Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Current mood: happy
So my original goal for Earth Day of having the computers and television off during the daylight hours didn't exactly work-- computers were off for 8 hours, while the television made it a total of 9 (: At least it wasn't a COMPLETE bust!
After my oldest headed off to school, my youngest and I got ready to start our day and headed off to Wal-Mart at 7:30. We bought 6 bags of dirt, 5 containers, 5 cement blocks, 3 citronella plants, a jasmine, 2 clematis, and seeds for watermelon and cantelope.
I had decided that this Earth Day was the perfect day for starting the last of the companion garden pots-- right now, it looks like a large pot of dirt (lol) but that's because the 3 main plants are all being grown from seed: greenbean bush, snow peas, and spinach.
I also used this opportunity to move the strawberries, and the grape. The grape is now at the base of the trellis the strawberries were hanging from, and the strawberries have a new home in what may prove to be a fatal wash zone. I'm -hoping- they'll help prevent erosion in that area, but we'll see.
After getting everything planted and moved, I took a break to play with my youngest in the back yard (: He LOVES swinging! And believe me when I tell you that my children are FEARLESS in their swings! I practically fling them into the air, and they whoop and giggle the entire time (:
Then it was back to the gardens-- this time with work gloves and clippers to cut down the weeds, thorny vines, bamboo (that grows like a weed around our house!), and poison oak. Part of why the computer failed was periodic research-- turns out weeding does more than get rid of the nasty things in your yard! It also kills those plants that are competing with what you WANT to grow for resources (: At the same time I was learning that, it turns out that by setting your lawn mower deck to the highest, and only mowing when the lawn actually needs it (which I'm doing because I LIKE longer grass, and to let my wild flowers grow), you allow the grass to establish deeper roots-- they absorb water better, prevent erosion better and live longer besides!
While I was out there, I learned I'm going to have to re-apply the yard poison ): There are fleas in the yard-- and I'm a little allergic to their bite-- so I can tell you without doubt that I was bit by at least 30 (none of which survived the attack, but they say for every flea you find, there are 30 more you don't know about ): ) So I'm going to respread the poison tomorrow, and get cedar chips to put around the fence line (that's one of the things I learned about recently!). I was also bit by at least 2 mosquitoes, and though I make sure to dump all the standing water in OUR yard-- there are still plenty of other sources for them to come here from. They're the reason I put the citronellas out-- though they should also help repel the fleas.
At 8 (actually 7:57) my boys and I dashed around the house turning off all the lights (Grandmother even participated and turned off her lights too!)-- although it was supposed to be for a minute, we went for 5 (;
And I also got a whole slew of ideas for things I WANT to do-- some of which I've wanted to do for years, other that I only heard about in the last 3 days.
My latest list includes:
2 eco-friendly low-flow shower heads/ 2 shut off valves for the shower heads
cedar chips for the fence line
2 eco-friendly low-flow faucets for the bathrooms
eco-friendly low-flow toilet for our bathroom
mulch around the trees
Rain barrels—and to finish the gutters on the front and back of the house.
But my preparations for Earth Day actually began yesterday, when my friend Annie sent me an email via Facebook. She sent me a link that explained that Clorox EcoWorks is still toxic. Admittedly, LESS toxic than conventional cleaners, but not as earth friendly as it's toted to be.
So I did a search and came across a site that gave me (and Annie (: ) all sorts of ideas!
Non-Toxic Home Cleaning
Today's modern home is loaded with toxic and polluting substances designed to make domestic life easier.
The cost of these commercial, chemical-based products can be high -- long term health concerns for the family, and environmental pollution caused by their manufacture and disposal. In the US, for example, 1 in 3 people suffer from allergies, asthma, sinusitis or bronchitis (US National Center for Health Statistics). Treatment for these conditions should include reducing synthetic chemicals in the home environment.
Baking Soda - cleans, deodorizes, softens water, scours.
Soap - unscented soap in liquid form, flakes, powders or bars is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. Avoid using soaps which contain petroleum distillates.
Lemon - one of the strongest food-acids, effective against most household bacteria.
Borax - (sodium borate) cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors.
White Vinegar - cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax build-up.
Washing Soda - or SAL Soda is sodium carbonate decahydrate, a mineral. Washing soda cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs. Use care, as washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminum.
Isopropyl Alcohol - is an excellent disinfectant. (It has been suggested to replace this with ethanol or 100 proof alcohol in solution with water. There is some indication that isopropyl alcohol buildup contributes to illness in the body. See http://drclark.ch/g)
Cornstarch - can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.
Trisodium phosphate (TSP) - a mixture of soda ash and phosphoric acid. TSP is toxic if swallowed, but it can be used on many jobs, such as cleaning drains or removing old paint, that would normally require much more caustic and poisonous chemicals, and it does not create any fumes.
Note: These formulas and substitutions are offered to help minimize the use of toxic substances in your home, and reduce the environmental harm caused by the manufacture, use and disposal of toxics. Results may vary and cannot be guaranteed to be 100% safe and effective. Before applying any cleaning formulations, test in small hidden areas if possible. Always use caution with any new product in your home.
Make sure to keep all home-made formulas well-labeled, and out of the reach of children.
All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc.
Air Freshener: Commercial air fresheners mask smells and coat nasal passages to diminish the sense of smell.
Bathroom mold: Mold in bathroom tile grout is a common problem and can be a health concern. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray on areas with mold. Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using shower.
Dishwashing Soap: Commercial low-phosphate detergents are not themselves harmful, but phosphates nourish algae which use up oxygen in waterways. A detergent substitution is to use liquid soap. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of vinegar to the warm, soapy water for tough jobs.
Disinfectant: Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar and 3 cups hot water. For stronger cleaning power add 1/4 teaspoon liquid castile soap. Wipe on with dampened cloth or use non-aerosol spray bottle. (This is not an antibacterial formula. The average kitchen or bathroom does not require antibacterial cleaners.)
Drain Cleaner: For light drain cleaning, mix 1/2 cup salt in 4 liters water, heat (but not to a boil) and pour down the drain. For stronger cleaning, pour about 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain, then 1/2 cup vinegar. The resulting chemical reaction can break fatty acids down into soap and glycerine, allowing the clog to wash down the drain. After 15 minutes, pour in boiling water to clear residue. Caution: only use this method with metal plumbing. Plastic pipes can melt if excess boiling water is used. Also, do not use this method after trying a commercial drain opener--the vinegar can react with the drain opener to create dangerous fumes.
vinyl and linoleum: mix 1 cup vinegar and a few drops of baby oil in 1 gallon warm water. For tough jobs, add 1/4 cup borox. Use sparingly on lineoleum.
Furniture Polish: For varnished wood, add a few drops of lemon oil into a 1/2 cup warm water. Mix well and spray onto a soft cotton cloth. Cloth should only be slightly damp. Wipe furniture with the cloth, and finish by wiping once more using a dry soft cotton cloth.
Metal Cleaners and Polishes:
aluminum: using a soft cloth, clean with a solution of cream of tartar and water.
Mold and Mildew: Use white vinegar or lemon juice full strength. Apply with a sponge or scrubby.
Oven Cleaner: Moisten oven surfaces with sponge and water. Use 3/4cup baking soda, 1/4cup salt and 1/4cup water to make a thick paste, and spread throughout oven interior. (avoid bare metal and any openings) Let sit overnight. Remove with spatula and wipe clean. Rub gently with fine steel wool for tough spots. Or use Arm & Hammer Oven Cleaner, declared nontoxic by Consumers Union.
Paint Brush Cleaner: Non-toxic, citrus oil based solvents are now available commercially under several brand names. Citra-Solve is one brand. This works well for cleaning brushes of oil-based paints. Paint brushes and rollers used for an on-going project can be saved overnight, or even up to a week, without cleaning at all. Simply wrap the brush or roller snugly in a plastic bag, such as a used bread or produce bag. Squeeze out air pockets and store away from light. The paint won't dry because air can't get to it. Simply unwrap the brush or roller the next day and continue with the job.
Scouring Powder: For top of stove, refrigerator and other such surfaces that should not be scratched, use baking soda. Apply baking soda directly with a damp sponge.
Shoe Polish: Olive oil with a few drops of lemon juice can be applied to shoes with a thick cotton or terry rag. Leave for a few minutes; wipe and buff with a clean, dry rag.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Mix 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, pour into basin and let it set for a few minutes. Scrub with brush and rinse. A mixture of borax (2 parts) and lemon juice (one part) will also work.
Wallpaper Remover: Mix equal parts of white vinegar and hot water, apply with sponge over the old wallpaper to soften the adhesive. Open room windows or use a fan to dissipate the pungent vinegar smell.
Water Rings on Wood: Water rings on a wooden table or counter are the result of moisture that is trapped under the topcoat, but not the finish. Try applying toothpaste or mayonnaise to a damp cloth and rub into the ring. Once the ring is removed, buff the entire wood surface.
Healthy Home Cleaning Habits
We also discussed flea control, and I researched that one, and discovered you're better off using the commercial products-- cats are allergic to the citrus commonly recommended and it'll kill them, ANY essential oil on a cat is toxic, plus most of the other home remedies don't really work. You can lay cedar chips around your home as one form of deterant, plant 'pennyroyal' as it's a natural deterrant...though so is lemon grass (citronella), tansy, eucalyptus, and garlic if you want to go the plant route. If you really want to go with a natrual solution, the one I see recommended most often is feeding your cats Brewers Yeast-- 1 tsp sprinkled over the food daily-- but be on guard for allergic reaction, just in case. You can also set a flea trap by a nightlight close to where the cats sleep at night-- pie tin with soapy water under the nightlight will attract the fleas and kill them. A lot of sights suggest introducing nematodes to your yard because they'll eat flea larva-- but be aware, they'll also eat your plants and can become a pest in their own right. A better suggestion for yard treatment is to sprinkle DE (diatomaceous Earth) all over the yard. You can buy a large bag for just a few dollars at any swimming pool supply store. It is used normally as part of the filtration system for swimming pools. But make sure the cats are inside and you wear a dust mask-- it's a 'safe' product, but the dust as your applying it is irritating to the lungs. If you also put cedar chips down along your fence line, it'll help make sure fleas aren't coming from your neighbors' yards into yours.
So all in all, I'd say this Earth Day was MOSTLY successful, and I'm pleased with our progress (:
As I was telling Mark, as I recounted the day, I'm embrassing my inner hippie (; I've always been a hippie...now it's in style and a LOT easier to do!