Non-Vinegar Essential Oil Cleaner

NaturalCleaner_Blog (7)

There has been a ton going on lately, with new calves at the farm, house renovations, graduate school starting back up, and general life. I really have been wanting to start writing again, so I thought I’d start up with something that was a wild ride this winter. I was hoping to come back “full swing” with a more upbeat post, but I decided to go this route because it’s something a lot of people might appreciate. So, let’s go!

Last November, after using some harsh chemical cleaners, I ended up breaking out in chronic hives for the first time in over a decade. In November after using a cleaner my hands got very very red and itchy, I was surprised. I was even more surprised when I broke out in hives on my hands. Days later they were showing up just about anywhere in patches. This was not a typical dermatological response to a harsh chemical. These were standard off the shelf cleaners you can find in any store. Brand name cleaners.

My system was already more sensitive than normal for various reasons. The chemicals simply caused a reaction that fueled itself. Eight weeks later the hives were still there. An allergy panel showed no allergies (even ones I used to be allergic to). This led the decades long allergist to tell me that my symptoms and onset were pretty consistent with an immune disorder. Clearly – my body had been attacking itself for weeks. I’d say that was my immune system acting disorderly.

Thanks to some changes and starting some herbs that help with mast cells and immune health, I’m doing pretty good. One of the changes I made was starting to search around for a homemade natural cleaner, and vinegar was out. Andy simply cannot stand vinegar based cleaners. The scent in the house is just too much for him. I too was hoping I could find something that cleaned very well, and had a better scent. A plethora of research ensued and this ended up being the final analysis: good essential oils, a gentle cleaner, water, and a spray bottle.

You cannot even believe how good this stuff works as a general cleaner, and with baking soda for tougher spots. It’s not going to strip your kitchen spotless in no time like a commercial cleaner (kind of the point). What it will do though is clean surprisingly well for every day cleanup. To prove to you the cleaning power of this, I am going to show you something I dare show no one: My stove after a bit of cooking crazy meals that I didn’t wipe down.

Non-Vinegar Homemade Cleaner:

  • Spray bottle (the size does not matter)
  • Dr. Bronners castile soap
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Tea Tree essential oil
  • Lemon essential oil
  • Rosemary essential oil
  1. Pour enough Dr. Bronners in the bottom of your spray bottle that it covers, and comes up about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch.
  2. Add about 10 drops of each essential oil. I tend to add just a couple more tea tree oil because of it’s awesome anti-bacterial properties.
  3. Add water to fill up the rest of the bottle. Gentle tip back and forth to ensure everything gets mixed well.
  4. Spray away!

The Fully Unscientific, Non Peer-reviewed, Non-Control Group Stove Test

I fully do not believe in hack science that touts backup when it has none – no matter how good it sounds. I believe in peer-reviewed, control group, scientifically reproducible studies. This is not any of those. This is just what I’ve found works well for me. I’ve reproduced this a few times in my kitchen, but that’s about as scientific as this gets.

Here it is in all it’s glory – my absolutely repulsive stove that I didn’t clean up after cooking for a few days. Hey turmeric rice that boiled over. Hello curry! Also, that totally gross burner has been there for.ev.er. no matter how much I scrub it. Deal with it. I’ve dealt with it for five years.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (2)Looking at this repulsive beast, I then sprayed my concoction all over and let it set for a few minutes. One light wipe down (no scrubbing), and the stove was looking better.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (3)One more light mist and a bit more of a detailed wiping down, and it almost looked presentable. Or, rather, as presentable as I care. We’re not talking a Martha Stewart visit here. Even if it were, I mean, come on – it’s me. Hi Martha, here’s a mason jar full of Coors light.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (4)That one damn burner looks better, but it’s still not good. Scrubbing until I had no cartilage between my elbows left wouldn’t really help. I decided to pull out the baking soda to try and get a better clean. I put a bit more cleaner on, and then doused with the baking soda.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (5)Now, before I give the results here let me say this. After wiping just a little bit, it started getting better but then I got annoyed. Then I remembered about the chain mail scrubber my Dad got me at Christmas for my cast iron. Then I remembered it’s a matter of months before this stove gets completely ripped out in our kitchen renovation and that I do not care if it gets totally scuffed to shit. So, chain mail came out like a knight in shining armor.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (6)I’d say that helped quite a bit. I was satisfied enough to take myself out to breakfast. If you think for a second I was about to cook on that newly cleaned stove, you’re out of your damn mind. I’ll cook on it tomorrow. Maybe.

The point is this, overall, just looking between the first and second photo, you can see how well the cleaner works. Plus, it smells super great.

So, there’s that.

All for now, enjoy if you want. I’ll hopefully be back soon with some more updates!

You know how it goes,

Heather

Disclaimer: Just like any cleaner, this cleaner does not substitute for proper cleanliness, preparation and sanitation in a kitchen, bathroom, etc. Please do not do weird things like cut meat directly on the counter, and then use this spray and expect it to kill bacteria. That’s just very poor judgement. Use this cleaner at your own discretion.

Let The 2014 Garden Begin

Hey, friends! I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend and aren’t too hung over/tired/burnt this morning! We stayed home this Memorial Day weekend but have started and done so much. Renovations are back in the swing, and so of course is the garden. Speaking of the garden, I realized I’ve barely written about it this year!

This past growing season confirmed to me that I really wanted to get serious about growing some of my own seeds. In the past I’ve tried winter sowing, but I had decided it wasn’t for me. After lots of research on different methods I decided I wanted to go with soil blocking. It’s literally what it sounds like, creating blocks of soil and starting seeds in those blocks. There’s a lot of great soil blocking material online so I won’t write a ton about the method, but good places to start are to search “Eliot Coleman soil blocking” and to check out Johnny Seeds, which is where I got my soil blocker. Personally I don’t do mini soil blockers, I stuck with 2″ and then moved up to pots for the items (like tomatoes) that needed to be potted up eventually.

DSC_0380-01First was deciding what we wanted to start from seed, what seeds we wanted to direct sow once it got warm enough, and what started seeds we still wanted to buy from our local green house. I knew hands down we were going to start tomato seeds. I really felt I could grow stronger plants by transplant time, but I also wanted more control over the varieties I grew. Beyond tomatoes I wasn’t positive what I would do. In the end I went with tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, celeriac and tomatillo’s. I’ve yet to see how the cabbage, cauliflower and tomatillo’s do and if they’ll be big enough to transplant anytime soon (pictured above). They also got a bit leggy since I forgot to turn my grow light on for two days. Oops. The celery, celeriac, and tomatoes all have done very well. The broccoli I’m not sure what to think of. It looks okay, but it suffered a little after potting it up. I’m not sure if it will do well once it get into the garden so I’m just crossing my fingers.

DSC_0341-01 DSC_0342-01Outside of soil blocking, we have a lot going on in the garden already. So far we have peas, cylindra beets, red ace beets, peas, garlic, onions, and as of yesterday, eighteen of the twenty-eight tomato plants!

DSC_0347-01 DSC_0350-01 DSC_0353-01 DSC_0355-01 DSC_0356-01We also expanded our asparagus patch with the asparagus I bought at the Fedco Tree Sale. Our patch was about 1 ft. by 2 ft. and it’s now about 4×4 which is a pretty good size. To plant  I first air dried the crowns for about twenty-four hours to get any storage mold dried, built the trenches, laid in the crows and covered with soil. We already have a few sprigs showing up from this year, but we won’t pick them. The second and third year asparagus has been delicious, while we’ve let the one year old asparagus go to seed.

DSC_9684 DSC_9697-01 DSC_9714-01 DSC_9731-01DSC_9694-01DSC_0345-01In the other areas of the yard I decided to transplant the strawberries to go in with the blueberries. I figured the acidic soil would be better, it would keep all of our fruit in one area, and it would allow me to build a 2×40 bed behind one of our stone walls to move our squash into as part of a crop rotation plan. At first I was worried the strawberries weren’t going to make it. Turns out though, weeks later, they are thriving in their new home. I really think the change in soil was perfect for them.

DSC_9701-01 DSC_9705-01DSC_0361-01Beyond strawberries the deer got at our blueberry and raspberries this winter since it was so harsh. I really wasn’t sure our new raspberry vine made it but sure enough, it did! Along with the raspberries, the blueberries and rhubarb are also in bloom. I’ve cropped the rhubarb pretty heavily already, but it’s still going.

DSC_0357-01 DSC_0363-01 DSC_0367-01 DSC_0370-01 DSC_0372-01We also expanded our orchard to include two peach trees and two more apple trees. Andy had the great idea of keeping one of the apple trees by the stone wall where the blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are. While all of them are doing good, the one by the stone wall seems to be doing best. There must be something about the soil around that wall, because everything seems to thrive over there.

DSC_0373-01If it seems like a lot has been going on around here, you’d be right! Thankfully I have my new handy broad fork to thank for a lot of the work in the garden. We originally tilled the entire lot, but as I’ve needed beds I’ve been aerating with the broad fork. Unlike tilling it helps keep the nutrients deep in the soil and also doesn’t expose weed seeds—a big issue we’ve been battling for a while now. This no-engine, no mechanics, simple piece of steel equipment is absolutely my favorite gardening tool I own.

DSC_9689-01In the end, that’s what’s been going on so far! Since spring is a bit behind I decided to wait until next weekend to buy the rest of the seedlings and direct sow most of the plants. I might put in the celery and broccoli this week, but I’ll be playing it by mother-natures ear. It’s a ton to do, but so far, so good.

One last thing, I’ve already been canning! This is our first year with rhubarb growing on our property and I realized it was a use it or lose it moment. Sunday I scoured my Ball Company canning recipe book and found one for Victorian Barbecue Sauce using rhubarb. Over all it’s a really unique sauce and pretty darn tasty. I ended up with four small jars and enough left over to use on the pork tenderloin we had last night for dinner.

10401791_310803725740660_785031501_nBesides all of this, the first week of graduate school is done! Only seven more weeks of this class to go and then an eight-week break until the next session! Thank goodness too, because that will be prime gardening time!

xo,
Heather

 

Welcome to Sawmill Nation

Andy and I have been wanting a sawmill for a number of years now. We had no way of justifying an expensive production model with hydraulics, so instead we focused on smaller home models. We looked at just about every brand, and eventually settled on a Woodland Mills. Rather, I had settled on a Woodland Mills. That was until recently, when a deal came up that was too good to pass.

DSC_9642A few years back Andy and I went to his friends place to help him and his Dad saw some lumber. Our friends father had purchased a Hud-Son Oscar 121, which had been purchased used from another guy who bought it and decided it was too much work. Andy jokingly said, “When he’s ready to sell it, have him give me a call.” We moved on, and continued to look around casually while renovating the house. We knew we were going to buy a sawmill this year, but we figured it would be this fall. That is, until we got a call recently saying our friends Dad was selling his mill – a mill that had been barely used.

With our anniversary just about a month away we pretty much looked at each other and knew we had to jump on it. My heart was still with the Woodland Mills, but I came around pretty quickly. We ended up getting the mill, extra track, and a box of new blades for about 1/2 of what everything would cost new. We wished each other a happy early anniversary, jumped in the truck with the dogs and picked it up.

It was just in time too, since our neighbor had a pile of logs out back him and Andy had cut and hauled out this winter.

DSC_9621It’s been fun getting the mill setup, and getting the feel for it. Andy and our neighbor have mostly been the ones using it, but I’ve been learning the ropes too.

DSC_9627We’ve been cutting a lot of 2×6, with some timbers and other various dimensional lumber mostly hackmatack, poplar and a scatter of pine and maple. I’d say overall we’re happy with the setup. The logs are cut nice and maintenance seems to be straightforward. We had an issue with a wave in one of the boards from the blade jumping but that had more to do with the figure of the grain and some pitch build up most likely. Like I said, this is a learning curve for everyone involved (me the most).

DSC_9635The log pile is almost decimated at this point, which means we’re looking forward to cutting the cedar Andy felled at his mom’s place a few weeks back. For now we’ll keep cutting up our neighbors lumber with him, and then at some point we’ll do some hackmatack up at the farm too for a lean-to off the barn. One of the reasons I love Maine, and particularly where I live, is that there is a strong sense of community and neighbors helping neighbors.  A lot more gets done, and faster, when we’re all willing to step in with our resources to get it done.

DSC_9641I know this sounds a bit odd, but the truth is that our little homestead feels a bit more complete with Oscar here. We’ve been wanting a mill for so damn long that it feels like an accomplishment. We aren’t big spenders, we understand the worth of a dollar, and we have made sacrifices specifically so when something like this comes along  we’re able to buy it. That might seem rare in the age of keeping up with the Jones’s and instant gratification, but it’s a deeper feeling like no other to see a long term, hard worked for, item come true.

DSC_9662To both Andy and me it’s important to provide for ourselves. We live in a vastly interconnected world but we also think it’s important to be able to provide for ourselves in some ways. I’m not even close to totally self-reliant and I’m okay with that. We are in no way hardcore homesteaders, and don’t intend to be. In the case of the apocalypse, I am – in the famous words of Dido – going down with this ship. My self-sustaining goal is less dooms day zombie survival and more to have food in a snow storm, to decrease my grocery bill significantly in the summer, to enjoy the taste of summer in the winter with a can of homemade salsa, and to have lumber on hand (or the ability to cut it before we need it) for projects. It’s important for me to just do my part.

Overall, we’re happy. We know it’s not for everyone. I know I’m a bit of an odd duck in the world of marketing to women in that I don’t want diamonds for my anniversary. Last year we stumbled upon our long sought after Suburban a month before our anniversary. This year, it’s a sawmill. Next year? Who knows, but I bet it won’t be jewelry.

858680_10101646540750989_1955072273187390111_oxo,

Heather

Sun Tea & Sprouts

With spring slowly yawning it’s way awake this year, and a good portion of our yard snow free, once I saw Sunday was suppose to be a 48 degree high I knew I was headed outside to work in the yard. Potential snow be damned, it was time to get this spring thing started.

First, I decided to set up our table and chairs that we often eat most every dinner meal on once it gets warm enough, and that I will happily read at all bundled up until then. Second, nothing symbolizes spring more at our house than sun tea. The warm sun heats up tea bags and brews it slowly. Whether you drink sun tea warm when the evenings are still cold, or more often chilled on a hot summer day, it’s downright delightful.

DSC_9049-01After just a few hours of working in the yard and reading at the table, it becomes a happy sign of the sun at work.

DSC_9047-01DSC_9077-01 While I let the sun do it’s job I mulled around the yard and started cleaning up certain beds and saying hello to the plants that snuggled in during this long winter we had.

One mild concern is our three rows of garlic. The frost heaved many of the cloves out of the soil. They seem to be well rooted and some are sprouting so keep your fingers crossed.

DSC_9055-01I also found our strawberry plants had quite surprisingly made it through the fall and winter. We battled some grass wanting a strong takeover last year, and I half expected between the grass and the winter we would have lost them. The grass seemed to have protected each little plant to my happiness. Under the long dead grass laid small green leaves. This year we really will have to transplant these strawberries. After two years it’s clear our original spot next to this particular stone wall simply isn’t the best option. While not an ideal time of year to do so, in another week or so I’ll be transplanting them into the blueberry beds which also enjoy an acidic soil. Given the slow start to spring I expect they may not yield a lot, but they will be okay and take root.

DSC_9059-01 DSC_9056-01In preparation for moving these strawberries, I cleaned up the blueberry bed and found these little flowers growing. I believe these might be the peonies but I’m not quite sure. While peonies and tulips are my two favorite flowers I have to admit that if I can’t eat it, I don’t pay much attention to it. In other words, my focus is really on my vegetables in the summer time and anything else is something Andy or mother nature has likely taken the time to transplant.

DSC_9062-01Speaking of the veggies, inside the house they are starting to peek up. I decided to try seriously under-taking seed starting this year and doing it in soil blocks. I bought my soil blocker from Johnny Seeds (2″ – 4 blocks) but there are many seed catalogs that sell them. It’s a method that helps the plant from becoming root bound, but requires a little more care.

Currently I have celery and celeriac seed sprouting, neither of which I’ve ever grown before, and  45 tomato seeds started on Saturday (15 pink beauty, 15 granadero, 15 defiant). I’m not sure how many of the tomato seeds will actually germinate but I had a pretty decent germination rate last year when I tried starting just a couple indoors. Keep your fingers crossed! If they all germinate I’ll likely give a few away and I’m still going to have a lot of tomatoes which makes me happy. To me there are few things symbolizing summer more than how delicious a fresh off the vine tomato is while you’re still standing in the garden’s warm soil.

DSC_9082-01 DSC_9081-01Overall it was a very relaxing and productive Sunday.

DSC_9060-01I hope you all had a beautiful weekend, and if not, that this helped put a smile on your face.

xo,

Heather

DIY Firewood Tote

As a blogger there are certain times I feel up to writing technical posts, and other times I don’t. Today, a day where I lose my wallet in the morning only to find it after work, and only to get home and find that I forgot my cellphone back at the office, feels like a day I’m up to writing a technical post. This should get interesting. 

What was also pretty interesting was the state of our wood tote as of a few weeks back.

DSC_8305When you heat your house primarily with wood it means firewood totes take a beating, and this one which we’ve had for many many years was no different.

DSC_8307I knew it was time to get a new tote, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to buy one. First, I can sew well enough that I figured I could make one. Second, a lot of the totes I saw seemed like they were constructed for the casual user which is great, but wouldn’t work for us. Third, after researching the ones that would hold up for us I realized the design was the same as our current one and it was a design we just didn’t love. I’ll get into that more in a minute.

So that left me with one option which I happily delved into—making my own firewood tote. Sometimes it’s nice to see the finished product before reading a “how to”, and sometimes it’s also nice to know the difficulty and item list, so here you go.FirewoodTote

DIY Firewood Tote:
Difficulty – easy leaning to moderate

  • 1/2 yard artists canvas
  • one yard (maybe a little more just to be sure) heavy duty nylon strap (also known as nylon webbing)
  • All-purpose of heavy duty thread
  • Sewing machine, unless you’re a glutton for punishment then by all means sew this by hand
  • Two pieces of wood, about a foot or 14 inches long each. I think my piece was about a 1/2 inch by 2 inches.
  • Way to cut the wood into the correct dimensions/trim if needed (I used our compound sliding mitre saw, aka chop saw, but a hand saw would work fine)

The Process:

The first part was researching to figure out what most totes were made from that could hold up to our near daily use for months on end. Cotton duck seemed like an option but then I found artists canvas. It’s the same canvas you see in art stores, just sold in fabric stores on huge bolts. I remembered reading online that someone had used this, and since I couldn’t find any cotton duck and the price was right I went for it. I ended up finding mine at the Marden’s in Lewiston for $3.99 a yard. It’s so wide on the bolt that I only needed 1/2 a yard for this project. I bought a lot more than I needed knowing I could make more of them for other people, and just to have around. The saying goes “You should have bought it when you saw it at Mardens”, so I did because Mainer’s understand it may not be there the next time you go.

FirewoodTote2014 (3)The second step was deciding what to do for strapping. Last summer some of the siding material Andy bought was from Coastal Forest Products. The product came wrapped in this cool nylon strapping with their name on it. I came outside, saw the strapping and immediately snagged it. I specifically remember thinking it could make for a really good firewood tote strap. Any heavy duty nylon strapping (webbing) will do though. I’ve seen it on amazon in 10 yard increments for pretty cheap, but I’m guessing places like Home Depot or Lowes would have some. Heck, if you wanted a wider strap you could even buy a nylon tow rope if you have the machine to sew through it.

FirewoodTote2014 (17) Finally it was time to solidify my design. So many firewood totes have flared out edges to help to keep it from slipping out the sides. Taking the time to make sure it’s carefully stuffed in the edges is just not something I’m willing to do for as often as we use it. I remember one time I did, just to see what it was all about and I never did it again. A basic rectangle was all we needed.

With artists canvas, strapping and design solidified it was time to start sewing. So here’s my method step-by-step (day by day – Patrick Duffy, you slay me).

  1. Lay out your canvas. Cut it at about 1/2 a yard (or a little wider than your typical size log). The width of artist canvas makes it hard to keep everything square, so I’d recommend using a rotary cutter, ruler and self healing mat if you can.FirewoodTote2014 (5)
  2. Once you’ve made the cut, take the two long sides and fold them over about 1/2 an inch or so. The good thing about artists canvas is it’s easy to press down. I wouldn’t recommend putting a hot iron to it though. You’re welcome to try, but I wouldn’t trust ruining my iron to test my theory that it would melt. This fold is going to make for your first seam. I found it easiest to make this seam by placing my ruler on the inside of the canvas and folding over the edge of it.FirewoodTote2014 (6)FirewoodTote2014 (7)
  3. Sew the seam down. Make sure to lock the seam down (going forwards and backwards) a couple times at each end. Keep in mind that this can be a bit slippery. My stitches weren’t perfectly straight, but they got better the more I got used to sewing on the canvas.FirewoodTote2014 (8)
  4. To really add some strength to the seams I did a double fold and then sewed down again. Once the long sides were done I repeated step 2 to 4 on the short ends.FirewoodTote2014 (9)
  5. With the edges all sewn down I added some extra structure to the ends at the (awesome) suggestion of my brother in law. He made the good point that adding the wood would help keep the edges from falling over when you’re hauling, and I’ve found it has made the entire thing easier to pick up. To judge where to make my pocket for the wood I laid the canvas out, laid down the wood, and simply folded it over, giving myself enough room to make a snug but not super tight pocket. I ended up cutting my wood pieces a little shorter so I would have enough room to sew the final end shut once the wood was inserted.
    FirewoodTote2014 (11) FirewoodTote2014 (12) FirewoodTote2014 (13)
  6. Next up came attaching the straps. Attaching the straps is a little more on the moderate side of easy, but it definitely isn’t difficult. Start by turning your freshly creased canvas over so the folded seams are facing down.FirewoodTote2014 (14)
  7. When you place your straps, you’ll want to remember that you will not be sewing above the crease. Remember that you’re folding that over to sew down to put the wood in. You can’t sew the wood pocket before you put the straps on, because they you would sew the pocket shut that you need to put the wood in. You can’t sew the straps on after you put the wood in, because you can’t sew through wood. So you’ll want to start your handle height from the crease. For instance, in the phone below I wouldn’t sew the strap on above the “e” in “Forest”.FirewoodTote2014 (15)
  8. The next step of sewing on the strap is two fold. First, it’s important the strap is one long giant circle before you sew it on—think hoola hoop. I did this by sewing my nylon strapping together. Keep in mind (as you’ll see in the next step) this nylon strapping is going to be hauling a lot of weight. You don’t want this to snap or you’re going to end up with a lot of heavy wood slamming down your legs. This would be less than pleasurable. I sewed mine together in about a million different ways to ensure there was plenty of stitching holding them together.FirewoodTote2014 (16) FirewoodTote2014 (17)
  9. Second, I’d recommend starting to sew the strap at the center of the canvas. This ensures you end up with an equal handle on either side.  To find the center, fold down the two top sections like you would if the wood was inserted, and then fold the rectangle in half again, like you see below. Also I recommend laying everything out before sewing, and pinning if you need to (second photo below). FirewoodTote2014 (18) FirewoodTote2014 (19)
  10. Finally, start sewing! Here are some photos of my stitches so you can see my technique. To start I did a single stitch just to get everything tacked down. Then in the center and on the ends I did super extra stitching in a box and X shape. I then did two more long stitches overall to give extra strength and to help keep the strapping from folding up on the edges or catching on anything. FirewoodTote2014 (20) FirewoodTote2014 (21)
  11. Finally it came the time to sew down the shorter edges so the wood could be slipped in. I stitched it down, and then sewed up one side which left a pocket for me to slip the wood into. FirewoodTote2014 (23) FirewoodTote2014 (24)FirewoodTote2014 (26)
  12. The final step was making sure the wood was far enough back in the pocket and then stitching the open side shut, sealing the wood inside. FirewoodTote2014 (25)FirewoodTote2014 (27)

That’s it! This entire project cost me $2.00. If I had to buy the webbing it would have come out to a few bucks more (though I’d have lots of strapping left over, but that’s no problem around here as it would be used). The other option for straps if you don’t want to buy nylon strapping would be to make some canvas straps. It wouldn’t be horribly difficult to cut some wide straps, sew them all together, and give each strap a good solid hem on either side (same method as hemming the actual tote). It would be a heck of a lot stiffer and maybe harder to sew overall but it would definitely be doable. I’m debating on trying this method in the future just to see how it works. If I do, I’ll be sure to update you.

xo

Heather

P.S.  I waited to write this to ensure it held up and I can now say after at least a few weeks of daily use it’s held up great. Removing the weird side pockets was a great decision, as was adding in the wood for stability. Overall I’m really happy with how this turned out.