Rain Barrels

Check out this link at Green Living Tips.  Looks informative and interesting.






Natural Flea Control

Did you know….

  • fleas spend only 10% of their time on your pet
  • the average flea lives 2-3 years
  • one female flea can lay 1 million eggs in that 2-3 years
  • eggs can live unhatched in your carpet for a year until the right environment occurs for hatching
  • bark dust, wood piles, and ivy are ideal places for fleas to survive during the winter
  • adult fleas prefer to feed on pets rather than people because pets are closer to the ground and have warmer body temperatures
  • flea eggs are not destroyed by extremes in temperatures or pesticides
  • fleas can transmit Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • fleas can transmit tapeworms and heart worms
  • for every one flea on your pet, there could be 100 in the nearby environment

Here’s a quick home test to see if your pet has fleas: lay out a piece of butcher paper and groom your pet for a few minutes as they stand on the paper.  Do you see any black, comma-shaped things?  If so, put a drop of water on it.  If its flea feces it will turn pink (from your pet’s blood – yuck!)

Okay, now that we’ve covered the scary stuff, how do we deal with fleas in a natural, non-toxic, non-chemical way?  A wise pet owner starts to prepare as soon as the ice melts, the flowers bloom and the temperatures warm.  Preparation can ward off an infestation.  Fleas and ticks are not as tough as you might think.  Most people invite fleas and ticks into their homes by creating a pest friendly environment.  If your dog has a flea problem, it is pointless to treat just your pet.  You have to treat his environment, too, including your home, your yard and even your car if your pet travels with you around town.

Let’s look at some basics.  When we’re out walking our dogs, where do they go when they “have to go?”  to trees and shrubs.  Many times grass, weeds and other types of flora are not trimmed around trees and especially under shrubs.  Fleas and ticks love tall grass because its just a hop, skip and a jump to the next animal that happens along.  Keep grass trimmed close in the areas your dog frequents on his potty stops and keep him away from lawns that don’t trim under trees and shrubs.

There are no shortcuts to preventing flea and tick infestations.  It’s all about cleanliness, vigilance, and making the right choices.  Let’s talk garbage. Your open or dirty trash receptacles are a tempting feast to birds and other dogs.  Both can be infested with fleas and ticks.  Keep garbags cans clean inside and out and keep trash picked up.  Bird feeders should be placed in areas away from where your pet eats and drinks or exercises.

Dog houses, concrete pet runs and containment areas can become havens for all kinds of bacteria, pests and disease.  Unless you have specific need for such areas, do without them.  They require massive amounts of upkeep and cleaning.

Now for inside the house.  Good housekeeping can be extremely effective in the war against fleas.  Water is a breeding ground for fleas.  Make sure all leaky pipes are properly repaired.  Natural pesticides such as bay leaves, coriander, dill, lemon peel or clove in pantry shelves or stored in grain can be effective in keeping fleas away.  Frequent vacuuming (my downfall – I HATE to vacuum) will remove flea eggs, pupae and the flea droppings used by larvae for food.  Sprinkle flea powder on the carpet and let it work for a couple of hours (remove your pet first) and them vacuum and add a piece of a flea collar to each new bag to prevent fleas from completing their life cycle inside your machine.  Vacuuming every day is essential if you don’t want to use chemicals.  Occasional carpet shampooing (not dry-chemical cleaning) will suffocate the little buggers.  Getting rid of carpet altogether helps a lot.  For non-carpeted floors, mopping with soap and mild bleach water is quite effective.

Now that we’ve discussed environment, how about your pets themselves?  There are lots of alternatives.  Flea powders kill only adult fleas and have to be reapplied every week.  They can tend to make your pet uncomfortable and can make pet asthma worse.  Flea sprays vary.  Most are alcohol-based which kills adult and pre-adult stages. Some contain a growth regulator that will kill eggs as well.  If you use a spray, find one that is as organic as possible.  Flea collars are only minimally effective and can be toxic. Ultrasonic collars can be ineffective and can cause hearing problems in your pet.  Dips are highly toxic and can cause cancer.  Spot-on products range from very toxic to not so much – you have to do the research.  Look for one that does not contain organophosphates.  Oral products are administered once a month.  Flea shampoos can provide temporary relief and are good for getting rid of flea feces on the skin.

Here are some natural remedies that should be part of your arsenal.  Cut up a lemon, allow it to sit in a spray bottle overnight and then spray liberally on your dog, avoided the eyes.  Spray behind his ears and in his environment.  When you wash your pet’s bedding, add a small amount of eucalyptus oil to the final rinse to help keep the little varmints away.  Salt kills fleas.  Apply a thin layer to your floor, carpet and furniture, then vacuum.  Use lavender in your dog’s bath.  use a natural soap that contains citronella and tea tree oils.  The citronella helps ward off pests and the tea tree sooths irritated flea-bitten skin.  Add brewer’s yeast and garlic to your pet’s diet.  (Check out the Flea Fighter treats at www.naturalbarker.com/).  Neither of these actually kills fleas, but they make your dog taste bad to the flea and will deter them.  Scientific studies show a 20% decrease in flea numbers with the use of brewer’s yeast and garlic. 

So, there you have it.  Just a few suggestions to help make your pet’s summer and your life a little less stressful.   Hope it helps.

Keep it simple,


Castile Soap Update

I used the castile liquid soap in the dishwasher for a second time last night.  This morning there was a slight film on the two pans with non-stick coating.  That was it.  My stainless steel pans, mixer bowl, and all my glass and silver ware came out beautifully  just like the first time.  So – either be willing to rinse off the film or wash the non-stick surface pans by hand (which is probably better for them anyway.)

Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap

I finally found the time to run by Super Target and pick up some Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap.  I bought a small bottle of the liquid and a bar.  I used the liquid for handwashing dishes and it worked well.  It is a little different in that you don’t get a lot of suds, but that’s probably a good thing.   I used 2 tablespoons in my dishwasher, too and had good results.  It did not leave a film at all (which I had read somewhere someone had experienced.)   I have a large mixer bowl with a bottom depression that holds water.  The water is usually white-ish and has stuff floating in it from the powdered detergent I normally use.  Using the Bronner’s, the water I poured off was clear and had no residue.  Very nice.  My dishes were sparkling and clean.  I intended to add white vinegar as a rinse agent, but have run out.  Turns out I didn’t need it.  I don’t know that I would have liked the smell of vinegar in my kitchen anyway.

I haven’t had a chance to use the bar soap yet.  I bought it to grate and mix with Borax and washing soda for laundry detergent.  I hope to be able to try it this weekend – we’ll see. 

I have posted a review on my Products Review page and have added the website to my Earth Goods list to the right.  Check it out.  They also make organic bath and body soaps, hair rinse cremes, lip balms, lotions and baby products.  I’ll have to go back to Target and see how much of it they carry.  I’m a real pushover for that sort of thing. 

If anyone has experience with the Dr. Bronner’s products, please share.  I would love to know more.

Keep it simple,


Summer Energy Conservation

I am a producer/member of the Oklahoma Food Coop.  It is a wonderful, on-line farmers market and so much more.  It is a group of people – farmers, ranchers, bakers, horticulturists, even jewelers and people like me who bake dog treats – all dedicated to the sustainable lifestyle.  Our president is Robert Waldrop, an overflowing fount of knowledge in all things sustainable.  He has modified his urban house in a historic neighborhood to be more energy efficient than you can imagine.  He has also converted his front lawn to a vegetable/fruit garden.  He is one of the founding members of our local sustainability network and has several websites that address energy and the sustainable lifestyle (www.energyconservationinfo.org/).   Every week or so he sends emails to the Co-op membership with information and ideas, recipes, etc.  I thought today’s message was especially worth sharing.  His suggestions are something all homeowners can do.  Pay special attention to the end where Bob shares a formula for determining home heat loss or gain.  Enjoy!

“In the summer, shade is our friend.  Yesterday afternoon when the temp outside peaked at 99.9 degrees, I checked the thermometer tucked into the deep shade of the mulberry trees on the west side of my house.  It read 88 degrees.  That’s nearly 12 degrees difference.  Hoorah for vegetation!

If your house isn’t nicely shaded in the summer, now’s the time to plan for the fall planting of trees and shrubs.  (Plant mulberries.  They grow fast and yield the earliest fruit.  Mulberry jam and cobbler are your friends, too, or they want to be anyway.)

Pay special attention to windows.  Even if you have the best double pane, argon filled, low-E coated windows, they still only amount to about R-4 in insulating value (divide the U-value into 1 to get a rough approximation of the R-value.)

Not counting our sun porch, I have 291 square feet of windows.  If those windows were unshaded, we would be pulling in nearly 4000 BTUs per hour of heat into my house from the hot afternoon outside – JUST from the windows!  Shading knocks a thousand BTUs/hour off the heat gain.  Shading plus R-20 insulated shutters for the window brings our heat gain down to 1700 BTUs/hour.  The heat gain for our R-33 insulated walls is about 1000 BTUs/hour, and about the same from our well-ventilated attic.

So even though windows are a much smaller area than the square footage of walls and ceilings, as much heat gets in through them in the summer (and gets OUT in the winter) as the walls or the ceiling.


It’s important that windows be actually shaded.  You still get heat coming through them, but you get less heat if they are shaded from the outside.

One value-priced window treatment that we used until our vegetation got sufficiently shady is to duct tape 2 or 3 auto sunshades together and hang them on the outside of the window.

While it takes a few years to grow a tree, climbing vines like morning glories can cover a window quickly.  To make an easy trellis put eye hooks in the eaves, thread string through them, loop the string through a piece of lumber or pipe anchored to the ground below them; grow the morning glories up the strings (or other fast growing vines with lots of leaves.)

To calculate heat loss or gain, use this formula:

Summer heat gain from the outside to the inside: subtract the interior temperature from the exterior temperature; divide this by the R-value of the ceiling, wall or window; multiply the resulting number by the square feet of the ceiling, wall or window.

You can use this same formula to calculate heat loss in the winter, just reverse the outside/inside temps so you are subtracting the outside temp from the inside temp.

You need a separate calculation for your windows, your walls, and your ceiling in a spreadsheet and substitute different R-values to determine how adding insulation to walls or ceilings, shade to the outside and/or insulated shutters for your windows will impact the movement of heat to the interior in the summer or the exterior in the winter.  Remember, heat always moves toward cold.”

So, there you have it.  Bob’s suggestions for shading your house, and a formula for determining your heat gain/loss.  Very helpful information when trying to lower cooling/heating expenses in the midst of ever-rising fuel costs. 

Please leave a comment and let me know if you found this information to be of help.

Keep it simple,


Re-Use Before Recycling

Recycling is a wonderful thing.  Applause and praise to all of us who devotedly throw our plastic, paper and glass into colored bins every week for the trash service to pick up.  Even more cuddos to those of you who don’t have the luxury of a pickup service and manage to take your recyclables to a recycling center.  But there is something we should all be doing more of before we recycle.  We should re-use or find another use for our castoffs before they go into the recycle bin. 

I’ve been reading Beyond Recycling A Re-user’s Guide by Kathy Stein (1997).  She discusses ways to reuse or find new uses for everything from appliances to zippers.  She termed the concept of re-use as “old-fashioned” and I scoffed upon reading this, but when giving it further thought, realized that she’s absolutely right.  We are so very much a disposable society.  Shame on us.  Our grandparents and even our parents would not dream of throwing away all the things we toss in the trash – or even the recycle bin – every day.  Yes, its “cool” to recycle; its hip, its now, its the thing to do if you’re even remotely planet aware.  But even recycling can be problematic.  The process of remanufacturing recycled goods into new products is not an energy efficient process and yes, while it reduces energy used to make virgin products, it is not always as environmentally friendly as we would like to think it is.  Re-use can be good for our pocketbooks and a key to creating a sustainable future.  I like this thought expressed in the book:  “Re-using means rethinking our role as consumers and becoming conservers.  It means stepping outside the prevailing culture from time to time and liberating ourselves from the thousands of daily messages on television, radio, magazines and billboards exhorting us to spend and comsume.”  Ah!  Such lofty thoughts bring out the old hippie in me.  Rebel against the establishment! 

So, to explore the idea of re-use and perhaps to get you thinking along this line with me, I’ll review a few of the suggestions from Ms. Stein’s book. 

  • Coffee filters – okay, here’s something scary I didn’t know.  I knew white disposable coffee filters are “bleached”, but didn’t know there is a chemical used in the process, dioxin, that is HIGHLY TOXIC to humans.  The solution?  Re-usable coffee filters – they are available in everything from cotton muslin to gold-plated.  You’re not only sparing yourself exposure to one more carcinogen, but you’re not filling your trashcan with non-recyclable paper goods and your coffee will taste better.  As for the coffee grounds, everyone knows those go on the compost pile. 
  • Dry cleaning bags-I don’t use dry cleaners a lot.  For one thing its horribly expensive, and for another most are environmentally very unfriendly.  But a lot of people take a lot of clothes to the cleaners every week and come home with all those plastic bags.  Alternative?  Re-useable cloth dry cleaning bags.  Ask your cleaners if they provide them or take it upon yourself to supply them.  Take your clothes to the cleaners in the reusable bag and ask them to make sure they use the same bag (or a fresh one you provide when you drop off the dirties) to cover your clean clothes when you pick them up.  You take home the dirty one and launder if needed and use it again next time.
  • Preaddressed reply envelopes – Now, this is one of those “old-fashioned” ideas, but a good one.  We all get mail with reply envelopes that go into the trash or paper bin.  They can be re-used as list paper; they are great for packing vitamins or other small things when traveling; or re-use them for mail.  Put a label over the address and make it your own.  It will eventually wind up in the recycle bin, but re-using envelopes this way saves purchasing new ones and saves trees.
  • Furnace filters – I’ve been buying re-usable furnace filters for years.  For one thing, I usually can’t find the right size and need the ones you cut to fit.  The other thing is, I hate spending money on that sort of thing.  I recently found an adjustable one that has a nice frame around it and works better than the old flexible ones. 
  • Re-usable grocery bags – another one of the “cool” things to do if you’re eco-friendly.  I will admit to a small feeling of pride as I walk out of Wal-Mart with my canvas bags overflowing my cart instead of mountains of the ugly white plastic things.  Of course, that means I don’t have the ugly white plastic things to use as trash can liners or dog poo bags.  My solution?  I use a poo scoop (see my Product Review page) and I just don’t use a liner in my small cans anymore.  If they get icky, I use a little soap and water and elbow grease.  Not fun, but satisfying.  Now I just need to find a non-plastic solution to my big kitchen trash can.  Any ideas?  Ms. Stein suggests using old dog food bags, but mine aren’t big enough.
  • Cloth kitchen towels – When I read this, I thought to myself “Well, duh!”  I was raised using cloth kitchen towels and use them on a daily basis – lots of them.  I can’t imagine using paper towels for anything other than absorbing the grease off my fried foods when I indulge or the occasional small spill and then most of the time I use a cloth towel anyway.  However, I do have a friend who has a paper towel dispenser on each end of her kitchen counter and a 24-pack of paper towel rolls in the corner. She uses them for everything and throws huge amounts in the trash daily.  They also use a lot of paper plates and plastic cups – more waste since they live in a very small town with no recycling anywhere even remotely close.  Maybe that’s more the norm than I realize.
  • Re-useable lunch totes and containers – as the economy worsens, more people are packing lunches.  Instead of disposable bags and baggies, use one of the great re-usable totes and plastic containers you can buy just about anywhere. 
  • Packing pellets – I absolutely HATE HATE HATE those ugly, staticky little white styrafoam packing pellets!   I believe fewer and fewer shippers are using them because I haven’t gotten any in packages in quite a while, but when you do get them what do you do with the little buggers?  Try taking them to a shipping store and see if they will take them.  I have used them in the bottom of my big planters in the garden.  They fill up space that would otherwise use a lot of expensive potting soil and are great for drainage. 
  • Plastic bottles – don’t buy them to begin with!  If you do buy bottled water, wash and refill them over and over until they are unusable, then recycle.  If you are one of those people who have to take water with you everywhere, use one of the many cool re-usable plastic or metal bottles available from any discount or sporting goods store.  For a great example of planet-friendly re-use of plastic drink bottles, check out this website: www.terracycle.com/.
  • Pantyhose – another “grandma” idea.  Wash them first!!!  Then cut off the legs and use them to strain stuff, use them to tie up plants in the garden.  They are flexible and will give and take as the plant moves and grows. 
  • Cloth napkins – okay, this is one thing I need to do: use cloth napkins instead of paper ones.  I have a basket of paper napkins on my kitchen table.  They are not recyclable so always go into the trash, i.e., the landfill.  My Mom started using cloth napkins years ago and I always enjoy using them at her house.  I’ve tried using them in the past, but don’t have enough to use for several meals between washloads.  Need to buy more. 
  • Tea bags – tea bags are bleached with the same nasty stuff as coffee filters.  Try using loose leaf tea – tastes better than the tea “powder” put in bags anyway – and a strainer.  Loose leaf tea is less expensive and doesn’t use as much paper packaging as bags.  If you do use tea bags, throw them on the compost pile instead of in the trash.
  • Wire hangers – return to the cleaners or donate to a local clothing charity.
  • Plastic milk jugs – cut in half and use for starting seedlings in the garden or intact as a watering can. 
  • Glass jars – How many things come in glass jars? Jelly, pickles, peanut butter, and on and on. I like removing the labels and using these small jars for leftovers.  I don’t have to think about plastic leaching into my food, I can see what it is without having to remove the lid, and I can see if I’ve left it in the fridge so long its now growing penicillin.  I mix plant food in the larger ones and store them in the garage. 

Besides all the above suggestions from Beyond Recycling, there are also local freecycling groups.  Go on the internet and find one in your area.    Google “freecycle Oklahoma City” or “freecycle Austin” and I’ll bet you’ll find one or more groups of locals that give stuff away to each other on a daily basis.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

I hope you find this to be helpful information.  Please leave comments and any other suggestions for re-using before recycling.

Keep it simple,


Green Home Cleaners – Part 2

I would like to quickly pass along a link to a post on the Green Living Tips site.


I’ve been eager to try castile soap.  The only place I’ve found it locally is at Target and its a little pricey, but I might just bite the bullet and go for it.   I’m particularly interested in the recipe in the GLT post for dishwasher soap.  I hate buying the powdered stuff all the time.  Its expensive and I know it must be full of toxins and chemicals. 

As for using castile soap on my hair, as mentioned in the article, well, I might try it once, but I’m a little skeptical.  I’ll let you know when I get up the courage.  I also want to try it in the homemade laundry soap.  I haven’t made it to Homeland yet for the Borax and Washing Soda.  Its on the list for the weekend shopping ritual.   

Keep it simple,