Monday, January 28, 2013

Non Toxic Cleaner

About a year ago, I switched from regular cleaners to natural cleaners.  Most notably, using vinegar as an all purpose cleaner.  It is completely non-toxic, safe for food contact surfaces, and a great disinfectant.  Numerous studies have shown that a straight 5% solution of vinegar kills 99 % of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of germs.  Pretty great, huh?

My family has associated the smells of pine, lemon, and mountain fresh to clean rooms and surfaces, and didn't particularly care for the smell of vinegar, even though it dissipates quickly.  So, I decided to change the smell.  I steeped some lavender flowers in vinegar for about a month in a quart jar, and ended up with cleaner for about 4 months.  Just add it 50/50 with water to a spray bottle. Not bad for free flowers I picked around my neighborhood, and some white vinegar that cost about 2$ for a gallon.

The cleaner was much improved, not only by the smell, but lavender has disinfectant properties, and is considered soothing by aromatherapists.  The smell of lavender lingers much longer than the smell of vinegar, so I consider that a big success.  I ended up making another batch, and have been happily cleaning with lavender steeped vinegar for about a year.

But Im tired of lavendar. So, I decided to mix up some orange cleaner.  Orange oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, as well as grease fighting power.  I added some peels to a quart jar and topped with white vinegar.  You can add the peels as you go if you don't have a bunch, or you can save them up in the freezer in a bag, and start a batch when you have a jar full.  You can also throw in tangerine, lemon, lime, or any other citrus peels you may have.  Let it sit for at least 2 weeks, preferably a month.  If you are adding the peels as you go, start your time when putting in the last peels.  When the time is up, strain out the peels, cut 50/50 with water in a spray bottle, and compost the peels.  Also, you can use full strength on really greasy stovetop messes.

Steeping Oranges
A word of caution to those with feline affinity.  I have heard that cats don't like the smell of orange so use with care near their stuff.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Food issues

When I go shopping in a regular grocery store, I mainly focus on the outside. The produce, the meat, and the dairy. I do my best to avoid all the processed, packaged food, and bottles of flavored fizzy sugar that populate the middle.

 I happen to work in one of these places, but fortunately, don't have to leave my little bakery corner unless Im sprinkling baked goods throughout the store. However, since hurting my shoulder at the end of November, I have been on light duty, and can't do my normal work.

 So the other day, I had to walk the store, every aisle, and scan out of stock items. It took me forever, because I was amazed by the products I ran across. "Natural" and "healthy" products filled with unnatural and unhealthy ingredients. Sugar in fun shapes for your kid marketed as a healthy fruit snack. Oodles of noodle boxes with powdered chemical sauces., and umpteen other examples, across just as many food types, of confusing jargon and marketing loopholes.

 Now, I know this stuff exists. I just forget. I also do, on occasion, buy some packaged food. However, I am at a point where increasingly, I seek out and find a healthier, better, alternative. It almost always requires more work on my part, and often it is not as cheap, but the payoff is huge in that I get a superior, healthy product that I know is good for me and my family.

 When I was just starting my scan of out of stocks, a woman asked me "hey, you work here? Is this stuff any good?" waving a box of noodle side dish at me. I said that I hadn't tried it, but mentioned that I had tried the organic product on the shelf next to it and it was pretty good for box pasta. She rolled her eyes and said "Ugh, you're one of those" and walked off. Its true what they say about leading a horse to water.

Awhile back I watched a good documentary about food additives, artificial sweeteners, links between some additives and cravings, and deceptive strategies used by the food industry to schlep their stuff. Its called Hungry For Change and definitely worth a watch if you are at all interested on what is really going on with your food. You can watch it on netflix, or get it from their website here.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Garden Groove

I always end up (not) planning my garden too late.  It mostly ends up being what starts I end up finding,  thrown into a poorly prepared plot or bed.  But, how can I have a righteous garden if I don't actually plan it?  The short answer is, I can't.  The good news is, its the beginning of January!

My family and I moved into a cute little house last August that came complete with a 500 sq ft (17x30) garden space. I have never had so much space to garden in.

Poorly taken picture of new garden space. Its in there somewhere.
As you can see, from the worst picture taken of a garden ever, the space is quite large.  So, once my brain turned towards thoughts of the garden, I was immediately overwhelmed.  I began by making a list of things we like to eat a lot.  Then I added things we probably would eat more of if I grew them instead of bought them.  Then, I got on the internet.  That, my friends, is where things went awry.

If you have never perused seed catalogs before, let me just tell you, you will want at least 5 acres when you are finished.  How can one resist names like Devils Tongue Lettuce, Black Valentine Bush Beans, Purple Plumed Celery, Cucamelons, Wonderberry, or Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry. Now my list is WAY too long. And then, the hubs chimed in. "I need a lot of space for my pumpkins".

I ended up finding a few sites for heirloom seed that send out catalogs.  From what I hear, they come mid January. Hopefully, I will have a shorter list by then, but I doubt it.  Here are links to three:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Annie's Annuals & Perennials

Botanical Interests

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Today is the first day of the rest of your life! And too, this blog.  I wish to chronicle my endeavors this year in becoming more self sufficient, live with more intention and mindfulness, and simplify.  I also wish to find lost arts, and arts new to me, learn to play music, return to painting and writing, and not least, raise an awesome kid.  A tall order for a period so short as a year.  So, let's get started!

Here is a list of things that are immediately on my mind:

Have a righteous garden
Growing at least 500lbs of food this year
Making my own oil from an oilseed variety that I grow
Canning more (waterbath)
Learn to pressure can (hubs got me one for christmas!), and can the bejesus out of my veggies