercial snow melts do.

6. Shine Silver (And Other Metals)

A paste of ash and water makes a wonderful silver cleaner. It can also be used on gold and other metals. Be sure to test this on an inconspicuous area as wood ash may scratch some surfaces.

7. Amend Acidic Soil

Add ash to amend acidic soil. Ash will change soil PH quickly so be sure to do regular soil tests.

8. Perk Up Plants

Calcium loving plants like tomatoes will perk right up if wood ash is sprinkled directly in the hole while transplanting.

9. Clean Fireplace Glass

Dip a damp sponge in ash and use it to scrub fireplace glace. Alternatively, you can use charcoal for this as well (read how here).

10. Use As Lawn Fertilizer

Sprinkle over browned lawns to turn them green quickly!

11. Use It To Kill Moss

Sprinkle around areas with unsightly moss. This can be used on lawns, or pavement as it will not stain.

12. Use As A Dehumidifier

Place ash in an open meal container and leave in rooms that are too humid.

13. Use As A Fire Extinguisher

While it won’t replace a store bought fire extinguisher, wood ash can be used in a pinch. Keep a bucket near the wood stove, compost pile, or in the barn to stomp out small fires quickly.

14. Control Pond Algae

Use 1 tablespoon wood ash per 1000 gallons of pond water will help keep algae under control. It’s also safe for use in aquaponics systems.

15. Homemade Tooth Powder

Wood ash is an abrasive material, as such it can be used to clean and whiten teeth. Only ash from soft woods should be used. Tooth powder made from ash should not be used every day, as it could damage tooth enamel.

16. Ash Tea For The Garden

For this you need 1 lb of ash and 10 gallons of water. The ash should be placed in a pillow case or similar and steeped for several days. The resulting tea can be poured around plants for a nutrient boost.

17. Deodorize Pet Bedding

Wood ash makes a great deodorizer. Sprinkle it on dog blankets and beds to cut down on their natural smell.

18. Create Lye Water For Cleaning

Lye water is great for cleaning glass, silver, certain dishes and removing rust. It can be made by boiling 3 tablespoons of ash per 1 cup of water. Always use gloves when working with lye water!

19. Use In Natural First Aid

Wood ash has been used for centuries to kill bacteria and cleanse wounds. Mix equal parts lye water and soap to clean the wound.

20. Use As A Pest Deterrent

Place ash in an open container and stash in moist or dark areas of basements and cellars. It will help deter mice, rats and cockroaches.

21. Use As A Livestock Pest Remover

Rub a paste of vinegar and ash into the fur of pets or livestock to get rid of lice, mites and fleas. This will be messy but it works!

22. Remove Ant Colonies

Pour fine ash around ant colonies and watch them pack up and leave!

23. Clothing Stain Remover

Create a past with ash and water, rub on stained clothes and let sit for 5 minutes. Clean off with a damp rag then wash the clothes.

24. Seed Preservation

Pioneers used to store seeds in wood ash to prevent mold from damaging the seeds. More proof of its great moisture absorbing qualities!

25. Fruit And Vegetable Storage

Pioneers also used wood ash to store fruits and vegetables in. After digging a hole in the ground the walls and bottom were coated in ash. Food products would be layered with ash coating each items so they did not touch each other. Food could be preserved for several months this way.

26. Hair Treatment

Use lye water to wash hair, then follow with an apple cider vinegar rinse. This is especially useful for oily hair.

27. Ice Preventative

Sprinkle wood as on walkways, windshields and satellite dishes to prevent ice build up.

28. Prevent Frost Damage To Plants

If there is an unexpected early or late frost cover plants with a healthy spread of wood ash. This will help prevent damage to the plants.

29. Use In Clothes Storage

I don’t know about you, but I really dislike the smell of moth balls. Instead, sprinkle ash on and between clothes to be stored for long periods of time.

30. Additive To Kitty Litter

Add wood ash to kitty litter, or other animal waste bedding to help prevent smells.

31. Preserve Eggs

In many middle eastern countries eggs are preserved without refrigeration with ash. Wood ash is mixed with clay, salt, lime and rice. Eggs are rolled in the mixture for storage.

32. Fridge Deodorizer

Use wood ash placed in an open container to deodorize a refrigeration.

33. Compost Citrus

I’ve always been told that things like citrus should not be composted for various reasons. Adding wood ash to the compost will help break down citrus peels.

34. De-Skunk Pets

If you’ve ever had a dog sprayed by a skunk you know how long the smell takes to fade. Using wood ash rubbed through the fur will make the smell fade faster.

35. Clean White Boards

Ash and water can be used to create a paste for cleaning white board. This will even remove permanent marker that has accidentally been used!

36. Make A Survival Water Filter

There will probably be chunks of charcoal hanging out in the ash you’ve collected. Use the charcoal and ash to create a small water filter in emergencies.

37. Use In Place Of Lime For Gardening

Ash has smaller particles than lime and is more water soluble. This means a little goes a long way, so don’t over do it.

38. Clean The Bathroom

Due to it’s abrasiveness, ash is great for cleaning the tub. Just sprinkle like Comet and scrub with a damp sponge.

39. Use To Lighten Clothes

Use 1 part ash to 4 parts heated soft (rain) water. Stir together, then let settle. Use the clear water on top as a bleach replacer in laundry. Roughly 1 cup per load.

40. Make Homemade Corn Nuts

Simply add ash to water and soak dried corn kernels in it. Once they’ve re-hydrated, pat dry, add spices and fry them up!

41. Clean Oil Stains From The Garage

Much like cat litter, ashes can be spread on freshly spilled oil to clean it up. Let the ash soak up the oil, then sweep it up and dispose of it.

42. Create Natural Pottery Glaze

Mix wood ash with a clay slurry, then dip or paint pottery. Because ash contains high amounts of calcium carbonate it creates a glaze over pottery when fired at the right temperature. Glaze coloring will depend on what is mixed with the ash and the type of wood burned, as well as the elements in the soil where the tree grew

43. Clean Furniture Stains

Create a paste of ash and water and spread over the stained area. Allow it to set for roughly 5 minutes, then wipe off with a damp sponge. In case this method damages the furniture, it should be tried in a hidden area first .

44. Add To Chicken Feed

Wood ash makes a great addition to chicken feed as a calcium supplement. Chickens with supplemented feed have been shown to have improved laying rates. Also, it helps make chicken manure less odorous, which is a huge plus.

45. Remove Hair From Hides

Mix ash and hot (soft) water to soak hides in. Afterward the hair should be softer so less scraping is needed. Here is a step by step guide for using ashes to tan hides from Live The Old Way.

46. Use As A Hardwood Tree Fertilizer

Apple trees especially love wood ash. It helps the roots by adding calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous and manganese to the soil. Also, these nutrients make for some delicious fruit too! Just be careful not to over do it!

47. Create A Wood Insect Repellent

Mix ash and water in a jar and let it set for a week. Use the mixture to paint raw wood as an insect repellent.

48. Clear Clogged Drains

Pour 1 cup of dry powdery ash into a clogged or slowed drain. Follow this with 1 cup of heated soft (rain) water. Flush the drain with fresh water after allowing it to set for several hours. After this treatment the drain will work much better.

49. Clean Paint Drips

Rub wood ash onto wet paint drips on pavement or concrete, then sweep up. This will also help conceal any tint the paint would have left behind as well.

50. Use As A Traction Agent

Keep a small bag of wood ash in vehicles for when the roads or icy or snowy. Spread it behind tires when you need a little extra traction.

51. Make Traditional German Pretzels

Ever wonder where pretzels get their amazing crusts from? Turns out the answer is lye, and lye comes from wood ash! This is a great explanation of using lye to make pretzels, along with a recipe.

52. Clean Cast Iron

A piece of cast iron cook ware can be soaked in a solution of soft water and ash for a day or two. This will clean the pan as well as remove the rust. Then the skillet can then be washed with vinegar and water to remove the lye. Afterwords the cast iron can be reseasoned and is ready for use.

53. Make Lye Water For Use In Recipes

Certain Chinese dishes call for the use of lye water, such as mooncakes. Likewise, it is traditionally used in ramen noodles and is what gives them their springy texture and yellow coloring. Because lye water can cause mouth, esophageal and stomach burns if used incorrectly caution should be used. Always follow the recipe instructions exactly!

54. Use To Improve Pasture

Wood ash provides substantial amounts of potassium and calcium, and lower amounts of phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and manganese. In addition, it also has trace amounts of boron and copper. All of these make it a great pasture fertilizer, as animals will ingest these through plants eaten.

55. Use Ashes To Make Lye

Lye can be used for soap making or stripping animal hides. Here is a great write up by Live The Old Way on how to properly make lye, and a homemade soap guide from Kathryn at Farming My Backyard. Warning: Lye can be dangerous and precautions should be taken when making it.

Now I will say I haven’t tried all of these, or even most of them! But I have used wood ash often enough to believe it is this versatile. I plan on testing these out as the homestead grows, so keep an eye out for updates!

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Winter Prep On An Alaskan Homestead

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Winter Prep On An Alaskan Homestead

Winter is nearly here in our little slice of Alaska. Trees are barren and we’ve already had our first frost. Seeing as winter is our longest and harshest season, we use the rest of the year to prepare for it. So what does preparing for winter on an Alaskan homestead entail?

Firstly, we heat with wood.

This means a lot of cutting trees, hauling, splitting and stacking for drying. Last year we stacked wood under a tarp. This year we built a wood shed to store it in. We’ve also upgraded from an axe to a hydrolic log splitter. It makes this chore go much faster! We also collect birch bark because it makes fantastic fire starter.

Our second biggest concern for this winter was keeping our water system from freezing.

We put the system in this summer so this winter will be the big test for it. We built a little mini “cabin”, complete with its own wood stove, around our water reservoir. This should keep the reservoir and pipes around it from freezing. On super cold days we’ll keep a fire going in there.

 

Speaking of fires, we also replaced to wood stove in our cabin for a bigger one.

Our old stove was a bit undersized, so replacing it means we won’t need to get up at night to build fires any more. Our cabin should be a more steady temperarure this winter. We’re also finishing the flooring in the loft, so more of the heat stays on the lower floor.

We also have more animals to consider this year.

Last year we kept our two dogs inside most of the time for winter, but this year we have FOUR dogs! So building dog houses for everyone and stuffing them with straw is a must. We also have a smaller chicken coop for the chickens. The old coop is big and airy. Great for summer, but not so great for winter. A smaller coop will help keep the birds warm with body heat, especially since we don’t suppliments heat in the winter. We’ll also be building a pig shed and filling that with straw for our pigs.

Another part of winter prep is putting up food.

I canned a bunch of salmon this year that Kyle caught fishing with our friends. Our first goal for next year is to purchase our own permit and fish all next summer. Unfortunately our garden was a bust except for potatoes, so those need to dug and dried for storage. Next year we will use what we’ve learned and have a much better garden.

This will be our second winter on our Alaskan homestead, and we’re ready for it!

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Rookie Mistakes We Made As Beginning Homesteaders

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I’ll be the first to admit that when we first started our homesteading journey, we made a lot of rookie mistakes. We spent to much on things we didn’t need. Then we turned around and didn’t buy things we really should have. We skipped around when adding animals, buildings and tools. That is, until we learned to prioritize better. We have learned a lot of lessons the hard way. Starting a homestead from scratch, and building all our own infrastructure, is much harder than I had ever imagined it could be. Hopefully writing this all down will help you avoid a few of the mistakes we made!

Rookie Mistakes We Made As Beginning Homesteaders - Sled Dog Slow

Our biggest rookie mistake was not planning anything.

Sure we had ideas for what we wanted to do, and we wrote things down, but we never really had a set plan. There was no “house goes here, chickens go here, garden goes here” kind of plan. Not until we had already put the chickens too close to the house. So as we expanded we just threw things where it was convenient right then, rather than were we knew we wanted them permanently. If we had planned better we could have saved ourselves from a lot of the other mistakes. A homestead planning binder is necessary to keep everything organized.

Another mistake we made was jumping in to new things without preparing.

We’d get an idea and go for it. More chickens? Heck yeah. Pigs? Lets do it! Greenhouse and garden? Check! And then the inevitable fail. We wanted everything to work and be productive right away. Kyle was so disappointed to find out our chickens wouldn’t lay until the spring after we purchased them. At least we were able to push our pig order back to this summer, and have learned enough to hold off on beehives and other animals until next year.

We didn’t understand the weather in our new area well either.

Personally, coming from a desert area, I didn’t truly understand what living in a rainforest meant until we were hit by our first rainy season here. A little drowned garden and a lot of mud later, know I know how wet it can be! It also helps to know where the low spots collect so we can avoid building there. We also thought we were prepared for long winters, but they are much longer and darker than I could have imagined!

Also, we made the mistake of not budgeting from the beginning.

We have spent so much money on materials for our homestead, when we should have just invested in a saw mill from the beginning. Small purchases can add up really quickly. We should have figured out sooner that just because something is new doesn’t make it better. At least we have a few places we know to go for cheap homestead goods now!

The biggest lesson we’ve learned in starting our homestead from scratch is that it’s okay to go slow.

There is no reason to push to the point of injury to get everything done in one day. Pacing yourself in the endless work (it is endless) of beginning a homestead is extremely important. There should always be a realistic timeline for goals to be completed. This will save so much frustration down the line.

All things aside, we are still learning on our homestead journey. I’m sure there will be many more mistakes and lessons for us in the future!

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Three Surprising Places To Find Cheap Homestead Goods

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Homesteading is not cheap. From animal feed to fencing to the animals themselves, there are quite a few things a beginning homestead will need. When we first started out we made the mistake of purchasing everything from a big box store. We spend thousands of dollars before we realized we could buy things way cheaper, we just needed to know where to go.

Second Hand Stores

One thing we’ve figured out is that second hand stores are often full of tools. Shovels, picks, drills, chainsaws. You name it, a second store probably has it. I’ve even seen a few bigger ticket items at the second hand stores around here, like tractors. Second hand stores are also great places to purchase homestead goods because you can usually haggle the price.

Peoples Yards

If there is something in the neighbors yard they don’t use that you could, why not ask to buy it? While this may seem somewhat odd, anyone who’s seen the show Pickers knows that its worth it to ask. We’ve gotten old trampolines, building materials and even a saw mill this way. It’s also possible to get plant cuttings or seeds and bulbs like this. Even if the person says no, you didn’t loose anything by asking. Just make sure to have cash in hand for an offer!

 

Facebook

It seems like Facebook is taking over the world (or at least the internet) these days. We’ve purchased second hand cars, goats and chickens this way. Facebook is also a great way to get information. Our peninsula has Facebook groups just for animal and garden advice. Take a look around, maybe there is a group in your area that will be useful. I also find Facebook especially helpful when I have something in mind that I need. It’s easy for responders to tag friends who might know something in the comments. Even if the person reading my question doesn’t have what I need, they usually know someone who knows someone, and I end up getting the things I need.

I’m sure there are a lot of other great places to find cheap homestead items, but these are the main three that we use here. Where do you find your homestead deals?

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Trials Of Living In A Rainforest Environment

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I am a desert baby. I’ve always lived where it’s hot and rain is there and gone in a flash. I planned my gardens around heat loving plants with low water needs. Moving to South Central Alaska’s rainforest environment has been a huge adjustment for me. I didn’t expect it to be so hard to adapt to this area and it’s more… interesting challenges.

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