Every fall for the past few years, I’ve done a random round-up of life hacks or other little things that I’ve learned lately. These usually aren’t anything too deep or profound, but they ARE things that have improved my life, productivity, homemaking, ability to keep my house clean, etc.
In the comments below, I’d love it if you shared 5 little things that YOU’VE learned lately!
Note: There are affiliate links to products mentioned below, which means I may get a small commission on any purchases made at no extra cost to you.
1. You can unzip and remove the covers on your couch cushions and throw them in your washing machine.
Okay, maybe some of you already knew this, but when I saw a YouTube vlogger do this exact thing one day, I was FLOORED. I’d always thought you just needed to spot treat your couch covers and that was about the end of what you could do. Well, seeing someone else throw their cushion covers in the wash made me do a little research, and it turns out that most modern-day couches are made of such materials that allow them to be machine washed.
Ours are pretty much almost 100% polyester, and one evening I decided to strip all of them off the cushions and throw them in our washing machine (on a delicate cycle, just to be safe). YOU GUYS, I just could NOT believe what a difference it made! Our couch seriously looked brand new, and I was also a bit horrified to realize how dirty they really had been before (since you could CLEARLY tell a difference before and after!).
2. If you’re looking for the cheapest way to get region-specific trees for your yard, join the Arbor Day Foundation.
I found out about this by happenstance, as I was sent a survey in the mail from the Arbor Day Foundation. When I went to go complete the quick survey, I discovered that they will send you 10 trees (all chosen to do well in your region) if you join the foundation, which costs as little as $10. They happened to have a few trees on the list that I’d wanted for the flower farm, so I basically was getting something I planned on purchasing anyway for $1 apiece.
I won’t have the space to plant all 10 of my trees, but I’ll go ahead and donate them to other local people to spread the love!
3. Easy way to get free books: Buy a box of Kellogg’s
Kellogg’s is doing a deal where if you buy specially marked boxes of their products and upload your receipt, you can earn free children’s books. One box = one book, and they have some really excellent choices.
Verdict is still out whether or not they accept online orders (I’m still trying to see if I can get a digital order confirmed), but if you buy their products anyway, might as well take advantage!
4. You can dehydrate zucchini and summer squash
We had big dreams once we moved to this new place with its half-acre yard that we were going to ramp up our own food production like crazy as part of the whole “homestead dream” thing. What actually has ended up happening since we decided to try flower farming this year was that the flowers took priority, and they also took up 95% of the space. All of the vegetables we planted were put in late or didn’t do particularly well (partly from neglect, partly from weather conditions), and as a result, we have gotten a minimal harvest on our vegetables this year.
However, despite not being planted until sometime in June, we HAVE been getting zucchinis (of course), which have largely sat, ignored, on our counter. I had ambitions of making a bunch of gluten-free zucchini bread for Matt and maybe making this favorite chocolate zucchini cake recipe too, but alas! Not a single zucchini has been touched this season.
At this point, I just need a quick solution for what to do with it before it all goes bad, so I was happy to learn that you can actually dehydrate zucchini and summer squash. My mom and stepdad bought us this dehydrator last Christmas that we’ve been itching to put to use, and I’ve heard that you just grate up the zucchini (or put it in a food processor), stuff the dehydrator trays full of it (you don’t have to spread it all out like you do with most things you dehydrate), and then dehydrate for 12 hours. You can then use it to bulk up soups and sauces without changing the flavor profile hardly at all!
(Conversely, if you don’t want to take the time to dehydrate but you have the freezer space, you can just grate it all up and freeze it in ziploc bags.)
5. Hanging the stems upside down is NOT always the best way to dry flowers — some flowers do better when dried upright in a vase.
Dried flowers were never really part of my business plan for the flower farm, but there actually is some interest down here in them, and I’ve heard that there’s actually been a resurgence of interest most everywhere as a matter of fact. I’m still not making it a large part of my business strategy by any means (at least not this year), but I do have quite a few extras of things that dry well (such as statice, gomphrena, strawflowers, etc.), so I figured I’d give it a go.
My only knowledge of drying flowers before consisted solely of tying bunches of stems together with rubber bands and hanging them upside down for a couple weeks. While that is a perfectly good method for many things (like statice, liatris, and lavender), other things will actually hold their shape much better if dried upright in a vase.
One thing I grew a lot of this year was amaranth (though you’d better believe I’m going to be about tripling the amount next year because IT IS AWESOME), which is the perfect example of something you’re supposed to let dry upright in a vase. Basically you put it fresh in a vase with an inch or two of water, then put the vase in a dark, low-humidity environment to dry out. Strawflower also does best with this method, though you’re also supposed to wire the stem first, which means I may or may not be getting around to that this year :).
Now it’s your turn! What are 5 little things that YOU’VE learned lately?