Friday, March 15, 2013

A Little Bit of Farming

Craigslist Ad: Sort of experienced farm sitters available to watch chickens, goats, donkeys, cows and feral barn cats. We promise to keep your animals stocked with food and water, and to eat every egg we find. If you require milking, we require patient training.

It's a funny story how we became "The Farm Sitters Who Care!"

My mom's best friend Jan is a lovely farmer and retired teacher who travels for two weeks every summer. My mom does farm duty, feeding her chickens, picking her vegetables, and otherwise making sure no one has escaped or fallen over in a field.

A few years ago, the kids and I came to help her. We all love Jan's farm, with its giant vegetable garden and barn full of roosting hens.

So last year, when we met some farming friends through our homeschooling co-op, we were excited to get to play farmer during the Christmas holidays.

"We get to spend Christmas Eve in a manger!" I told the kids.

Since then, we have been back one other time, during the coldest week of spring to check on the girls -- 32 chickens and 2 sweet goats, who love eating ski tags.

Each time, we have felt one step closer to our own farm dream -- a dream that includes fresh eggs every day, and our own goats to love.

Until we get there, we feel so lucky to have friends who let us share in their adventures.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

9 really easy ways to eliminate chemicals in your home

You know what makes me happy? Shiny dishes. And clean counters. And fresh sheets.

None of these things make me nearly as happy as playing with my kids or hanging with my husband, but I have recognized that a certain degree of tidiness helps me think. It keeps me from feeling scattered.

But I don't want a bunch of chemicals. And the past few years have proven to me that I don't need 'em, either. I have tried making pretty much everything you can use to clean your house. Some stuff has worked perfectly the first time. Some stuff has forced me to have to scrub a gross residue off all my dishes. But I've kept at it, and these are the absolute easiest ways to eliminate chemicals from your home and still get great results:

-- Add vinegar to your dishwasher's rinse-aid holder, instead of buying a rinse aid
-- Make a basic cleaning spray. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. In an old spray bottle, I mix a couple of tablespoons of Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap with a couple of teaspoons of vinegar with water, and add about 15 to 20 drops of essential oils. Good ones to add are tea tree+lavender or eucalyptus+lemon (tea tree and eucalyptus are great disinfectants, and lavender and lemon help balance them out and keep your house from smelling like a horse barn).  I use this spray on pretty much everything but wood and windows.
-- For windows, mix up vinegar and water in a spray bottle. (1 part vinegar:3 parts water) (I'm still working on wood.)
--  Wash your floors with hot water and a squirt of Dr. Bronner's in a bucket. (Again, still working on wood ... floors.)
-- Never buy air freshener again. Mix essential oils with water in a small spray bottle. Use on sheets too. My family loves a mix of lavender and ylang-ylang. (20 drops EO:4 ounces H2O).

-- Clean carpets with a combination of baking soda and essential oils. Citrus oils are great here (lemon, lime, sweet orange), but you can use anything you like. (12 drops EO:1 cup baking soda). Shake up your mixture, sprinkle it on the carpet, leave it for a minute and vacuum.
-- Make your laundry detergent. There are a million recipes out there, most some mix of Borax, washing soda and grated soap. We use a variation of that, and add about 25 drops of essential oils, like peppermint, which makes everything smell really fresh, but isn't at all overpowering.
-- Put vinegar in the washer's rinse compartment. I promise your clothes won't smell funny. Unless you think fresh and clean smells funny and you want "Lavender Fields" or "Spring Blossoms" or something.
-- Rinse fruits and veggies with a mix of vinegar and water. (1 part vinegar:3 parts water) This sounds a lot like the window cleaner, doesn't it? I won't tell if you don't.
-- To clean your oven, spray the whole inside with your vinegar and water, definitely-windows-and-possibly-fruit concoction. Leave it for a minute. Sprinkle baking soda throughout. Now, get in there and scrub. It will happen. Enjoy your time in the oven. Think of it as your cardio for the day.

These are the easy things we do every day (Well, not vacuum, or clean the oven).

These are the things we do when we clean stuff.

Sometimes, I experiment with a new concoction, but I don't like buying lots of crazy new ingredients. You might have noticed, that my "cleaning supply" cabinet basically contains Dr. Bronner's soap, baking soda, vinegar, essential oils, and empty spray bottles. Because I'm cheap like that. And, it works.

What works at your house?