Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Homemade Laundry Soap, Part II

Well, I've been using homemade laundry soap for a few weeks now and must report it's the best soap I've ever used. Clothes come out absolutely clean and fresh smelling, without the perfumed smell that commercial soap has. And best of all, my HE washer has finally lost it's tendency to go all moldy smelling. I'd tried everything before -- bleach, vinegar, leaving the door open. But the moldy smell kept coming back. Now the washer smells perfectly clean.

Crocheted Dish Cloths

I finished making another crocheted dish cloth today. I'm becoming a bit obsessive about them. They're made from bright, pretty. but very cheap acrylic yarn. So they dry quickly and don't develop moldy smells. They're mildly abrasive too, and clean without scratching. And, they're a great way to practice various patterns and stitches, on a small piece, with cheap yarn.

I've made three of them in three days.

Seed starting station

My husband just finished helping me build a growing station for new starts. It's from a table that has been through many transformations at our house. First it was an entrance table, then we shortened the legs and made it a sofa table. Then we moved it to my office where it held a printer and the supplies for the online book sales I used to do. Now I've moved it to the front room, by a big window. R found an old florescent fixture in the garage, which used to be installed in our rent house. The length was perfect to fit under the top of the table, where the light could shine on the seedlings below. But it was too wide so he folded back and crimped the metal edge of each side by about an inch. It's perfect now and looks really pretty. The light fixture is hidden by the sides of the top and the light adds a kind of ambient glow to the room.

Winter Garden

The garden is looking sparse but still producing enough greens for our daily use.  Yesterday I harvested Chinese cabbage, leeks, black mustard, Kale and a selection of young greens.  We had a leek and Chinese cabbage quiche and a large salad. I also planted a big batch of onions, spinich, and more ruby chard.   

This is my first winter garden.  The main difference between a winter and a spring garden, at least in this climate, is that winter veggies aren't the kind of crops that lend themselves to preserving.  Also, no fighting the heat and heaping yards of mulch trying to hold in the water.  So it's a really easy, pleasant time to garden.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A House is not a Monument

I've been sometimes frustrated with the state of my house, which is always in flux -- never quite tidy enough, remodeling projects always underway, a pile of laundry to be sorted, baskets of yarn on tables, writing projects that seem to give birth to piles of manuscripts and clippings, gardens that need weeding, vegetables that need canning, beds that need making.  

I have a friend, several friends actually, whose houses always look the same.  Always ready for company, polished, arranged, composed.  Their houses are monuments.

Well, that's not me, my friends, and I've decided to make peace with it.  Revel in it, even.  I like a clean house, sure.  And I think my house usually is pretty clean.  And I loath clutter.  So I beat back an excess of stuff with all my will.  But, I've decided, a house is not a monument.  It's a living, changing environment.  An organism, almost.  A place where things happen, where life is lived.

Homemade Laundry Soap

I'll introduce myself later.  I'll explain how I,  who spent six years in graduate school, who planned to spend my days on a university campus teaching and researching, who loved the city, and a downtown kind of life, ended up living fifty miles from nowhere, gardening, canning, preserving, sweeping, mopping, polishing, laundering and otherwise being a huswife.  And later, I'll also explain how a huswife is different than a housewife.

But first, I want to get into the heart of the matter. Yesterday I tried a new recipe for homemade laundry detergent and it is a big success.  Here's the recipe:

1 Bar grated Zote soap
1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Baking Soda

Mix and store.  Use 1 TB per load, 2 TB for heavily soiled laundry.

That's it!  Very simple and cleans beautifully, laundry smells very fresh without being too perfumed.  It's adapted from a recipe on Tipnut.  The original recipe calls for either Fels Naptha or Zote.  I like Zote because a) it's what my little local grocery store had in stock, and b) the bright pink soap looks so pretty.  I also doubled the recipe, which originally called for 1 c grated soap and 1/2 c borax and soda.  The bar of Zote made 2 cups so I doubled the rest of the stuff.  And finally, I substituted baking soda for the original recipe's washing soda because a) both accomplish similar goals as to deodorizing, and baking soda is supposed to be gentler on clothes, and b) I had baking soda on hand.

A poster at Tipnut had calculated the cost of this soap at about a penny a load.  I think I paid a fraction more for my ingredients than they did, but not much.