Some time ago I made some dish washing tabs, but everyone except me refused to use them. I am trying again with a liquid version. After watching a video that featured this recipe, I decided to make a liquid using most of the ingredients, but slightly different proportions. My recipe is below;
Dissolve 1 cake of soap in 1 litre of hot water.
Store this liquid in a sealed bottle for future batches. Now mix;
2/3 cup soap liquid
1/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tblspn bicarbonate of soda
1 tblspn washing soda
The mixture will froth, but subsides quickly. When it has finished frothing, store it in a sealable bottle. This mixture is used at a rate of 1/4 cup per sink full of water.
So far everyone is using the liquid. I am getting grumbles about the low froth, but it works to clean the dishes, except that it doesn’t remove the oil on baking trays very well. Using an extra splash of the soap on the trays solves that problem though.
The photo below may not seem like much, but it is a HUGE leap forward for us. Please excuse the finger in the shot, I was in a hurry to get back to filling the trench. This photo represents a change in our water harvesting and disposal system.
Previously, our waste water from the kitchen ran out of the humpy into a trench in the soil and was allowed to spread out randomly from there. You can see the big clump of iris and weeds against the wall of the humpy which marks the start of the previous trench. This system created a mess of muddy trench and water sitting on the surface of the soil. I put in a lot of work, with help from family and friends, to dig a drain trench and put in some actual plumbing. While I was at it, I dug a trench for the effluent from the biogas unit too. This effluent previously went to a transpiration pit near the unit, but I wanted to extend the pit, so decided to plumb all our kitchen and biogas overflow into a banana circle.
What is a banana circle? It is a hole with bananas and other useful plants growing around the edge. Banana circles usually have a water source and the centre is used as a compost pile. This provides nutrients and water to the hungry crops and makes a little island of fertility.
Below you can see the beginning of my banana circle. The plumbing is in and I have dug a hole about a metre deep in the centre and piled the soil up around the edge. My circle is in a low place in the yard, so it will also channel rain water into it. Because it is being used as a transpiration pit, I was careful to dig the hole deep enough to (hopefully) prevent overflow during rain events.
I piled logs and sticks into the hole to provide something to soak up all that water and nutrient and hold it in dry times. I also added a layer of compost over the trench to give the bananas a fighting chance. I edged the piles with big pieces of branch to make an edge to mow against and to hold in the compost and mulch.
I planted my banana suckers (only two so far), some cassava cuttings and about 100 comfrey roots. Then I started to trim and weed the garden and pile up the centre of my circle. I will continue to pile up cuttings and garden scraps in the middle of the circle. The water in the pit should be covered by material at all times, so it will be a race to keep enough composting material in there as it breaks down (it might encourage me to weed more).
This little project has solved a problem (sloppy trench through the yard) and provided a place to grow food and medicine (bananas, cassava and comfrey). It also used up one pile of sticks and wood from the sheep paddock that needed to be cleared. I am very satisfied with my results on this project.
I am home, waiting for the results from a PCR test. So, to help the time pass, I’m mending some leggings my daughter put in the mending box a few weeks ago.
These old leggings are full of small holes that make them almost, but not quite, unwearable. I decided to go to YouTube for a tutorial. This clip showed me the technique I needed.
As it turns out, fixing holes in knit fabric is fairly easy. Just take tiny stitches on either side of the hole until the hole is miraculously mended. These leggings will last a while longer, and next time I will mend them with brighter thread so that they become a work of art.
I had a break from spinning for the last two days to do some much needed mending. Among the pile of things to fix and put back into working order was a fitted sheet that Melvin (the wonder dog) had ‘dug’ a tear in. I don’t know why he feels the need to dig up the bed if it isn’t made immediately, but he does.
He managed to make an L shaped tear about 2 cm long on each leg of the L. I found a YouTube clip that showed me how to darn it and away I went to give it a go. Of course I used a contrasting colour of cotton, mostly because I only had navy cotton in my kit and the sheet is a mossy green colour. It turned out well I think, it is an obvious darn (of course) but the area feels strong and there aren’t any lumps to annoy my princess of a partner at night (I hope).
The basic method of darning for socks and for sheets (or any fabric) is the same; to anchor thread in solid fabric then build a web of thread, to weave new fabric into, over the hole. In the case of this sheet I didn’t even try to keep it neat and tidy. The darn is… chaotic and wild. I like it actually, I think I would have used a much brighter colour if I had thought about it more deeply, and I will do that next time.
The darned area survived its first two nights on the bed. My princess partner didn’t complain about any peas in his bed. I think this is a win all round. I will continue to darn our sheets to get the longest life possible out of them before they become clothes, animal bedding and cleaning cloths (then eventually, floor mats). I love making things stretch, it makes me feel so accomplished.
We use a combination of handkerchiefs and tissues (well toilet rolls really) here at the humpy. When we have an outbreak of colds we tend to use disposable paper to blow our noses and burn the bacteria straight away. Handkerchiefs are used to wipe sweat and clean grease or other yucky stuff off your hands while out and about. In my quest to reduce single use everything, I was thinking about how we can replace paper tissues with cloth alternatives.
I remember my mother and my grandmother washing handkies in a big pot on the stove when I was a kid. They were washed outside first in cold water (I think, I didn’t pay much attention, I was a kid), then boiled on the stove to kill the bacteria. So now I’m wondering if I could make up a system where we could use cloth ’tissues’ and instead of throwing them into the fire or the bin, we throw them into a container until wash day. Vinegar would kill any virus or bacteria load they carry and begin the cleaning process, so I could pre soak them in diluted vinegar before washing them. The hankies would need to be washed in their own water and probably rinsed well too, which would be an investment of water and time, but we really only use them when we have colds or flu (not a common occurrence at all). I could possibly make a portable carrier to hold clean and dirty hankies separately while we are out and about (like these ones I found).
Time to give it a go…
I found a couple of beautiful old cot sheets in a second hand shop while I was out last week. They were made from 100% cotton and felt beautifully strong and smooth to the touch. I paid a grand total of $2 for the set and bought them home to make reusable tissues (“Hankies”, my Nanna mutters in the back of my mind). I cut one of the sheets into 32 equally sized squares, overlocked around them and called it finished.
I now have a pile of neat and beautiful hankies in two little boxes, and a sweet glass jar to collect the used ones in until washing day.
The hankies are washed in cold water with one cup of vinegar, two tablespoons of washing soda and a little bag of soap nuts added to the water. They are then rinsed in cold water and hung out to dry in the sunlight. That is probably enough to kill any bacteria and virus’ clinging to them (I hope).
Over the last twelve years or so, I have been moving towards using less packaging and making more of my own products (dragging my family, crying and whinging, with me). During that time we have managed to swap a lot of usual products in plastic bottles for home made or zero waste products.
Shampoo – we use a shampoo bar and sometimes a conditioner bar when washing our hair
Toothpaste and brushes – we use a bought (sometimes home made) tooth powder and compostable toothbrushes
We are making a difference to our world. I needed to make this into a post (with photos) to be able to fully appreciate the many things we have accomplished. Our achievements disappear in the mass of things we haven’t done yet, leaving us feeling helpless and frail. This is my celebration and a reminder of how far we have come on our sustainable journey. Now time to look forwards.
It’s Winter here in Australia, this is the coldest part of our Winter too (it gets down to about 2 degrees Celsius in the evenings. Added to this (for those who don’t know already) we shower outside with a single 10 litre bucket each per shower. We shower in the evenings before bed, so we don’t drag dirt into the sheets, but that is the coldest time of day to shower. All of this adds up to an extreme reluctance to wash hair (on my part anyway).
I usually only wash my hair once a week, but even that is onerous at this time of year, so I have been looking into making my own dry shampoo. A dry shampoo may let me put off hair washing for a little longer in Winter and still allow me to look mildly presentable.
There are a lot of simple DIY recipes for dry shampoo out there to try, so I chose the simplest one to start with. Simple is actually an understatement; I put a couple of tablespoons of cornflour in a jar with a teaspoon of cinnamon and some peppermint essential oil and shook it up until it was blended. Then I tried it out on my unwashed-for-a-week hair.
The dry shampoo certainly makes hair feel less greasy and stiff. It smells faintly of cinnamon and peppermint (a weird combination, now I think about it) and looks fairly smooth. I think dry shampoo is definitely worth a try if you don’t want to wash your hair very frequently.
My youngest daughter recently sent me a present which included three beeswax wraps, which I put into immediate use. I use them to cover the bowl while I proof bread, while resting pastry, I use them to wrap lunch for the day, to wrap cheese in the fridge and to wrap the bread in the cupboard. I love them, and three is not enough for the various uses I put them to. So I am making more for myself (of course).
First, I need cotton fabric. The wraps need to be made from 100% cotton, so I looked at old shirts, old sheets and in my fabric stash. I found some likely candidates, but nothing that stood out as 100% cotton; it is very hard to find something second hand that is all cotton (at least in my house). Next I went looking at Spotlight online, and I found some very colourful (school themed) fat quarters. I ordered enough to make piles of new wraps.
Next we need beeswax (as a starting point), I have always got organic beeswax on hand as I use it to make soap, hand creme, furniture polish, etc. I did come across some tutorials that recommend using ingredients such as pine resin and jojoba oil to help make the wraps more antibacterial and longer lasting. Eventually I came across a kit that was for sale locally. I ordered a test kit through Ballina Honey The kit came in record time and contains everything I need to make my wraps except the fabric. There are some beeswax chunks, a bag of pine resin and a small pouch of jojoba oil; I am now ready to go…
The instructions in the kit gave three options…
As I was looking for the simplest method, I chose to heat up the required 2:1:small splash ratio of (respectively) beeswax, resin and jojoba oil in a pot on the stove. I floated the pot in a larger pot of water to make a double boiler.
Then I tried to paint the wax mixture on with a paint brush. This was not very sucessful as the wax seemed to take forever to soak through. I speculated that this was because it was a fairly cool day. The surface of the fabric was left lumpy and caked. So on to method two.
I put the fabric between two pieces of baking paper and ironed it with my tiny little 12 Volt sewing iron. This worked to a degree, but because it takes so long to heat up it was a very slow process.
When I was sick of ironing (it doesn’t take long), I put the fabric on a baking sheet and popped it in the oven for a few minutes. This worked really well and I decided this was the way to do it.
So for the next several hours I popped pieces of fabric in the oven with the premade beeswax mixture.
I love using these wraps, and they will reduce our use of cling wrap and aluminium wrap. I wonder if I could make some oiled cotton to sew bags and things out of?
Note: you may notice that the first part of this post was made in the days when we had rain. The second part is in the current situation of deep drought. This is because I got distracted by other pursuits and didn’t get to finish the post. Because I hate to waste anything, I thought I would just update the post with some photos of the current state of the area.
Living in the bush as we do, wood is easy to come by, we use it for everything; burning as fuel, structural building material, even in the garden. I have several hollow logs cut in half placed around one of the water tanks that were always intended to become herb beds. Unfortunately I sort of lost interest in the project for a year or two and they have sat there, looking messy ever since. I guess it is time to tackle that problem opportunity.
First of all the weeds have to go. I need to clear around the tank in general in fact. As I was staring at the mess, wishing there were an easier way, inspiration struck. Why don’t I just lay cardboard over the weeds behind the hollow logs and cover it all with gravel? It would make it look neat and reduce the fire hazard as well. That will have to wait until I can go and get some gravel.
The hollow logs were easy to fix. I dug out the old soil and mixed it with pig poop and lime, then shoveled it back in. Once the beds have settled down and composted a bit more I will plant some herbs in there, I will probably have to fence them off too, because everything wants to eat anything newly planted.
All inspired by this bit of progress, I decided to build a new Hugelkultur bed in the front yard. This area used to have a trellis made from a couple of bed bases tied to poles and some tires planted with choko vines, unfortunately the ducks managed to break into the choko vine covers and ate the lot. So the whole mess sat, doing nothing for a year or so; the chooks dug the soil out of the tires, the trellis fell down and the grass grew over the lot. Time to jazz it up a bit.
First I needed to put the trellis back up. A couple of pieces of scrap metal about 1.5m long and a star picket later I had a trellis again, of course the zip ties helped too (what did we do before zip ties?). Sometimes I am so thankful we are too lazy to take stuff to the dump.
Now for the garden bed. Time to collect wood and bury it in pig poop…fun.
I gathered branches and stray bits of wood from all around the humpy for a couple of hours. Thanks to my trusty wheel barrow I can collect quite a large amount in a trip. Then I filled the gaps in between with partially composted pig poop from the conveniently placed pile up the hill (thanks Lucille), remembering to sprinkle the whole lot with lime periodically (which helps reduce the smell and adjusts the pH from acid back down towards neutral).
This new bed is going to take a while to settle down into a rich, fertile growing area so I need to gather plenty of mulch to cover over the pig poop and reduce the smell. Mulch also gives a bed that finished look, whether it is finished or not.
Now for the present day photos…
Yes, our humpy is a place of half-assed half-finished projects, but we have a lot of fun doing it and what else is life for, if not to follow your joy? We are messy people, you won’t find much order here, what you will find is interest and new ideas (sometimes the same new idea that has been long forgotten and then suddenly rediscovered). I do love my life!!
We have been trying very hard to move away from using gas to sustain our daily life. We have historically used gas for running the fridge and for cooking and heating water on the gas stove. Recently we have upgraded our gas fridge to an electric fridge (solar powered) and now we are adding a biogas unit to the mix. This means that we will no longer have to buy gas bottles (yay!!), this is the final step away from using bottled gas.
Bottled gas or LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) is produced during oil refining and given the temporary nature of our supply of oil on this planet, we need to be looking at ways to move away from our reliance on it (not to mention the huge environmental cost of using it). LPG contains propane in Australia, in other countries LPG can be a mix of propane and butane.
Biogas captures methane and carbon dioxide (methane mostly) as a result of decomposition of organic matter. That is why the discovery of methane on Mars was such an exciting thing; where there are dead things there were once live things (usually, although not always and probably not in this case). I became interested in biogas many years ago (after watching an episode of The Good Life) and decided to work towards setting it up in our humpy. The idea that we could use our waste (of all descriptions) to generate some of our energy needs was very exciting.
The idea has been sitting on a dusty shelf at the back of my mind for years. Other, more attainable, goals have been on the work table of my mind. Six months ago (approximately) I stumbled upon a post advertising a biogas system designed for home use and the idea suddenly moved to the front of my mind again.
They are the only company selling these units in Australia and they are relatively close to us (only about three hours drive way). We saved up (in tiny increments) and finally, with a windfall of back pay, we ordered the unit. We also managed to add a toilet unit to the order. As soon as this unit is set up we can start to generate our own cooking gas (although the Year three student who lives in my head can’t help making jokes about cooking with farts).
As soon as the order was placed we realised we needed a site for the future toilet/gas generation unit. Then we need a shed or some kind of building to house the toilet and a pad for the gas unit to sit on.
The first part of our biogas adventure was picking it up and touring a working unit while we were there. The very helpful Brian at Quality Solar and Plumbing gave us a tour of the biogas unit he has set up at his house.
We have our unit home. It is sitting in it’s two little boxes, waiting for us to make it a home and set up the toilet. I can’t wait to get it going.
The kit is supposed to include everything we need to put it all together. We will see…