Monday, August 31, 2009

Must See

If you're still on that environmental fence, making excuses to use chemicals to get the job done faster, better, cheaper, with less work, let me direct you to a series of documentary exposes that will not only make you cringe with disgust but also pry your eyes open to the realities of this chemical age.

This Is Our Planet, This Is Our Earth (Volume 1) is a series of 3 DVDs, 275 minutes in length, that describe environmental problems around the globe and right in your own neighbourhood.
DVD 1: Toxic Trespass
DVD 2: The Fight For True Farming
DVD 3: Bhopal: Search for Justice
Crapshoot: The Gamble with out Wastes

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Late Spring

Its late Spring here at my house. The garden is well and truly off and running and brings me great joy and back pain.
Yet it also brings me a pinch of guilt as well. Why? Well, when a raised bed is first built, it must be filled with a grwoing medium of some kind. In my case its been plastic (YUCK) bags loads of cheap black earth, perlite (last year) and compost. Also, a couple truck loads of "soil" and compost for the front gardens and raised beds in the last year. The running of the hose for new plants and the vegetable beds when the rain barrel runs dry or is not a viable option (there are issues with rain collection and its use on vegetable thanks to the leachates in the water from roofing materials..)Thats a lot of money, water, trash (bags), and exhaust(trucks) usedto create our wee oasis in suburbia.
But then I think of the benefits...the flowers that feed the soul and senses and a few insects as well (damn you sawfly and lily beetles). The fruits and vegetables that will hopefully feed our family (come on little seeds...grow). As time passes the costs will diminish..each harvest will bring us closer to balance between costs and benefits. As time passes the two composters (more money) will help turn garbage to black gold for the gardens. The new plants of last year have settled into their places and don't need the extra water from last year so much and the rain barrel will keep up with them in theory.
Today although the weather is not lovely I walked my garden path to see what was up out front: The FRAGRANT white irises that came with our back yard and have been divided and moved around are coming into bloom. The lilacs of the neighborhood are spreading their aroma as well, the baptisia that I moved last year is starting to bloom and its so gloriously BLUE! The soapwort groundcover is covered in teensy pink blossoms, the catmint with glorious violet little spires, the creeping speedwell has true blue wee flowers that I adore. Columbines of all the shade I planted are blooming and showing off and the rhododendrons and Magnolia are at the end of their show. I wander the path admiring the flowers, thanking those who have finished and anticipating who is next and wondering if I need still a few to fill in any blank spaces of time....
Another source of garden joy today: My alpine strawberry plants literally just arrived by post. What a great showery day project this will be, planting them into their awaiting bed and letting the rain showers do most of the watering in. I'm off to grab the organic fruit and veggies fertiliser, compost, and my box of beauties to get them into their new home, may they live long and prosper.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Love TipNut

LOVE LOVE LOVE that website. You want to know a way to do something domestic? Its probably there, and probably several ways to do something that you never even thought of.

Since Geeta did a segment on Be Green (see sidebar for link) about plastic bags and their impact, I have been trying lots harder to remember my reusable grocery sacks,. I have A LOT of them but manage to forget them at home or in the car or don't bring enough. Argh.
But Geeta brought up a thought that I really hadn't dwelled on. PRODUCE BAGS! We use our handy dandy good for the earth bags but what do we put in them? Plastic produce bags. DOH! (head smack moment) She featured a brand of reusable produce bags and also shared an idea she uses....she repurposes pillow cases for produce.
I have a dandy fabric in my stash that was earmarked about 7 years ago for an apron. It will now becom drawstring topped sacks for produce. BUT if i didn't have this I would totally use THIS idea. Repurposing sheer curtains from the thrift shop !! Bloody brilliant I say. I found the link on Tip Nut (see sidebar) under "35 reusable grocery bag ideas". There are plans for sewn, knit, and crochetted bags.
Do your part to reduce plastic waste NOW! And have fun while you are at it!

Friday, April 24, 2009

How Green Does My Garden Grow?

I think I am a pretty "green" gardener after all these years. The two store bought insecticides I use are Insectigone and a Neem Oil spray and these are for problem pests like lily beetles and sawfly larvae ( I also hand pick the bugs but they just don't get the hint!). For slugs and snails I use coffee.
Today was the day to pot up mt tomato seedlings. I had started the seeds in a repurposed container. You know those plastic case jobbies that a rotisserie chicken comes in from the supermarket? The ones with a black bottom and clear top? AWESOME for starting small amounts of seeds! Fill with appropriate potting mix, plant the packet of seeds (or less) water and pop that cover on...VOILA miniature greenhouse conditions and no extra cash out of pocket. As soon as you have sprouts you remove the top. Turn your greenhouse and its contents as often as possible so they don't get too leggy.
So, there are my lovely seedlings at about 3 inches tall or less and they are getting nice true leaves so its time to pot. I took a demi sized wine bottle, some tabloid sized newspaper (hello Journal De Montreal), some tape, and I was ready. I folded my newspaper sheets in half across the width then wrapped them around the bottle, pulled the bottle up a bit by the neck so that I had paper at the bottom to fold over generously, folded said bottom, taped it, and taped the side seam. BOOM there it is. A soda can sized pot . Filled with moistened potting mix, it was ready for planting. In each pottling's soil, I used a chopstick and bored a hole down the center to make the planting hole. It needs to be as deep as your seedling's stems are long from root ball to leaves and wide enough to pop that delicate baby in there without trauma. Now to harvest the strongest seedlings in the flat: I looked the plants over and started selecting the ones that looked the farthest along and strongest. Look for sturdy stems and well developed true leaves. Gently grasping each selection by a seed leaf, I then prised it out of its shallow soils bed with the chopstick, being very careful not to hurt the roots or stem. Then the seedling is guided into its new planting hole with the chopstick while I still gently hold that seed leaf. Burying the stem up to the leaves give the seeedling a chance to make more roots along the stem and thus have a larger feeding network and this will make it stronger. I gently squeezed each pot to tamp the soil around the roots and stem and tamped the top of the soils around the stem as well. Using this method I now have 16 little seedlings on the window sill. I only need 4 for this years garden plans and I have some friends that will take a few more off my hands. If the seedlings get to tall again before its time to plant them out in the beds I will repot them using this same pot type only in a larger form.
Now that my rotisserie green house is empty I planted peppers, which were a gift from a friend otherwise I would have started them sooner. For the peppers I made smaller newpaper pots and planted the seed directly into the soil in them. I put the wee pots into the contatiner and will continue as before. If more than one seed germinates in the mini pots I will pinch off the weakest seedlings leaving the strongest to grow. Nature ain't always pretty, as I always say. Sometimes things have to be disposed of and planting more seeds than plants required is the only sure way to get the number of plants you need since not all seedlings are up to snuff and not all seeds grow.

There are lots of websites and books with green gardening informations like how to make your own pots. Its not always easy to see that you don't need to spend on garden gadgets like window sill green house kits and plastic or peat pots etc. Invest that cash instead into good quality seed and soil.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


What will you do for our Mother on Her day?

Monday, March 30, 2009


Do you ever do this? Take something and make it useful in another way rather than go out and buy something new or throw out the repurposed item? I LOVE repurposing but am not highly creative to always think of how to use something. Not this weekend however...I was repurpose Queen of my house.
Saturday was incredible Chez Nous...sunshine and 18 degrees. It was amazing and called for some puttering in the not so snowy yard. Hman started tearing down that ^&^%$ing metal gazebo frame on a cement pad in our back yard. This came with our hoiuse and the canvas cover is no more. The pad and the gazebo are plunked square in the middle of the yard, making navigation tricky by times and making my clothes line useless. This has driven me crazy. I love hanging out our laundry and being lineless for 4 years has been hard. In my excitement at the prospect of line hung laundry, I went out and purchased proper line for it, so that when the mood hits Hman to put it up, its here and ready. Yay.
As he disassembled the metal frame, the roof part was standing on the cement pad, looking very like a tee pee frame since it was folded a bit from its former expanded shape. i didn't think about the fact that those screws could work like hinges, and now that roofy bit will become a bean tee pee for the garden's pole beans FOREVER! Its not going to break anytuime soon like dowelling or bamboo sticks and its very light and easily moved from bed to bed each year. Sweet.
Then we looked at the upright segments and repurposed 4 of them as strong trellises for the viscious untrellised climbing rose in the back yard and for the clematises by the front steps. The older wooden trellises are rotted and breaking. They are made so crappy nowadays and are kinda pricey in my opinion. Voila, my metal trellises are rot proof and not gonna fall apart! I think I will give them a coat of paint before putting them semi-permanently in place.
Another couple of up right supports are becomeing t-poles for reining in the raspberry patch and the fencey bits that were the bottom portion of the frame will be used in various way (blocking old Blossom's escape routes out of the "inescapable" back yard for instance. Hman swears he will not bail her out of doggie jail again.)
Now all we have left to put out by the curb are the parts that the curtains hung from. All else has been repurposed in the yard and garden and if I could think of a way to utilise those last parts, I would. My garden is gonna look awesome!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sixty Minutes Is All It Takes

Its March Twenty Eighth and that means tonight starting at 8:30 local time all over the world it is EARTH HOUR!!!!
Turn out the lights and turn on your mind.

Friday, March 27, 2009


I want this book.

The Lazy Environmentalist On A Budget. SWEET!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Story Of Stuff

You must watch this video. Its child friendly and about 21 minutes long. Have the whole family watch it amd maybe discuss how your household can make changes. I'm sorry for the need to cut and paste but the hyperlink and I just don't seem compatible.


My family room furniture no longer reeks. I did just what I said I would...suds scrub with a vinegar and water sponging rinse on the arms and the cushion covers went into the washer. Then I sprayed the bejesus out of the furniture with the homemade Febreeze. There was a bit of a vinegary scent lingering but that beats the strange gaggy odour that was there. I didn't use as much Essential oil as the recipe called for so that could be part of the problem there. I used Tea Tree and Lavender oils. That vinegary scent has dissipated from the fabrics and the room smells so much better all around. (Also I took the trash out. The microwave popcorn addicts in this house are gonna have to stop bringing the bags down stairs and tossing them in the trash after because those things really stink up the place.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Makin' a stink...

Actually, its my family room sofa thats smelly. Its seen lots of snacks, smelly socks, pets, etc etc etc and is now sporting a funky aroma that I am getting really grossed out by. I could do the usual, empty a bottle of Febreze onto its surfaces, but Febreze makes me nervous (despite its awesome deodorizing properties) and I don't like the smell. Makes me think of Raid. Blech.

So, I have been trawling the innernets for something low impact that I can make myself to destink the old sofa.

Most of the recipes I found called for the use of liquid fabric softener, but that in itself is loaded with ingredients that are known carcinogens, neurotoxins, and make fabrics more flammable. Plus I don't have any.

I have tried baking soda and water and essential oils but that left a nasty residue on my floors and hard surfaces when it dried.

So, this recipe is the one I am going to try next as well as cleaning the cushiom covers and sponging the surfaces with soap suds to try and lift some grime.

1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp glycerine
1/2 tsp essential oil of choice

Apparently the glycerine will work to emulsify the mixture so the oils don't just sit on the water and vinegar, separating after shaking or mixing etc. Wish me luck.

Also, many green recipes call for vegetable glycerine but I haven't been able to find any so far and bought plain old glycerine at the drug store instead. Will I go to hippie hell for using that instead?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I vacuumed today

Hand knit Swiffer cloths from Knittywhipped.

My floor was a nasty mess by the time I vacuumed today. In my defense I will say that my kids have been sick and so I didn't do it sooner. Then again, it needed doin' before the kids took sick. ahem.
I am also a total geek when it comes to household DIY: homemade anything to get the house cleaner etc with less waste and less impact? YEAH! Today on TipNut I found a link to someone's blog...someone who may be geekier'n me. Hard to believe! I know!
She not only knits Swiffer covers for dry dust mopping bare floors BUT she knit two different patterns and compared.
Pattern link for the 'Zoom' dust mop cloth :
The KnittyWhipped showdown:

The fiber of choice for dust cloths etc is cotton. I have been thinking though...cotton drags on the floor making the dry mop less slidey and more difficult to use. I saw on another blog that a Swiffer cover maker recommends machine washable wool. its slidey on floors and washable. I think too that the fuzziness would make it catch the dust and hairs better. This is what I am planning to use when I get around to making myself a "Zoom" . Wool producers often have wool "feather" dusters etc for sale. The fiber grips that dusties better in theory so this should work in this instance too, non? Anyone got some dusting science to back me up here?

I loves me some Tip Nut!! I tottally need a dry mop and hand knit cloths for it! Cat hair, BEGONE!

Monday, March 16, 2009


2 loads of dishes done and so far the powder is doing well. Its still early days though. I am only uing one spoonful...I may have been using too much before and also I am pretty sure my rinse agent dispenser in the old machine didn't work right. This stuff also makes a great sink scouring powder if you add some tea tree oil to a tblspoonful. Or not. My disgusting sink was shiney and clean after a scrub with it.

I am pretty sure that I can cut the laundry powder back to one Tbsp per load. Another homemade laundry person uses 2 but she has a top loader (lots more water used to dilute the soap)so I am reasonably sure that one will be suffice for my HE. I have a little voice in my head that doesn't agree but that little voice has a very big "More Is Better!" personality. Hence the size of my ass.

Also, the links that were broken in the Links list, have been fixed or removed as warranted.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Gonna try it again

I keep blathering about making my own stuffs. i do it because A) I want to try and save some cash and B) I want a product easier on the environment. I also want th damn thing to work.
I am going to try the home made dishwasher powder thing again. I have a different recipe this time that uses a wee amount of dishwashing liquid and citric acid in the mix. If this causes a reisdue like the last mixes I made then I will officially give up and pay through the nose for the eco-kindnessy brands.
Here's what i am gonna try:
equal parts washing soda and baking soda
1/2 part borax
1/4 part salt
1/16th part citric acid and also dish soap OR liquid castile soap (which I am
making using this recipe: 1 cup grated castile (or marseilles), 4 cups water, 2 Tbsp glycerine)

Example: 1 cup washing soda, 1 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup borax, 1/4 cup salt, 1 Tbspoon each citric acid and liquid soap(dish liquid or liquid castile).

This is just an example. I actually will probably try it with less citric acid because that stuff ain't cheap and the bottle is small.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The math on Laundry Powder

Based on my costs for ingredients and using 2 Tbsp of powder per load, I can make a 25-30 load batch of laundry powder for approxiamately $2.28 plus tax, or .078 cents per load in my front loading washer. Thats pretty good in my books. I decided to start with 2 Tbsp (or 30 grams) per large load and see how the cleaning was, then cut it back until I cannot cut it back anymore and still have clean clothes. The less I use the more value is added to the batch(Can you imagine 60 loads for $2.28???)
Costs: 24 127 gram bars of Ivory Soap (I broke down because of the smell): $10.99
1 3 KG box of Washing Soda: $6.49
1 2 KG box of Borax: $5.49

I grated two bars of soap (254 grams) with the finer blade of my food processor, and then powdered it up with the other ingredients (254 grams of each) until it wasn't going to powder anymore. Because of the soap its a bit of a cakey powder. It reminded me of Ivory Snow that my mom used to buy (smell and texture) I measured everything by weight because its both more accurate and was easier since I have a digital kitchen scale.
My only worry is how it will perform in cold water.

I Have decided

I have been thinking about a return to haomemade laundry soap for awhile. I used to make a "liquid" form when the kids were younger and in diapers and I had lots of laundry to do, because I needed to squeeze wvery penny until it shrieked for mercy. Eventually I got lazy though when our income improved I started buying laundry detergents again. I know! I'm an idiot!! I didn't realise that with all the unknown ingredients store bought detergents contain, even those marked phosphate free, I was not doing the environment any favours.
I found simple POWDERED versions of laundry soap online and I will share here what I am going to do. Using equal amounts of the following:

Pure Soap Flakes (take bars of pure soap and grate them..voila ..soap flakes..I will use Marseilles soap which is olive oil based)because I have ahuge block of it. Try to choose a soap that doesn't use petroleum products. In the past I used bath sized bars of Ivory and really liked the clean smell of our laundry and it was the least expensive soap I could find. Dial, Dove, etc are not PURE soaps.

Borax: disinfects, deodorizes, helps with stains, softens water...Google it.

Washing Soda:(Sodium CARBONATE...not baking soda) deodorises, softens water, helps with stains.

As always when handling anything caustic, care should be taken to avoid skin contact and inhalation.

Grate the soap by hand or with the grating blade in a food processor. Then in the food processor (if you have one), using the chopping blade, mix all 3 ingredients together until its a fine powder. Be careful not to breathe in any when you open the processor. Store in an airtight container. Amount to use will vary with the hardness of your water so the range is 1 Tbsp to 1/2 cup per wash load. With my front loading HE I will start with 1 Tbsp. This laundry product doesn't suds up so don't keep adding more and more looking for suds. The plus side to this feature is that it will take less water to rinse. I usually use TWO rinses and still can here that crackly soapy noise in my clothes. Obviously I use too much.

Mixing some of this with water can be used as a stain pretreat but using a bar of soap would be pretty easy and effective as well. I swear by The Soap Works laundry bar for stains. I cut/break the bar and store the unsused pieces in a wee paper sack, keeping one bit out for use. This way the whole bar doesn't get all wet and nasty and wasted. One bar lasts a LONG time this way.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dishwashering revisited.......

I tried out that "Attitude" dishwasher liquid detergent and quite honestly it didn't float my boat for long. This product, combined with our elderly dishwasher, didn't make for very clean dishes but it also depended on who loaded the washer and whether the spray arms were clog free.
I switched a long while back to Presidents Choice chlorine and phosphate free dishwasher packets (25 in a pack use one per load) and we are in love. THIS is a greener product that cleans just as well as the nastier products!!! Plus no etching on my glasses etc. it really works very very well. Available in Canada at Loblaws affiliated stores such as Maxi, Superstore etc etc. I pay about $5.99 a pack..this ain't cheap by any stretch BUT I look at it this way.

1) It works GREAT.
2) I am not using "extra" because the portions are premeasured in water soluable packets so less waste. (only handle with dry hands!!)
Love this product for the dishwasher.

We invested in a brand new, more energy efficient (loving the more efficient Smart Wash feature may I say?), leak free dishwasher in January. Oh my stars...this is what REALLY clean dishes look like (if I load the dishwasher). I ran out of the PC dishwasher stuff and bought Biovert tabs ($7.99 for 30ish?) because I didn't have time to go to the Maxi and hit IGA instead. I love love love Biovert Dishwashing (by hand)liquid so I thought, why not try it? Complaint one: TOO MUCH PACKAGING!!! The tabs come in two separate plastic bags, inside a box, and then each little tab is wrapped in plastic. UGH! Pain in the ass supreme. Husband is convinced that they are not as good at getting the dishes clean as the PC brand...I am on the fence so far..there was some egg yolk left on a spatula and some residues but that could ahve been human error. When I load the dishwasher they tend to come out cleaner than when he shoves things in willy nilly.
Opinion pending on this product's efficacy but I hate the extra packaging and the price tag of $7.99.

Greener Beauty....

Inspired By Geeta Nadkarni!
I don't have overly sensitive skin but as I age it is getting more persnickety. I am using fairly basic non-fancy regime of non fancy products and so far so good. Then I checked these dermatologist recommended products on the Cosmetics Database and they registered as mid range toxic. Better than high range toxicity ratings but still...eeeww. Is clear smooth skin worth cancer or nerve damage etc? I think not.
One thing i have started using is organic Coconut Oil. Yes the stuff you can cook in...comes in a jar..looks like can buy it in some grocery stores and most health food stores.
This is pure oil from coconuts, not some coconut scented melange of unpronouncable chemicals. It smells divine...sweet and cocnutty. Its pretty solid in the jar, but if you work at it you can gouge some out and it starts to melt very readily in the hand so don't gouge out too much! This stuff is lovely. You can use it all over the body, and even rub it into your scalp for moisturising the scalp and conditioning the hair like a "hot oil" treatment without the heat or for speed, wrap your head in a hot towel for an hour then wash the oil out. I prefer to do it at bedtime and leave it while I sleep.
Homemade body "butters" can be made from simple ingredients that won't poison you or your body. Why pay a fortune for natural based products when you can invest in the ingredients and make your own? Oils such as olive, coconut, jojoba, sweet almond, etc are ALL readily available and can go a loooong way. Pair them up with organic beeswax and you have a pretty much uncented body/hand/lip balm just waiting for you. Add a bit of Vitamin E and/or lavender essential oil as a preservative if you make a larger batch that won't be used up quickly because natural/organic/preservative free oils can go rancid with time. You will end up with an ointment style moisturizer but is that so bad? The more wax you add the stiffer it will set.
Taking care of our skin and hair shouldn't be dangerous to us or the environment and shouldn't break the bank.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Have Not been Green Enough

I turned the heat up to 19 or 20 in the living room and dining room and didn't set it back for night times because I was sick and tired of being cold. Now our hydro bill was around $800.
Oh dear.