Soothing poison ivy naturally

My husband and I both recently got poison ivy rashes.  I’m usually pretty good about immediately washing any areas that come into contact with the weed but it seems like my tendency towards overdoing it in the garden got the best of me this time.  He seems to get it without even going in the woods. The silver lining to our affliction was that we got to test out some natural remedies.

The first thing we tried was Young Living’s Joy essential oil.  It’s one of my favorite scents so I was happily surprised to hear that it was helpful for poison ivy.  Joy is a blend of Bergamot,Ylang ylang, Geranium, Lemon, Coriander ,Tangerine, Jasmine, Roman Chamomile, Palmarosa and Rose essential oils.   It smells amazing and was very soothing and calming to our skin.

We both experimented with using Young Living Lavender oil next.  It didn’t cut the itching as well as the Joy but was very soothing on the second day of when it was more of a burning sensation.   I’m a huge fan of Young Living oils and we use them for EVERYTHING but this was one of the more profound experiences I have had using them!

A few notes on safety. We applied these oils “neat” or undiluted but if you are worried about skin irritation I would suggest using a carrier oil. Young Living’s oils are extremely pure and high quality so they can be used in ways that many other brands of essential oils cannot.  I would NOT apply any other brand of oils to my skin.  Also, Joy contains citrus oils and as with any citrus you should avoid direct sun exposure after applying.


Plantain leaf is a  medicinal plant that grows wild in most yards and is considered a weed. I’ve had success using it on bug bites and also on another patch of poison ivy that popped up on my finger (I just can’t stay out of the woods!) The way I use it is to chew it up a bit to release the oils then secure it in place with a band aid over the itch.  I know people make salves with it but I haven’t tried that yet!  Here’s a photo of it growing in the yard followed by one that shows plantain leaf close up.


Also an extreme close up of my hand.  How many times must I have creased my hand to get all of those amazing lines?

Another natural remedy that I tried out was Jewel Weed. This lovely plant is considered the natural antidote to poison ivy and is said to grow near where poison ivy is found.  We are lucky enough to have a little patch of it in the yard. It is usually found in shady and moist conditions.  This one worked really well too!  I used the same method as I did with the plantain leaf on yet another patch that popped up.  When I took the band aid off about an hour later there was NO itch or sting and the pain didn’t come back!  The first photo shows what the plant looks like in my yard in June. The second shows the flower that blooms later in the summer. I would have had NO idea what it was if I hadn’t seen it in bloom last year though!  Prairie Moon Nursery  sells Jewel Weed seeds for anyone interested in cultivating some yourself!

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Overall the essential oils were easier for covering large areas but the jewel weed and plantain leaf worked well too and were great for smaller areas.  I’m so happy that we have figured these out!  I’ll continue trying to avoid it but I’m glad to know these just in case it gets me again!

If you would like purchase some Young Living Joy or Lavender for yourself send me an email at or read this post to learn more about getting started with essential oils.

What has worked for you when you had an encounter with poison ivy ?



DIY essential oil bug spray

It’s Spring, which means that in addition to the amazing rebirth of flowers and leaves, the bug are back too! Essential oils can be a great all natural way to help deter pesky and dangerous bugs.  The list of oils that serve as insect deterrents is long so I picked out a few of the ones I’ve seen most commonly listed to make my DIY tick spray.  I used equal parts of the following Young Living essential oils:


Eucalyptus Globulus



I put about 10 drops of each in a spray bottle with some high proof alcohol to help them disperse and filled with water.  I’m sure boiled or distilled water would be best but I just used tap.


I’ve been using this mixture sprayed directly onto the back of my cats necks in the morning for the past month. I’ve only found one tick, which is better than during the same time period last year using a conventional toxic treatment.  The added bonus is that this blend smells great and from an aromatherapy perspective is very uplifting and relaxing!  I’ve done a LOT of research on essential oil brands and I only trust Young Living oils to have the potency and purity necessary to be effective and safe.  You can read more about this here.

This mixture is also nice to spray on your legs or clothes when going into area where you are expecting to find ticks.  I also make it a habit to shower and do a tick check within an hour of returning from the woods.  Removing ticks quickly is the best way to prevent them from transmitting disease but there is plenty on that available elsewhere on the internet!

If you are more concerned with mosquitos using the Purification blend in a similar way would be a good place to start.  It contains Citronella, which has been historically used to keep bugs away.  Purification contains Tea Tree though, which is one to be avoided on cats so I didn’t include it in this spray.

Good luck and let me know how this works for you!


SUPER simple non-toxic air freshener

I used to be a big fan of scented candles and incense. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to go to a college that didn’t allow you to burn incense in your room!  Haha.   I bought conventional brands because they were cheap and smelled nice.

That all changed when I got pregnant for the first time all of a sudden I had a HUGE aversion to scented anything. It was like my body instinctively knew that they weren’t good for me.   I even ditched my perfume collection because I just didn’t have the stomach for it anymore.  I avoided that said “fragrance” after learning it was usually just a nice word for synthetic toxic chemicals that happened to have a smell.

Many air fresheners contain “phthalates which are hazardous chemicals know to cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects, and reproductive problems”.  The really crazy thing is that since these products are food the manufacturers don’t even have to list that on the label! They can even call the product “unscented” or “all natural” and still be full of toxic chemicals KNOWN to cause cancer.  But if you are breathing something in, you are consuming it.  It’s getting into your blood and your cells.  That’s just how it is. See source here. 

Discovering essential oils has been a reawakening to the world of scents for me. Finally I found a healthy way to scent the air and myself! Diffusing true therapeutic grade oils smells great and you are getting the health benefits of the oils at the same tine.  I have a cool mist diffuser that we use daily and LOVE.  I like diffusing calming blends in the afternoon and sleep enhancing blends in the bedroom at night. If we feel any sickness coming on I choose blends that boost immunity.  It’s all SO lovely!


But my inspiration for THIS post is my SUPER simple non-toxic bathroom air freshener!  Young Living’s Purification blend is PERFECT oil to use if you are making this for the bathroom as it really helps to clean the air and has a fresh scent but you can have fun and experiment with different oils! I have one for the bedroom that has lavender.  It’s so nice to spritz over the bed before getting in or on the sheets when I change them.

The supplies you will need are:

  • Glass spray bottles
  • Alcohol
  • Essential oil of your choice
  • water

Glass spray bottles are best to use since essential oils  can break down petrochemicals and therefore degrade the plastic over time.  I bought my spray bottles here.  Pour in a few tablespoons of alcohol. I used vodka but any clear alcohol should work.  Then about 10-20 drops essential oils.  I’m way into my Young Living oils as you may have noticed.  If you want to hear more about why check out my post on “My Essential Oil Obsession”.

But anyway, just combine the alcohol, essential oils, water and shake before using.  That’s it!IMG_0147

Purification just smells CLEAN to me and I love how it makes my house smell like I’ve been scrubbing the floors even when it’s been a while since that actually happened! Another added bonus of Purification spray is that it doubles as a bug spray since one of the main ingredients in Purification is Citronella!

So I have my Purification foaming soap and the air freshener in the bathroom at all times and LOVE them!  I hope you do too!


DIY drainage swale using a reverse hugelkultur

FullSizeRender (8)Last year we had our our back yard cleared of invasive brush in the fall and then planted with low mow grass in the spring (some conventional grass seed as well, which I regret).  Over the course of the summer I couldn’t resist and put in my first attempt at at hugelkultur to house the many tomato plants that had seeded themselves around the garden.

This year I decided to take down the hugelkultur and put in a larger garden bed in it’s place.  It’s the one part of our yard that gets full sun but unfortunately it also has a bit of an underground stream flowing through it that becomes a problem during rain storms.

We got some HUGE quotes from local landscaping companies to deal with the drainage. Um, no thanks, I don’t want to spend 16k to make my back yard pretty! I’d much rather keep our money and just have a stream!

But then I started thinking about using a swale.  I’m kind of obsessed with permaculture but actually incorporating it into our landscape is an ongoing challenge.  Basically a swale creates a holding tank for excess water that will then slowly release into the land below.  Conventional drainage just moves the water away to the side of the yard or whatever.  This allows you to still USE the water for the garden!

I had made a small swale as part of my hugelkultur last year but it didn’t quite do the job. I decided to expand it to cover almost a quarter of the 20×10 garden space.


I dug a hole about 18inches deep.  Deeper would have been better but getting through the clay and rocks was a challenge.  The water quickly filled the area, delighting my kids but somewhat frustrating me!

I tried my best to keep it in line with the grade of the slope.  I want it to really hold the water rather than just funneling it away.

While digging I was sure to separate out the topsoil from the lower levels of clay. The best part though was dismantling the hugelkultur and finding tons of worm castings and nicely broke down compost!  When I put it up last year I had said, worst case scenario it will be a big compost pile and I can use the soil for my new garden.  Score!

I decided to fill the trench with rotting wood.  In the same way that a hugelkultur uses rotting wood like a sponge to hold water above ground, this should do the same under ground.  Well, I hope it does…  I looked it up again in Gaia’s Garden to make sure my line of reasoning made sense and it seems like it should work!


I just can’t help myself.  I LOVE the idea of a closed system where you just use what you make and make the things you use.  I’m REALLY far from that reality but I do have lots of rotting wood so I figure it’s worth a shot!

After I filled the trench with rotting wood I had a chance to see how it performed before covering it fully.  After a full day of spring rains I could see that it was holding a lot of water but some was escaping out the side.  I decided to go with that and create an overflow drainage ditch that is higher than the rest of the ditch so the runoff will go where I want it to.  I also caved and just bought a drainage pipe to use in there. I couldn’t figure out how to keep it open enough to move the water while also having it be just shallow enough to just catch overflow?  Maybe one of you knows?

I then filled in the crevices with some smaller sticks to help keep space for air and water.  IMG_0003

I separated out the dirt, soil and compost to rough in what will be the garden beds.  The local tree guys fortuitously called to ask me if I wanted more wood chips the week before so I used those to cover the swale and the garden paths.  They had pine, which apparently isn’t so great for plants but I’m hoping it will be fine since I’m not planting directly over it.

A traditional swale would usually have a raised mound directly down slope from the ditch.  I’m not doing it that way though. Sometimes I like to just half follow directions and see how it goes.  And when I say sometimes I mean usually.  But anyway, I’m hopeful it will work!

Next I covered the swale with wood chips which will serve as the pathways for the garden.

I also put in the beds.  I used large rotting logs to create the boundaries of the bed on the lower level of the garden.  I kind of love dragging big rotting trees from the forest! My hope is that they will help create a barrier for weeds, store extra water and break down over the next few years to eventually add more biomass to the garden. I was lucky enough to find a whole pile of rotted wood that crumbled into soil as soon as I picked it up. I filled up several wheel barrows with this and mixed it in with the soil I saved from digging the swale.  Again, rotting wood from around the property serves as a great free recourse!  And don’t worry, there is still PLENTY of rotting wood out there to feed the forest floor!


Now all I need is to put in a fence and add some extra compost and amendments to the soil.  I’m planning to break down a few more rotting trees to enrich the soil too. I hope it all works!

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Super simple DIY toxin free foaming soap

Like foaming soap but trying to save money, avoid toxins, trips to the store and your carbon footprint?  Problem solved!  All you need is an old foaming soap dispenser and some Castille soap.  Essential oils can customize it though and make it smell really great!

Step 1: Gather supplies

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Step 2: Fill empty dispensers with Castille soap. I use about a half inch but you could use more or less. I use Dr.Bronner’s unscented but I would imagine other Castille soap’s are similar?

Step 3:  Add essential oils if you are using them.  I like to add Young Living’s Joy blend to my body wash because the smell is SO lovely and it’s good for skin care.  I add the Purification blend to the bathroom hand soap as it’s great for cleaning bathroom grossness and smells really fresh. Anywhere from 5-20 drops depending on the oil would be great!

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You can learn more about why and how I use and love essential oils here or  here.

Step 4: Add water.

Step 5: Shake it up!

Step 6:  You’re done!  Enjoy your all natural and super cheap foaming soap!


Do you have any good all natural life hacks to share?  Please add them in the comments!