Monthly Archives: February 2012

Spring Cleaning Part 3: Actually gettin down to it…

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So, I have reached the point where I can no longer put it off anymore. I must now get on my hands and knees, get a swift kick in the ass by motivation, and start the actual cleaning part of the whole “spring cleaning” thing. This past week has not really been all that inspiring; wind, sleet, rain, cold cold cold. But, I just booked my train ticket to see my mother during spring break, so the sooner I clean up the better.

This year though, no bleach, no “green” windex products, no hurting lungs and burning throats. Only good clean cleaning! I have been researching many sources of DIY cleaning products and found some products that showed up on all lists: vinegar, baking soda, tea tree oil, course salt, lemon juice, and castile soap. All of these things (minus the tea tree oil) are very very inexpensive and can pretty much be consumed without hurting the body. That is always a great sign.

Vinegar: the best and cheapest kind to get is the white distilled vinegar.

  • For mold and mildew-spray with 100% vinegar (you can add essential oil for a better scent)
  • For clogged drains- pour 1/2 c baking soda and follow with 1/2 c vinegar, cover and let the fizzy reaction break up the gunk. May need to do two or three times.
  • For window cleaner- Mix 1/4 c vinegar with one gallon water and spray on glass. Clean with newspaper.

Tea Tree Oil: A natural disinfectant that can be used both on the skin and on surfaces. Check out this list of 20 different uses for this great stuff! It may be a little expensive, but most recipes call for “drops” not cups or anything.

  • For an overall disinfectant spray: 1 T liquid castile soap (I use Dr.Bronners), 2 T vinegar, 2 c hot water, 1/4 tsp eucalyptus and lavender essential oils, and 3 drops tea tree oil (taken from Raleigh Briggs Make Your Place)
  • For extra help cleaning mold: Mix 2 c water with 2 tsp tea tree oil and spray on infected area, let sit.

Baking soda is great for everything from carpets, to scrubs, to disinfectants.

  • For anytime you need a good scrub: sprinkle baking soda on the surface (counters, tubs, walls, etc) and scrub with wet sponge or rag. If you need more of an abrasive scrub, add course/kosher salt to the mix.
  • To deodorize carpet: Sprinkle baking soda over carpet, wait 30 minutes, and vacuum up.
  • For grease build up (in stoves, ovens, etc): make a thick paste with baking soda and water, spread over grimy areas, and let sit over night. Scrub off the next day and wipe clean with wet cloth.
  • For toilets: Mix all the above! 1/2 c baking soda, 1/4 c vinegar, and 10 drops tea tree oil. Combine everything, pour immediately into toilet (this stuff will foam up), and scrub away.

Borax (sodium borate) was another common ingredient I found, but I am unsure if I will use this product. It is useful in things like laundry soap, but I have found a few websites that seem wary of using the product. Borax can cause mild inflammation and itching (so wear gloves if you use) and can be toxic to infants. Almost every recipe I have found for DIY laundry detergent seems to contain either washing soda or borax. So any opinions/knowledge about this stuff would be greatly appreciated!

Oh I almost forgot, stumbled upon this website during my cleaning searches. 80 things that can be composted (I never though about dumping vacuum bags in there…)

Happy cleaning!

Spring Cleaning Part 2- Getting Dirty?

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There are so many things I feel I “miss out” on living in an apartment; yards, gardens, privacy, bbq’ing…  Alas, a part of my spring cleaning goals is not only to actually get some cleaning and organizing done physically, but to do so mentally as well. So I am going to try to save my sanity (and planet a little) and bring those things to my tiny space.

So finally, finally, a project I have been trying to do for months now, I finally did. The luxurious, fantastical, worm “garden” is ready. I wrote a past post on how to make worm bins, but never actually had time to complete a new one for myself until recently. I will be picking up my worms from the Urban Farm at the University of Oregon tomorrow, and I am gonna put those puppies to work! I have realized that the majority of the “trash” I throw away, is food scraps I do not have a home for. I rarely throw anything else away, except for the occasional used up tube of toothpaste, etc. So I am hoping this significantly cuts down my walks out to the curb. The worms are also much less stinky and much more efficient at creating compost than anyone I could ever build outside my apartment as well. I think it will create just enough soil for my house plants and the few vegetation plants I will have outside. Hopefully those little guys like kale and potatoes though… because it’s going to be a little while before they get a taste of much else.

I also managed to use up a few of my egg cartons this week, sowing some basil, cilantro, dill, mesclun mix, and broccoli. I got these seeds from Seeds of Change, which seems to be a nice enough company (and the only organic seeds they sold at the True Value). My favorite company to buy seeds from is Territorial Seed Company: you know these people love their work and love spreading this great product strictly based on the loving, and sometimes erotic, descriptions of each heirloom vegetable. 

Artful splashes of lilac and cream adorn these elongated, 4-6 inch long, oval-shaped eggplants, making them some of the most beautiful fruit we’ve seen. Not only is Nubia gorgeous in the garden, it’s an excellent choice for the grill or fried. Its mellow, refined flavor pairs perfectly with a blend of ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses,topped with tomato sauce. Delicious! 

or…

Princely refinement defines this outstanding, juicy, round tomato with its warm, rich colors and robust, full-bodied flavor. Originally introduced in Russia, this indeterminate plant performs quite well in cooler regions. Medium-sized fruit reach approximately 2 inches across with mahogany skin, green shoulders and florid, green and red striped flesh.

This company definitely focuses on keeping all vegetable varieties alive and thriving (instead of the typical beefsteak tomato and iceberg lettuce Americans “love”). Let me put it this way, there are 9 pages of tomato varieties and even 5 pages of beans in their catalog: venture, jade, renegade, royal burgundy, carson, soleil, capitano, painted lady… the list goes on.

I have Purple Haze carrots, Purple Top White Globe turnips, and Red Meat radishes from Territorial that I will be putting in the ground in the upcoming months. Oh yeah, I also made a little “DIY watering can.” Pretty simple: I have a million jars, I need one watering can, I used one of the jars and made it into a watering can by poking holes in the lid. Simple and effective!

The last “project” that I have been working on is growing mushrooms. This is something I absolutely recommend and is so easy! I bought, essentially, a hay bale wrapped in plastic with spores. It cost me about 11 dollars from the farmers market and I have gotten well over 2 pounds of white elm mushrooms from it already. All I have to do is spritz it with water in the morning and before bed and boom! mushrooms! There are other options for growing mushrooms too, which include “plugs”. Basically they are mushrooms spore plugs that you stick into holes in stumps. Just drill holes in a stump in your yard (or on your patio) insert the plugs, and wait. Cheaper and so much more fresh! Gotta love that.

The spring cleaning continues…. next up, DIY cleaning products.

Spring Cleaning Part 1 (of many)

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So this is the first part to a (probably) many part series, starting a little before spring. My first main tasks this late winter, in preparation for spring, was to focus and clean up my blog, and organize the last bits of my summer preserves.

So thus, here is my new blog and new name. I would like to broaden my focus and try to invite more participation, so that, when this thing we call a “perfect capitalist society” collapses from lack of oil or just sky-rocketing prices, we will be ready as a community to source locally: food, products, services, etc. We will know how to live without all those luxuries by remembering what the basics are, and how to complete those tasks successfully, and maybe even with some pizazz. Sewing, cooking, preserving, cleaning, running a household, foraging, being healthy, all things will be explored, learned, and taught!

Cleaning the kitchen was no easy task; it was no sweep/mop/dish combo. Everything was taken out of drawers, cupboards, and cabinets in my kitchen and completely overhauled. I pulled about two boxes worth of doubles, unused gadgets given to me through numerous parental moves, and boxed cakes (from who knows where), and will put on the street in a free box on the next sunshiney day. I was able to put all canned goods and preservation items together, baking goods lay happily next to each other now, and I paired down my overflowing dish set to a manageable size. Also… my greatest accomplishment… I moved my record player into the kitchen. Hey, its where I spend the most amount of time, so it only made sense.

I realized a couple things while doing this, (1) I need to start using up the food I have in massive bulk (this includes mainly lentils, carrots, and pickled things), (2) I would love to step up my game in the thrift store department (or the friend-mooching department) and find a mortar and pestle, fondue pot, and meat thermometer, (3) there are many more things I want to try and do (soon to come jerky, spice rack making, gyros)!

But, one step at a time now, so I made some good use of my carrots:

Carrot Muffins (makes about 3 dozen)

  • 2 c whole wheat flour (Camas)
  • 1/2 c buckwheat flour (Camas)
  • 1/2 c white wheat flour (Camas)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 c plain yogurt (I used NF Nancy’s)
  • 3 eggs (Blissfully Produced)
  • 1 T butter (Rose Valley)
  • 1 c milk (Rose Valley)
  • 2 c carrots, grated
  • 3/4 c honey (I actually used half honey and half maple syrup because I was a little short on my honey supply)
  • 1/4 c flax (Camas)
  • 1/4 c walnuts (farmers market)

Directions: So I am a really basic baker, I literally just mix the dry, mix the wet, and then combine them together. Taste the batter, add whatever other spices you would like: nutmeg, clove, almond extract, etc. I baked these at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes (I had a tiny muffin tin, so it may take longer with a bigger size muffin). I also did the math on these, and figured that if you get about 3 dozen muffins each one is approximately 75 to 80 calories. These are by no means sweet muffins but they are absolutely wonderful in the morning with butter or jam and pretty healthy at that.

Carrot Curry Soup (makes enough for about 5 people)

  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • butter for sauteing veggies
  • 8 carrots, chopped (they will be pureed so no worries about appearance, just make sure they are about the same size)
  • 2 potatoes
  • 5 c chicken broth, vegetable stock, water, or mixture of the three
  • 2 T curry (I only had yellow and green so I did about 1 1/2 of the yellow and 1/2 of the green, but I think red would have tasted the best, go figure)
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1-2 T vinegar to taste (I used red wine)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Saute onions in butter until soft and golden in a pot. Add all other veggies to pan and saute until onions become darker and you start to smell the veggies. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn it down to a simmer, add spices, and  put a lid on it (I never thought I would actually say that in context, haha). Simmer until veggies are very soft. Then, either transfer part of the liquid and the veggies to a food processor, or (what I prefer) use a hand blender (wand?) and blend while still in the pot. At this point you can taste and add any spices. I served mine with a dollop of yogurt and kimchi, but would be good over rice, with a green onion/parsley garnish, or just plain jane.

I also plan on making a lentil loaf this week and juicing lots of carrots. Got any great carrot/lentil/pickled things recipe to share?