Found: (Some) Suds

I have never made soap. Its one of those things that I’ve read about, considered doing, but haven’t quite found the gumption to try – yet. It is on “the list”.

What I have done is sorta-made some of my own soaps.

Soap, grated with my food processor in about 1 minute, ready to add the other ingredients then get caught up on laundry! 

Laundry soap was the first I tried. I have made a gel recipe, and a powder recipe. I make the powder because its just easier to whip up a batch. It works well, my clothes get clean, and a batch lasts quite a long time. It is cheap and effective.

Recipe: Combine finely grated soap (Fels Naptha is recommended, but you can mix it up. My fav is Ivory), 1 cup of Borax, and 1 cup of Washing Soda (not the same as Baking Soda. Do not make this mistake!). Easy. I keep it in an old plastic salad shell on my dryer.

Be forewarned, this is a low-sudsing soap. We have grown up with many misconceptions. Clean equals: sudsy, smelly (like, as in, floral, or ‘clean’ smelling) and that the more the better. This laundry soap, like many homemade soaps, uses not very much to get your stuff clean. One Tbl. scoop (I use an old espresso scoop) for the average load, a little more for a dirtier or larger-than-average load. Wash in cold, warm, or hot. Sometimes I put the soap in first, then add a little hot to get the soap to disintegrate faster, especially if the load is really dirty.

I found I was going through a lot of hand soap, with all the good hygiene in the house (coupled with kids who use a half-dollar dollop when a dime-sized amount will do – oy!). I bought the containers that make foaming soap from Target, and then bought ONE expensive refill bottle, before I decided to try to make my own (have I mentioned before I am cheap?). I was not a maverick in this area, as there were many blog posts about doing this. I decided to try this method. It works great, no complaints. I find it is easier, especially, for my little kids to get their hands clean with the foaming soap.

Empty foamy soap bottle – ready for the easy recipe!

Recipe: Get an empty foaming soap container, fill to the fill line (which is probably the bottom of the pump aparatus. You don’t want to fill past that. Bad things may occur.) then add around a Tbl. (maybe a little more, a little less) of Dr. Bronner’s soap. I like the eucalyptus one, and the peppermint one. Make sure you add the soap last, or you will have a foamy mess on your hands. Just cap the container, slightly agitate it, and you’re ready to go!

Dish soap can be made using good ol’ Bronner’s soap, though it doesn’t get dishes grease-free IMHO, which has caused remarks from Hub’band, who is the evening dish-doer. So, though we have done this, we really don’t stick to it. I usually use Seventh Generation brand soap. (Oh, and if you’re bored, check out the documentary about “Dr” Bronner on Netflix. Kind of interesting, kind of sad.)

Recipe: Put 3 Tbl. of water, add 1 cup of  Dr. Bronner’s soap or other castile soap in a small container (I re-used a single serve yogurt that had a plastic lid). That’s it. You can halve or quarter the recipe. Just use a splash, as usual. Again, this won’t be crazy-sudsy, but it will be clean!

Likewise, though dishwasher detergent CAN be made, it seems to leave a crusty mineral-y film on the heating element of my dishwasher. At least, that is what I intuit is doing it (I suppose it could be the minerals in my water, but I did notice it at least getting exponentially worse when I started doing the homemade stuff.) I now realize, however, after revisiting my recipe, I have been using baking soda, where actually, washing soda is called for! So now, I may have to try it again, to see if I have better results. Usually I have bought the  Seventh Generation or Full Circle (Cashwise generic natural/organic) brand. The good thing about using a natural detergent – well, at least one good thing out of several – when you open your dishwasher while its running, you don’t get a chemical facial. Nice!

I give thanks for my dishwasher, every day. Seriously.

Recipe: 1 part washing soda to 1 part Borax. Put vinegar in your rinse cup, and your dishes will be less spotty, too!

It is empowering to do these things myself, easily, cheaply, and effectively. What do you make yourself? What new things should I add to the list? 

Getting Personal: a Lost and Found

First, the excesses of modern Western “culture” sometimes make me a little queasy. A whole aisle of toothpaste? Two aisles of hair care products? Don’t even get me started on body washes and face soaps. And secondly, if you’re like me and have struggled either with general oiliness and acne and have had a tough time finding something that was OK for your hyper-sensitive skin, it just makes you all the more queasy. Whole aisles of stuff that not only don’t work, they make the problems worse.

How did it go in the olden days? I think either you didn’t brush your teeth, or you made your own toothpaste. Huzzah. So – here we go…..

There are some easy things you can make at home, if you want. Now, there are always going to be some things that ALL of us will say, “Why would I EVER make that? I can walk into any store and buy it!” If your reaction to any of these things is that, that’s totally cool. We can still be friends, yo.

I’m just sayin’ — here are three that *I* make and use, and they’re all easy.

Deodorant – Easy! Mix cornstarch (or arrowroot powder) and coconut oil in roughly equal amounts, heating until soft yet thick. If its too liquidy, add more starch. If too dry, add more oil. You can also add some drops of essential oil – I like tea tree or lavender. Just 2 or 3 drops, mind you, the stuff is strong! Scoop into a used deodorant tube, and keep in bathroom (if you house stays cool) or in fridge (if, like my house, yours gets over 73 degree or so in the summer, at which temp the coconut oil will get soft and/or melt). Does it work? Yes. Is it weird to have deodorant in my fridge? Obviously *I* don’t think so. I think the less chemicals I put into my body, especially close to my chest, the better. Some studies link certain kinds of chemicals (found in deodorants) to increased cancer risk. Maybe so, maybe not – but this is easy, and effective. I’d rather not take chances where cancer-causing agents are present. Pros: you can choose your own fragrance? Cons: If you’re looking for a clear-gel type, unfortunately this is not the best one. I have to be honest. As I don’t wear a lot of sleeveless shirts, there isn’t much of a risk for me. There is a great post about making your own underarm stuff here: http://homesteadrevival.blogspot.com/2011/01/homemade-deodorant.html

Shampoo – Even easier! So, this is a concept called “poo-free”. You use baking soda, perhaps 1 – 2 times a week, so scrub your scalp and get rid of any dirt or build up. Run a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water through your hair, concentrating on the ends. I do this process once a week. To freshen up, I do wash and scrub, but with water only. I also am going to make begin using some jojoba oil, or a mix of grapeseed oil and lavender essential oil through my hair, just because it has a really pleasing scent. For a lot, lot, lot more info on this and some very helpful faq’s, check out http://ourlittleapartment.com/2011/10/still-shampoo-free/

Now, the trick with going poo free? When you start, your poor hair isn’t going to know what has hit it. Every time you use a conventional shampoo, it strips your hair of its natural oils. You’re tricking your follicles, then, to produce MORE oil. Yor very dazed and  confused hair follicles may commonly OVER-produce oil, to compensate. For a week or so (up to a month for some people, I’ve heard), you may have some oily hair. So, either just go for it, or pick a ‘hermit month’ and don’t go out.  Seriously, for me, it wasn’t too bad.

The other trick is finding out what baking soda method works best for you. I’ve tried a couple of things: 1 – 2 Tbl. baking soda dissolved in a squeeze bottle (an old mustard bottle works well), and baking soda mixed with water. It is the latter that I’m currently using. I put about 1 tsp, very small amount, in my hand, just wet with water, and rub on my scalp. I spend about 3 -4 minutes massaging my scalp lightly, yet firmly, in a circular motion with my fingers. I rinse well with warm water. Then, I get my jar of ACV/Water (half and half mixture is what I use, but you can increase or decrease the strength) and wet the end of my hair, but also I put it throughout my hair (that is the step that might not work for everyone, but it works for me). This is a natural softener/conditioner. The last step, I turn the water on cold. I rinse the ACV out in cold water, which I think tends to close up my hair follicles and prevent oils from being over-produced.

Pro: My hair is soft, manageable, and has more volume. Seriously! Con: I sometimes miss the smell of my old shampoo. Seriously. But, since so many people are affected by our overly-smelly chemical-ly world, I figure taking some smell out of the air is a small sacrifice.

Oil Cleansing Method for Skin: Using the proper ratio of castor oil to olive oil, and 3 drops of tea tree oil, I clean my skin using the ‘like dissolves like’ principle. I have struggled with acne all my life, and this method has given me some good results. I break out from the slightest irritation. I also know now that I have some food triggers that affect oil production in my skin, as well as hormonal cues that affect me. Both subjects of other posts. You can check out the post that got me going on this method at this site, right here: http://simplemom.net/oil-cleansing-method/

So, once you’ve got this concoction mixed up, you put a dime-sized amount in you palm, and rub it right in to you skin. Then, take a washcloth and get it wet in realllly hot water – as hot as you can stand (without getting burned of course)  – Wet and wring on the cloth, then lay it over you face. Give yourself a relaxing facial steam. Stand there until it gets cool, then lift off cloth and repeat. You can do this 2 – 5 times; I usually do twice, then I gently rub my face in a circular motion, lifting off any oil that remains. Make sure to get good and rinsed off around your hairline and ears. You’ll only need to do this every other, or even every third day!  Pro: You’ll notice soft skin with a glow! I hope, like me, you will notice fewer breakouts as well. Con: It is especially important to REMEMBER to do this. I do sometimes forget, and when I’m not diligent, I notice more oilyness and breakouts that my skin seems to be prone to anyway.

So, you made it through the post. Congrats. And more kudos to you if you consider trying one of these things, even if its just for a week, or for a month, or for the summer!

What’s Up Wednesday: Homemade Garden Markers

I entreated my friend to go on Pinterest and send me some pictures of garden markers. Because I’m afraid if I go on Pinterest, I may never be seen again.

With her help, and some visual aids, I crafted what I think are some pretty darn nifty garden markers. I used Sculpey clay (original kind), worked it until soft, and then used acrylic rubber stamps to push into the clay. You can also use wood-mounted stamps, and I did try this, but did not like the clean, clear results as much as with the acrylic ones. Bad news, I think that I might have wrecked the stamps that I used for the project. But, considering that I nearly never use them, they should get used! And used up! And I really like my new garden markers!

I put some glaze, two coats, over them. Honestly, I don’t know exactly what will happen when they get wet – because there is no doubt they will get wet.  After a very half-hearted attempt to use the internet to give me an answer on what kind of glaze I should use, I just bought one on Amazon that looked Ok. If anyone has any insight, I’d appreciate it.

I bought some electric fence wire on a small spool for $5, the clay was $12 (including shipping) and the glaze was $6. I made 13 markers in all, and you can check out their snazzy appearance in the garden. While I think they turned out great, one of the things I appreciate is that they’re all different, and they all have some imperfections. They are not mass-produced junky things. Even if they only last a season (see “glaze issue” above) I think the time I spent creating them was worth it. It was invigorating to do something I’d never done before, and also to have done it myself. For more things you *can* do yourself, see you next week! Sorry the pictures didn’t make it onto this post – please watch for them in a ‘weekend special’ of some neat garden photos, ok, folks?

Found: Chicken Daycare

I haven’t written a lot about my chickens, but they are a perfect example of ‘local’ food – eggs from our backyard! When my buddy Roxane profiled me in the local paper, I was hesitant to let the ‘birds out of the cage’ – call me paranoid, but I really didn’t want to have people potentially knocking on my back door, or worse, breaking into the coop, to peek at what may be some of Fargo’s only backyard birds.

Now that I’ve hosted a recent Wildtree party, and introduced many children and their parents to the birds, its safe to say the word is out, and, being the proud ‘mother hen’ that I am, I can’t resist now posting and sharing some photos of my three sweet Ameracauna hens. Goldie Chest, Red Hen, and ….Goldie Chest, Jr. (I thought at some point we’d give them more creative names, but these have stuck. We do sometimes call Red Hen “Flapper” because…well…she is just extra ‘flappy’. Must be something about being handled by eager children.

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Our birds were adopted in a unique situation. They were hatched, then given away. More than that I cannot blog, but not only is it possible to have chickens in Fargo (with a few restrictions of course) but its also possible to get them free o’ charge. Wish I could say the same for their coop and feed. But I do have many willing helpers to tend the flock (which I do technically have. A flock = 3 or more).

We started out with 7 cotton balls. One we discovered almost right away was a rooster. He and two of his ‘girls’ were given to a friend on a farm outside of town. We kept four. Nice, round number – 4 eggs a day, maybe? That’d be a dozen and a half a week, give or take a few! Nice! Well — imagine our surprise when, while drinking morning coffee and gazing out the window on our tiny coop, we heard a Cock-a-doodle-doo! Skittish, our fluffy blue-grey Silkie “hen”, had showed herself to be a himself — which made sense, actually – we noticed this bird to be aggressive, very dominant, and had started to be nipped by him.  We just failed to notice his cockscomb developing under all the girly plumage. This bird went to another friend of our family, also on a farm (we hear reports from time to time that he is a true cock of the walk.).

But, why chickens in the  first place? Well – we like eggs. Plus, its kind of a unique, quirky, self-sufficienty thing to do. I had done quite a bit of reading about chickens, and thought they’d be a fun project that I could lump into our ‘homeschool experience’, making myself look slightly less crazy for having farm animals 4 blocks away from the Bismarck Tavern.

It has been a GREAT experiment. I truly do like these birds, and if I had a little more space, I would have more. Other varieties I’d consider would be pigeons or Japanese quail. I had been also considering rabbits, but honestly, I just don’t think I could kill a rabbit. And just using their poo for fertilizer wouldn’t justify the expense of keeping them….anywho, back to the birds.

They were housed in the garage over the winter, with a small door to an outside run, which they quite quickly turned into a bare patch of earth. We thought it would be neat to make them a movable pen (which you can see in the slideshow) so they could mow the little grass we have left in the backyard, dig for bugs and worms, and get their own grit from the soil. They have enjoyed it.

Now, here you may REALLY think I’m crazy, but they are LEARNING, people. Their pea-sized brains are taking it in, and remembering. They now know what the word ‘outside’ means, and they make a special questioning kind of noise when they want to be let out to their chicken daycare pen. I am totally not kidding you. At all. *cough*

The pen was cheap to build – I think the pvc pipe and connectors totaled about $7, and then the netting was $18 (would have been free, but we accidentally curbed the remaining netting, and forgot to rescue it. Someone else is building a chicken daycare as we read, I’m sure of it.). The zip ties we had, though I did have to buy a few more. We used colored duct-tape left over from the kids wallet-making-fiesta, so no cost there. Grand project total was in the neighborhood of $25, and Hub’band built it in roughly 2 hours. Yay!

The most time intensive part was picking out pipe fittings while our kids terrorized other customers in our local Fleet Farm. Second most time intensive was snipping the hex netting without making too many gashes in one’s skin. We made a top flap that can be opened, but the whole thing is so light-weight, that we usually just lift it up to let the birds in and out.

We’re pleased with the results, and the happy hens are, too.

Warming up to an early spring…

Folks! Thanks for your comments, thanks for your patience, thanks for not un-following, even after I don’t post for       two whole weeks!

Question for you, What’s been keeping YOU running this spring? It is obvious that I’ve been running enough not to be able to sit down much and type about it…

If you’re like us here in Fargo, you’ve had an unseasonably warm spring, and it has helped us get a jump start on:

  • absorbing vitamin D
  • getting the gardens ready for planting
  • being outside at the park
  • taking walks
  • considering making new garden spaces, then realizing we’re busy enough, so deciding against it
  • installing a new firepit in the backyard and burning a lot of stuff

But, as you can see in the gallery below, we’ve also been doing some other stuff.  So, look forward to reading about our adventures over the next weeks, and I’d love to know what you’re up to, too!

Whats up Wednesday: Found and Local: Dandelion — Menace, or….Medicine?

Ah, the humble dandelion. Some who know me ‘irl’ know that I’ve gone from hating dandelions and pulling them out with my Weed-Hound, to letting them flourish in my yard and making syrup, jelly, fritters, and cookies out of them!

Far from being a nuisance or a bane, the European settlers who brought them here did so – ON PURPOSE. Can you imagine? “Hmm, with what shall I fill my sea-crossing satchel? Family heirloom, or fluffy yellow flower?” And yet, amazingly, some brought this flower. What some people try to eradicate from their yards with all kinds of nasty chemicals, others (well, mostly naturopathic doctors) prescribe as medicine. Dandelion is a diuretic (yeah, makes ya’ pee – in fact, its French name, pissenlit, means ‘to “piss” the bed, apparently),and  a liver cleanser/tonic. Its flowers are beautiful and fragrant. Its early spring greens are high in vitamins (later spring and summer greens are more bitter and not so tasty). The dandelion plant has a long tap-root, like a carrot, and if you can manage to pull a big chunk out, you can roast the root, and make a kind of coffee out of it – a non-caffeinated “coffee”! This is on my list for ‘someday’ when I’m caught up on all my other projects, so much so that I can dig out dandelion taproots.

Do not banish the dandelion, but embrace it, with some of these recipes! *I think I have a bunch of pictures of my dandelion stuff, but can not for the life of me find it on my ‘puter. If I do, I’ll update this post with a slideshow as well.*

 

Chocolate Chip Dandelion Cookies

Dandelion Syrup (which can be used as a base for jelly)

Dandelion Fritters (this one has really beautiful pictures)

Dandelion Wine (I have never tried this – this is also on “the list”)

Stay tuned for a soon-to-be-written post about more “weeds” you can eat!