Wednesday, January 30, 2013

there's something in the water and, a homemade laundry soap I can live with

Our dryer broke down around Christmastime, and laundry has been so much on my mind this past month. I actually didn't use the dryer that often, but when it's readily available, it's easy to become complacent about having it. And when it's not available, planning for laundry day is all-the-more-important.

Sometimes, the laundry gets forgotten about and snowed on. It happens.

And sometimes, it freeze-drys overnight in sub-zero temps. No big deal.

But, the real revelation of late is that we most definitely have hard water with a lot of iron in it. This is what causes my (blonde) hair to turn orange if left wet, and my laundry to appear a tad dingy. But it's okay, because my experimenting with different homemade laundry soap recipes has finally left me with one I can live with!

Backing up a bit, though...

As an experiment, I went out and bought that dang Tide from the store and used it until the bottle ran out. And you know what? It didn't work any better than my previous homemade formula! At all. This was both depressing and revolutionary at the same time. I was hoping the store-bought stuff would magically cure my laundry woes and give my clothes a fresh start, so to speak, while I worked on the homemade formula. But it didn't do a darn thing. No special stain-removing powers. No brighter colors and whiter whites. No better than new. No nothing (except for being ridiculously overpriced and overpackaged).


Here's the formula/process that's actually been working for me for over three months now. I really like the tutorial using this more concentrated recipe. No more mustiness, and a whole lot less dinginess:

1. At medium-low temperature, heat up a pot with 1.5 Quarts water 
2. Add 1 bar of grated Dr. Bronner's castile soap, stirring a bit until fully dissolved
3. Add 1 Cup borax, 1 Cup washing soda, and 1/2 Cup baking soda
4. Stir again until dissolved and thick, then remove from heat
5. Add about 2.5 to 3 gallons of hot water to the mixture, and mix well. (I use a huge stockpot for this task, and then transfer the soap to smaller containers with a funnel. But, the tutorial I mentioned above uses a 3 gallon bucket with a lid instead, which I find very smart! I would do that if I didn't have to haul my soap down to the basement where my washing machine is).

Other things to note:
--In most full loads of wash I use a whole cup of the laundry soap.
--Occasionally, I'll use oxybleach with a white load, and with towels and cloth diapers, I always run the extra rinse cycle with a full cup of vinegar added to the machine.

Happy, happy laundry days these are!

**Oh, by the way, you can remove the orange from your hair by making a paste of citric acid and baking soda, and allowing it to stay on your hair for 15 minutes. The orange color then rinses away. To help prevent it in the first place, I use white vinegar as my conditioner (diluted with water to about a 1:8 concentration) and have to blow dry my hair after showering. Dingy clothes and orange hair aren't really my style, but I suppose a little dullness of fabric and slight bronzing of locks is okay; A small sacrifice for living in a place where well water still exists!**

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I missed my Christmas sweater a long shot!

But, it's done now! Actually it was done a couple weeks ago, but I was awaiting the arrival of the buttons. In the meantime, I had enough yarn left to make a matching bonnet!

Longer than a month seems like a long time to complete a baby sweater, but I swear that for me, it is a record. Especially considering that I had a small setback in the beginning when I somehow skipped over the words "each end" in the pattern, and had to frog the entire back of the garment. And especially taking into account that I knitted mostly in fits and spurts, without so much as 30 minutes to sit and work continuously (such is life these days with a micheivious little one running all around, meals to prepare, and animals to care for). I've embraced this way of working, though, and the little time spent knitting each day has been a balm for my soul. I'm so proud of this first ever little sweater. It's not nearly as complicated as the many beautiful things made by so many talented knitters out there, but I think it's the best thing I've made yet (minor mistakes and all). So thanks for letting me share it with you.

I will now inundate you with photos. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

holiday green beans

You could, of course, have these anytime, but during the holiday season is when they regularly appear at our table. I prefer to use fresh green beans when I can, and this simple dish adds a bit of freshness to what can sometimes be heavy and hearty winter meals.

Serves 4-6

1 pound green beans, ends trimmed and long ones cut in half
1 medium sized yellow onion, finely diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
Salt to taste and a small amount of black pepper
A little butter and/or oil for cooking
1 small lemon (1/2 juiced, 1/2 cut in wedges to garnish plate)
Optional additions: chopped mushrooms and fresh herbs such as thyme or rosemary

1. Saute the onions and garlic (and mushrooms if using) in butter/oil over medium heat, until softened and starting to brown.
2. Add green beans, stirring and cooking until slightly softened, but still with a good bite to them
3. Add salt and pepper (and herbs if using).
4. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

the winter's garden

Is pretty much nonexistent. The greens in the cold frame have long since stopped growing and frozen over. But, before our recent spell of sub-freezing temperatures, I did manage to harvest the rest of the onions tucked around the herb bed close to the house. They were planted late - the remaining dozen or so seedlings I didn't find room for anywhere else. They're sweet little baby red and yellow onions. So delicious!

I'm worried about the garlic. A good portion of it has begun to sprout through the wood chip mulch. This is only my third year growing garlic, so I have much to learn, but I don't think it's supposed to be doing that. It's supposed to be taking a long winter's nap. Maybe I should've buried it deeper, or maybe that mulch is doing too good of a job keeping the soil warm and tricking the cloves into thinking it's spring? I don't know. I found this info to be reassuring, but I'm probably still going to fret about it for the next four months. Plants are smart, though, even in the face of user-error, so I'm still hoping for a good crop.

I finally got around to de-seeding and grinding up the paprika and cayenne peppers I had been drying for months now. It wasn't the most pleasant task, but is an excellent way to clear out your sinuses! (and discourage others from entering the kitchen to ask for a snack). I'm glad I don't have to do that again anytime soon.

I also harvested the ginger. Oh, it is a sad looking harvest! I think I may need to continue adding compost tea as a fertilizer the next time, and look into how to increase my yield.

We have a few pumpkins left sitting in the very cold mudroom awaiting some inspiration for cooking. Pumpkin cheesecake sounds like it might be a good option. Before we shared it with the goats and chickens, our Halloween pumpkin made the perfect lounge chair.

Is anything still growing in your neck of the woods?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

on new year's eve

We all headed to bed early, thoroughly exhausted from many a holiday family gathering and relatives staying over. Baby happened to wake up just before midnight, dishing out hugs and kisses for us and the pups. She and I shared a late-night snack and rocked by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree for a good long while before heading back to bed. Such a gentle and peaceful way to begin a new year. I'm trying to hold onto that state of mind. Gentle. Peaceful.
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