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 ūüėČ

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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Reevaluating Homestead Wants And Needs

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Sled Dog Slow Reevaluating Homestead Wants And Needs

Sometimes in order to be happy we need to take a step back and look at the big picture. Sometimes that leads us to reevaluating. For anyone who read our goals for 2018, its obvious we did that! Our process was a little jumbled due to our busy lives. But I just want to point out that just because we need to postpone things does not mean we are failing at homesteading, even if it feels that way!

We’ve decided to cut back on many of the things that most homesteads have.

We jumped in to some things waaaay too fast. Like animals. We’ve had chickens, goats and pigs out here. We ended up free ranging all of our animals because we didn’t have fencing, and with no neighbors there was no one to bother. Turns out without fences they could bother us! The pigs liked to dig holes, and chickens and goats always managed to break into the garden.

So. No animals until we have fenced pasture ready!

A homestead without animals? That’s our plan, for now anyway. Not having animals for meat, milk and eggs feels like we aren’t really homesteading any more. Especially with all the problems I’ve had gardening here. But in reevaluating our wants vs our needs, we realized there were other things we should concentrate on more. We want to have a perfect little homestead filled with cute fuzzy, useful critters. But what we need is fenced pasture to graze our animals on. Not to mention we need better shelters for the animals. What we’ve done for shelters has worked so far, but we could do better with some planning.

What else did we realize we needed rather than wanted?

The biggest thing was a larger living space! While most of our coming summer will be occupied with fishing, we realized we’ve lived long enough in our tiny cabin. With our growing toddler we just need more room to spread out. We’ll be milling lumber for the cabin, and clearing land to build on. We have some ideas on how to build that should speed our building process along a little. But spending so much time building means putting off some other homestead wants.

I want to have the biggest, best garden ever.

I dislike relying so much on grocery shopping in town. But we’ve managed this far and we can continue for another year. I’ll just plant the staples like potatoes for now, even though we’ll be clearing a big space. It makes sense to clear the land at least since we’ll have equipment out for it anyway. Plus if this coming summer is anything like last summer my garden would be a bust anyway. I’m still not used to planning a cold weather garden.

I want to have a fully functioning homestead today.

But part of having a great homestead tomorrow is planning today. Scaling back from a huge garden and animals gives us time to think before we leap. And I’ll admit that we haven’t done enough of that on our adventure out here thus far. Taking a look at what we need and what we want has shown that we need to scale back in a big way. It does feel like we are failing at being homesteaders right now, but we just have to remember that this is a temporary step back. Once we get a bigger cabin built and some fencing up we can leap back into our bigger homestead goals!

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Best Of Sled Dog Slow 2017

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 Best Of Sled Dog Slow 2017

Last year I did the top 5 posts at the end of the year. This year I wrote a lot more, so I wanted to share the top 10. Here is the best of Sled Dog Slow 2017:

1. How To Hack A Chicken Killing Dog

Definitely a go to post if you’ve had trouble integrating dogs and chickens before. This is a tried and true method for me, that I’ve used on multiple dogs over the years. Hopefully you never need it, but its better to be over prepared than under prepared!

2. Why A Homestead Often Looks Like A Junkyard

This post was shared a lot by my homesteading friends. Quite a few thanked me for giving them a good excuse for the junk piles everywhere!

3. When A Hen Is A Rooster Is A Hen

Did y’all know a hen can “turn into” a rooster? Neither did I until I had it happen in my flock! Now, you won’t be getting any fertilized eggs out of these gentlemen, but they will crow, grow spurs, and protect your ladies!

4. Pros And Cons Of Tiny House Living

Not sure you’re ready to make the leap from 2000 to 200 square feet? This is the post for you!

5. How To Raise Chicks Without Electricity

When we first moved out to our little piece of Alaskan paradise it was raw land. No driveway, no cabin, no power. So our first batch of chickens I ended up figuring out how to raise without electricity. I actually used these methods for our second batch too because it was more convenient than starting the generator or using up all our solar with heat lamps!

6. Building On A Budget – The Alaskan Way

When you need a shed built¬†now¬†but won’t have money until¬†later. This is how we managed out here.

Building On A Budget, The Alaskan Way

7. Six Reasons We Homestead In Alaska

There are a lot of places we could have chosen to homestead, but trust me, Alaska is one of the best places in the USA for this kind of life! There are plenty of reasons we chose to live here, but these are our top six.

8. 5 Risks When Living Life By The Tides

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that our access isn’t easy. It’s seasonal, and can be sketchy year round. In summer we can’t get anything bigger than a 4 wheeler to our place, and we come and go depending on the tides. There are a lot of risks involved with having our access regularly cut off. Just read the post to see what happens if you don’t follow the rules!

life by the tides

9. Three Surprising Places To Find Cheap Homestead Goods

Homesteading is expensive. Here are three places to find the things you need a little bit cheaper.

10. Canning Salmon

How to can fresh caught salmon, as I learned from a dear Alaskan friend.

Bonus round anyone?

My favorite post of all time is: Appreciation For The Small Things. This is pretty much the post where we realized just how different our lives where really going to be. I love how well I captured our awe and appreciation of that moment!

How y’all are finding us: Most of our views come from Pinterest and Facebook. Feel free to follow us in both places and share our stuff ūüėČ

The most searched items to get to here are: “What to do on a homestead in Alaska in the winter” and “Hauling water for an off grid cabin”. I guess I know what I should write more about!

My favorite purchase we’ve made this year:¬†Definitely our instant hot water heater. Being able to take a shower when I want,¬†for as long as I want, has been such a ridiculously nice thing to have! We do also have an amazing wood splitter, and that would be #1 except it was a gift from my Father-in-law, so we didnt buy it!

We’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned quite a few lessons in our second year out here. I hope you’ll keep up with our adventure in the coming years.

Thanks for reading friends!

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Use This All Natural Trick From Grandma To Clean Fireplace Glass In 5 Minutes

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Use This All Natural Trick From Grandma To Clean Fireplace Glass In 5 Minutes

I’m sure you’ve all run into this before. You got a great deal on a glass faced wood stove, but the glass has an inch of creosote built up on it. Or you put in a brand new stove just last week and already you can’t see the fire through the thick layer of black. Fireplace glass is notorious for getting dirty fast and needing to be cleaned often.

So what to do?

Do you give up on ever seeing the warm glow from the fireplace ever again? Do you spent hours scraping or give in and use harsh chemicals to soak it clean? Think those are your only options?

Well have I got the trick for you!

Its all natural, and I’m sure you already have everything you need at home. Best of all, its fast!

This is the difference in my stove glass before and after cleaning it:

I probably wouldn’t of even needed 5 minutes to finish except I was taking pictures for y’all! This process is seriously as simple as it gets.

1. Next time your cleaning out the stove, pull out a nice piece of charcoal and set it aside until you have a minute to clean the glass. Who am I kidding? Of course your doing it now!

2. Grab a clean rag or paper towel, and a small dish of water. Open your stove to see what kind of mess you are working with.

3. Wet your charcoal and rub it over the inside of the glass.

4. Continue wetting the charcoal and using it to scrub the glass until you can see through the glass. It will be covered in streaks still, so don’t worry if it’s not clean yet!

5. Wet your rag and wipe it over the glass. Most of the grime and charcoal should come off at this point. Take wet charcoal to any places you may have missed on the first scrub, then wipe again with the wet rag.

Ta-da! Your fireplace glass is now sparkly clean! So thank your grandma and enjoy the peaceful glow of a good fire ūüôā

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Homestead Goals For 2018

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Homestead Goals For 2018

Wow, rereading our goals for this year sooooo much has changed in what we wanted to do for 2017, vs our goals for 2018. We accomplished a few of our goals, but have also figured out a few that don’t actually work for us. The longer we spend living this way the more we learn. Need vs want, idealism vs reality. Living this far out is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.

Our goals last year were:

Getting Kyle a crew fishing license so he can salmon fish with our friends

Kyle did fish with our friends, although they decided not to fish the whole season. We did get enough fish put away for winter, and he made a little money. Our fishing goals for 2018 include getting our own permit and boat. That way we can fish as often as we want.

Installing a water system

Done! This is our first winter with this system and we’ve already had to make some adjustments. So far we’re managing, fingers crossed there are no catastrophic failures!

Spending more time hunting/fishing

We just got too busy with other things to do much besides Kyle salmon fishing. Next year we’ll hopefully be approved for subsistence hunting and fishing.

Preserving more foods (and shopping less) 

Between a cold summer being bad for gardening and not spending much time hunting/fishing, we still depend a lot on the grocery store.

Getting equipment out here and clearing more land 

We didn’t manage this as it didn’t fit our budget this year.

Finding our property markers (or having our land surveyed) 

As it turns out, finding property markers under 40+ years of growth is not easy. We’ll need to pay someone to survey our property in the future.

Fencing animal pastures 

Without knowing the borders of our land this wasn’t something we could do. We did create a pig pen though.

Getting 2 goats for milking

We did get two goats, and then we gave them to friends. Without fencing they got in to everything.

Building a bigger chicken coop and getting more birds 

We did build a bigger coop and get more birds. However, we have figured that chickens aren’t the direction we want to go here.

Planting a large garden

We did this, but then… The chickens got in and scratched about. They thoroughly mixed everything up. Then once things sprouted the goats broke into our greenhouse and ate everything they could. Hence us giving them away. After all that, this was a very cold summer. Last year I wasn’t prepared for all the rain, this year I wasn’t prepared for a cold ‘warm’ season. Between all that we didn’t manage to harvest much.

Planting pasture 

This wasn’t possible without clearing land first.

Building a garage

We didn’t manage this, but we did build a wood shed. Our friends did drag an abandoned trailer here that we plan on turning into a garage. So I suppose if we get that finished in the next month or so we can count it as done this year.

Building a root cellar/pantry for food storage

We didn’t build anything specifically for storing food. We did however, cover our porch and added a door. That allowed us to store food where it was cooler. The porch is our fridge/freezer this winter.

Expanding our solar set up (we have this one)

We did add 2 more batteries to our solar set up. It doesn’t sound like much, but we can store twice as much power now!

Building a shower/sauna 

We did build a shower. It works fantastic, and I enjoy it so much better than last years camp shower. We use this instant hot water heater for our showers now.

Purchasing a sawmill

Done! We’ve used our sawmill to mill shelves and steps. We also milled wood for our cabin, wood shed and pig pen.

Purchasing a second 4 wheeler

We did buy a second wheeler, but we also sold it. The one we got was more comfortable for riding, but was not really designed for the work we needed it to do. Back to one wheeler now (though we do have 2 cars again!)

After the many things we’ve learned this year, some goals have changed and some will be expanded. Our homesteading goals for 2018 are:

Purchasing a fishing permit

This is our #1 goal for next year, and will allow us a source of income and food.

Spending more time hunting/fishing

Next year we might be approved for subsistence hunting and fishing. That will extend some seasons, as well as areas we can hunt in. Getting a moose will be high on our list.

Preserving more food

More hunting and fishing means more putting food away for the winter.

Getting equipment out here and clearing land

With rental prices and the time it takes to get equipment out here, we’re seriously considering buying a rig for this. Then we could potentially barter it’s use to our neighbors as well.

Finding our property markers

Since we can’t seem to find them, we’ll need to find a remote surveyor and pay them to do it for us. It’s something we need done before we can expand much.

Getting a high tunnel

This will allow us more control over the temperature in the garden. Next year’s garden will be ah-mazing. Third times the charm, right?

Purchasing a beach truck

We need something that we can drive on the beach that’s cheap so we won’t cry if the tide takes it. The dream is to get something lifted, with big tires and a winch. Then we might even be able to drive all the way to our place in the summer.

Cut and mill lumber in preparation for building our cabin

We expect to work on this for a few years. After all, how fast can two people build their dream house? Especially with a toddler under foot! We’ll be living in our 250 sq ft cabin until the dream cabin is complete.

As you may have noticed, there are fewer goals for next year.

We have 8 goals for 2018, vs the 17 we had for 2017. Part of that is a large scale back on certain projects. As it stands right now, we don’t have plans for animals next year. We discovered this year that getting animals and figuring ‘we’ll make it work’ later isn’t a sustainable plan. Pens, pasture and fencing all need to go in before we try adding animals again. We do have to roll with the punches out here, but that doesn’t mean we can just toss the rule book!

We’ll also be dedicating a lot more time to building infrastructure out here. Having tools is great, except when you don’t have anywhere to store them. And working on vehicles is not fun if you don’t have a place to do it. There are a lot of little projects, like wood carving, that our current cabin is just to small for. The mess from carving a spoon doesn’t seem that big until it takes up your entire house!

One of the biggest things we learned this year is that winter comes fast.

Compared to Washington seasons, there is almost no time to get the big projects done here. And some things are multi season projects. There is a lot of finagling when building has to be done in the summer, but materials can only get here in winter. Putting less on our plates to start with will relieve some of the stress we’d felt this year. It also means that any extra projects we get done are just a happy surprise! We completed 9 of our goals this year, even if some didn’t work out the way we’d hoped. I think 8 is a good number of starter goals for 2018.

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