Snow Day No. 2-1/2


The state of Oklahoma has shut down for yet another business day and I am home.  I love being at home during the work week.  It is an unexpected and relaxing gift.  But I really have to roll my eyes just a little here.  We were all sent home at lunch on Monday because the streets were “horrible”.  Well, there were some slick spots, but nothing was by any means horrible.  Really just wet roads.  Yesterday was really a nasty day and it sleeted and snowed just a little on top of the very small amount of ice we already had on the roads – so, everyone stayed home.  Schools closed so as not to get the busses out, etc.  (Well, now that makes sense.  The experience I’ve had with our local school bus drivers is frightening even in the best of driving conditions.)

So, today, we are home yet again.  The sun is out, the roads are driveable with a crunchy layer of  sleet, but there really is no reason we could not have reported to work today.  Oklahomans freak out at the slightest amount of winter road conditions.  Its took over the local airwaves yesterday and programing was derailed to cover “A State of Emergency”.  It really is a joke sometimes.  I know it sounds harsh, but transplant all of us up to the northeast and we would be paralyzed all winter, unable to venture outdoors for months!  We really have to laugh at ourselves on this one.  

So, I’ve been taking full advantage of the extra time.  The bathroom re-do is done!  Just need to regrout a few tiles, recaulk around the tub, hang some pictures, reuse some curtains from another room and voila!  new bathroom!  It looks great.  It took a LOT longer than I thought it would, but its finally done.  Next project: start on the garden beds or start working on taxes – I really am dreading this one.  The bookshelves are overflowing with junk that needs to be gleaned out and donated to the library. 

Today, I’m going to finish the wall hanging for the new bathroom and then go to Hobby Lobby and look at prints for the walls – I’m really not very good at the home decor thing.  I’m also going to keep an eye on the way the sun travels across the backyard.  I have to make a decision on where to put the first beds.

I met a woman Sunday at a gardening meeting who has a successful CSA.  Can’t wait to visit her place.  I still wish we could afford to buy some land, but we made the decision to stay here for a while.  The money we have put into the house will definitely help if we ever decide to move, so it was money well invested.  But $10,000 would have gone a long way as a down payment on some land, too.  Oh, well.  Since my paycheck will be decreased by about $100 a month due to increased health insurance premiums and our house payment went up $70, we can’t afford a land payment anyway.  Once we get our son to and from his semester in Japan, then we can seriously think about our housing future, so to speak. 

I really, really, really, want to have a place full of life, health and nature.  To me, that means being outdoors and growing things, sharing the bounty with others and not being tied to a computer 8 hours a day.  But, that’s not my life right now and if having a good organic garden in the backyard is the first step to that dream or the only step, then I want to enjoy it fully. 

So, wow! after 9:00 and still not showered and dressed.  Will get a load of laundry started and get moving on the day.  The sun is out and the landscape is a brilliant bright white.   Its cold, but I’ve got to get out there.

Have a wonderful day wherever you are!  Allison, hope you made it to Maine okay!   I’ve been watching the weather along your route and praying for your safety.  Just call and let us know you made it.

Keep it simple.


Homemade Laundry Powder – Update


I’ve been using the laundry powder I made from borax, washing soda and Fels Naptha for about a week now and I really like it.  I found several recipes online and chose this one: 

  1. 1 bar Fels Naptha grated
  2. 1 cup borax
  3. 1 cup washing soda

The Fels Naptha and washing soda were a little hard to find.  Actually, I had given up on the washing soda when I happened to spot it one day in a local grocery store I don’t regularly shop at.  (Shame on me.  I shop at Walmart –  which I hate –  because I can do everything in one trip.  I should be supporting the local store that actually has a much better food selection and purposefully carries great stuff they know their “largest competitor”, as they gracefully put it, doesn’t stock.) 

Anyway, after stumbling upon the soda, I started searching for the Fels Naptha with renewed determination.  I googled “where to buy Fels Naptha” and found it at my local Ace Hardware.   It was $1.19 a bar.   Sorry, don’t remember the price on the borax and soda, but they were pretty cheap.  One bar is used for each batch of powder, but I can get roughly 7 cups from the soda and about 9 from the borax.  Not bad.    According to the recipe, you use 2 tablespoons for each load of laundry.  I use 2 rounded tablespoons for a large load, 3 rounded tablespoons for a super load and for my husband’s really dirty jeans and shirts, I use 4 tablespoons.  So far I have been very pleased with the results. 

The process to make it is a little time consuming.  I’m still experimenting with the best way to grate the soap.  The first time I grated it by hand with my cheese grater.  Slow, and the pieces came out bigger than I wanted.  So, I then put them through my small electric chopper mixed with some of the powder ingredients and got better results.  Today I used my food processor and ended up back with my small chopper.  I guess I’ve been trying to achieve more of a powder-like result with the soap, but have decided its not going to do that just because of the properties of the soap itself. 

So, after grating the soap, just stir it all together. I store mine in an unused glass canister with a snapring lid.  Works great.  I do find that the borax and soda have a tendency to settle to the bottom and so I give it a little stir before measuring each time.  I need to keep track of how many loads I get from each batch. 

I know I’m saving money and I feel good about not putting quite so many chemicals on my clothes and into the water system.  I know some people argue that borax is caustic and that Fels Naptha is a petroleum product, but I still feel good about it being a little more “natural” a product than what I was using. 

I purchased a bar of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap, but haven’t tried it in the laundry powder yet.  First of all, I felt kind of triumphant at finding the Fels Naptha and wanted to try it first, and secondly, I read somewhere that the castile soap doesn’t clean as well.  My husband’s work clothes get really, really dirty, and I want to get them as clean as possible.  Thirdly, the castile soap was over $3.00 a bar, something I knew would really shoot the price up if used regularly.  So, there it is.

Hope this helps if you’re thinking about making your own laundry powder.  It is a little time consuming, but worth it.  If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.  If you have anything to add, please do.

Keep it simple.

Comments on Contentment

There is a blog that I read every day,  This 60-something guy and his wife live in Taos, New Mexico where they moved nine years ago from Maryland.  The winters are especially hard for him.  The dirt driveway up to their old adobe rental gets snowcovered and impassible.  Then spring or “mud season” arrives and the driveway is again, super hard to use.   He has really been struggling lately and his posts have reflected his frustration.

Today’s post, however, was more upbeat.  He spoke about the beauty found in the quietness of a snow covered Sunday afternoon at the woodpile, with only a lone bird offering up sound.  He realized that as hard as the winters are, as depressed as he gets sometimes, that this particular Sunday afternoon he was happy.  He was “in the moment” and everything was okay.

This started me thinking.  How many times can I truly say that I am in the moment?  Truthfully, most of the time, I am mentally planning ahead, or wishing we lived somewhere else, usually some place with  mountain scenery.  I think about the garden I need to be starting on soon; I think about the housework I didn’t get done over the weekend.  I guess I have gotten in the habit of mentally “going elsewhere” during the work day because my job requires very little brain power and mental escape is sometimes the only thing that gets me through the day. 

But, looking at the bigger picture, I really am happy with my life.  My husband and I both have jobs, we can pay our bills, our son is doing well in college, we live in a moderate climate where we don’t have to dig out of snow just to get around, we have awesome friends. 

I know the national economy sucks right now; I know people have lost jobs;  I know the day may come when everything collapses and another Great Depression sets in.  But in the midst of the fear about the future, I also know the Great Provider who has never let us down.  The times my husband has lost his job, another door always opens and we have never missed paying a bill.   

Be happy with what you have.  Enjoy the sun and prepare for the rain.   Put some money aside and put back some food and water.   Live simply and lessen your stress.  Find peace and contentment where you can.  Take a drive to the countryside, get out of the city.  Just get out and take a walk.   Be in the moment.  Keep it simple.

My Book List

It’s Friday and I have absolutely no motivation to work so thought I would share my book list.  I believe if you want to do a good job at something you need a good resource library – or maybe I just like to buy books :-)!  Anyway, here is what I’ve been buying lately:

Crisis Preparedness Handbook (Jack Spigarelli) – a good resource for food and water storage and other stuff

Gardening When it Counts (Stteve Solomon) – promotes tilling, not raised beds

Small Batch Preserving (Ellie Topp & Margaret Howard) – lots of simple recipes for preserving what you grow

Root Cellaring (Mike Bubel) – looks good, haven’t read it yet

Lasagna Gardening (Patricia Lanza) – promotes raised bed, not tilling – somebody help me make a decision!!!!

How to Grow More Vegetables…(John Jeavon) – promotes double-digging 24″ deep beds – NO THANK YOU!! but has lots of other good information

Seed to Seed (Suzanne Ashworth) how to save seeds from what you grow –  looks good, haven’t read it yet since I haven’t grown anything yet!

Gaia’s Garden (Toby Hemenway) on permaculture

Square Foot Gardening (Mel Bartholomew) DVD – haven’t watched  it yet, but the concept looks good

another heirloom seed source – Bountiful Gardens – great 2009 catalog

Have a great day – keep it simple

Getting Ready to Garden – Freeing the Old Hippie

It’s time for me to make some serious decisions about the new vegetable garden I want to plant this spring – which really is closer than you would think.  Do I want to till?   Do I want to plant raised “lasagna” beds?  What do I want to plant?  Which spot in the newly cleared back yard is the best plact to start?  When do I order seeds?  Now – I think.  Help!

First to the tilling question.  I really don’t WANT to till because of the physical labor involved and especially because of the fact that our dirt here really isn’t dirt at all, but hardpacked and gummy clay.  Not the greatest soil for growing veges – in fact, some of the worst.   I read one book that said clay soil requires lot of loam topsoil to be worked in for it to be useable.  Well, that still requires tilling, doesn’t it?

The other option is raised beds.  The downside is  it can be expensive.  I have a nice compost pile going – which I’ve discovered probably needs to be sifted to be used correctly.  I would need to buy peat moss, topsoil and maybe more compost, depending on how big a bed I plant. 

Then comes the question of close-planting or traditional spaced beds.  Biointensive, close-planting is the newest thing, but one source of reading tells me it requires more water and results in small yield because plants can’t spread out. 

I’m going to a meeting in a couple of weeks of long-time gardeners who have welcomed newbies like me in the past.  I’ll pick their brains and see if I can learn from their experience.  There is also a local chef who has a two acre garden in her back yard.  She is very down to earth and friendly and has offered to answer any questions I have about getting a garden started.  I may contact her. 

What to grow?  Well, I already know I want okra, strawberries, purple hull peas, gerkins for pickles, the traditional squash and tomatos for the DH.  As for fruit, I might try grapes and figs.  I know I want to use only heirloom seeds for two reasons: they have not been genetically engineered and because of that fact, I can harvest the seeds and use them the following year.  There are quite a few seed sites online, but I think I will give my first glance to the Dervaes family in California.  Take a glance at their website.  They live on a regular city lot in a regular bungalow type house and grow thousands of pounds of produce every year.  Of course, they have a year round growing season, too, but their website has been a real inspiration for me, so I want to give them my business first if they have the seeds I want.  The seeds are not available quite yet.  They are still working on the website for Freedom Seeds, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what they have to offer.  Other sources for heirloom seeds: (I think you have to become a member there).  I need to revisit some of my other favorite urban gardening/homesteading websites to get mentally geared up and a little more educated on how to go about all this.   

I guess there is an old hippie in me screaming to get out.  Right now, she’s tied to a computer doing data entry for the State of Oklahoma – BORING!    But inside, she lives off-grid, grows her own vegetables and uses captured rainwater to water them, raises chickens, has a wind-generator and solar panels, makes hew own soap, makes quilts and teaches other people how to do all this, too.   So, what is the reality?  I’ll still have to work (can’t be without the health insurance), but I want to grow as much of our food as I can manage, chickens will only happen if city ordinances no longer exist and the cats can be kept at bay (especially my own!), home wind generators are not financially feasible nor are solar panels; soapmaking is definitely something I can do and I already quilt.  Rain barrels are on the wish list, but they are a little pricey right now, too.  I could explore the DYI kind from barrels, etc., but that would require some cooperation from the DH who is not enthusiastic at all about making these kind of lifestyle changes.   Of course, if the economy worsens to the point that some are predicting, we may have no choice but to do more of the homesteading kind of thing.    The only thing that would be really hard for me to give up would be central heating and air conditioning.  Oklahoma gets really hot and really cold.  That adjustment would be a tough one.  We have explored the possibility of getting a wood stove insert for our fireplace, but again – finances.   You’re talking $3000 minimum for a new one.   A generator is also a possible alternative, but you have to have fuel to run it.  The idea would be to keep our furnace running and minimal appliances, but if there is no natural gas we couldn’t run the furnace anyway.   So, a wood stove insert would be a better choice.  You can also cook on a wood stove.  Something else I want to learn – hearth cooking.   

Also, I finally bought all the ingredients to make homemade laundry soap.  Castile bar soap, borax and washing soda.  I will put it all together when I run out of my current liquid.  I’ll keep you posted on how well it cleans.

Oh, well.  Guess I should get to work.  The database awaits.

Keep it simple

A New Year

Today is the first day of 2009.  Happy New Years to one and all!  So, since we all have resolutions, here are some of mine.  The inevitable: lose some weight and take better care of my health.  Okay, that’s out of the way.  So, what do I REALLY want to do for 2009 – something less depressing :-).  Finish the home projects we have started, get the new garden planted, stop seeing depressing movies (Doubt and Seven Pounds within a 3 day span – big mistake – if I”m going to pay $9 to see a movie I want to come out smiling or at least crying tears of joy, not depressed over how screwed up people are).  Back to the resolutions – pray more for the people God puts in my path, be a better steward of the things intrusted to my care, talk less about other people in negative ways (a daily struggle – do not judge lest ye be judged – boy, do I have a lot of that coming!), quilt more – its so therapeutic; be more grateful for the life I have without envying those that have more; be more generous; be more hospitable. 

Its another beautiful sunny day, not a cloud in the sky, but its cold.  I can feel the cold air coming off the glass of the patio door.  Boy, we really need to do something about that fence.  Probably going to have to buy a new dishwasher this weekend.  Money takes wing. 

Lots to do over the long weekend.  My husband has volunteered to do the overhead texturing on the bathroom ceiling.  Yea!!!  Then prime, paint and then another full coat on the ceiling and walls.  Put up the trim.  Chair rail or no chair rail?  How to deal with the line on the drywall left by the wainscoting that no amount of spackle and texture seems to erase; choose paint color for cabinets.  I’m not good at that part at all.  I have no problem mixing and matching fabric colors and patterns for quilts.  Why am I so lousy at choosing paint colors?  But I LOVE the choices we made for the countertops and floors.  Oh, well, gotta keep plugging……

Have a great day off – keep it simple