A Few Green Updates on a Usual Day Off

Somehow in central Virginia we have gone from very warm, humid summer weather back to  rainy, breezy spring weather.  I am not complaining, of course.  I am grateful for a short break before the real heat and soul-melting sun begins.

The recent bout of rain and cooler weather has meant wonderful things for our little garden.  After my a weeding extravaganza early last week, all of our food producing plants have had plenty of room to grow, and grow they did.

It looks like our strawberry patch will have another large harvest very soon.  It was covered in the familiar white blossoms, most of which have become green strawberries.  They’ll be ripe for picking in a few short days.

Our lettuce is actually having a second go around for this year’s early season.  Last year we had lettuce until about Memorial Day, then not again until late September.  It really doesn’t do well under the direct sun of summer.  Because of our cooler weather, though, some of the lettuce plants that had gone to seed have actually reproduced!  New lettuce plants have sprung up in the patch, giving me fresh green leaf lettuce again.

The zucchini and squash have been doing beautiful things, as well.  I see those tell-tale orange-yellow flowers already, and my mouth is salivating at the prospect of making my Nonna’s Patoli, an Italian zucchini fritter that I made in large quantities last summer due to our generous zucchini harvest.

Our final surprise this week was string beans.  We officially harvested our first three string beans this morning.  The plants themselves are doing well, and have been climbing the trellis Beard fashioned for them out of some pieces of old deck we had in our yard.

I’m glad to say that all of our garden successes (and failures) so far have come with them help of three very important things:  water, sunshine, and physical labor.  We do not use any chemicals to control our weeds, nor do we use a specific plant food to make them grow faster or bigger.

For weeding we just pluck weeds out as we see the little suckers stick out of the ground.  It’s hard work, and probably why organic produce is so darn expensive, but it’s worth it.  I know there isn’t anything unsafe hiding in our food.

We have started a compost pile in one of our raised beds, and I hope we’ll be able to use some of that nutrient rich soil next spring.  For now, though, we are faithfully adding organics and rotating it manually with a shovel.

Do any of you keep a garden?  What are you finding in your garden this week?


Hang it Out to Dry

At the DP household we like saving money.  That’s pretty much what I pride myself in:  finding new ways to do things that could save us a couple bucks.  I’d read in several places that an easy way to save money on your electric bill is to use a clothesline instead of a clothes dryer, at least when the weather is nice.  Since we have a good-sized yard and places to hook up a clothesline I thought this would be a fun, simple, and cheap project.  Luckily, I was right!

We went to our local hardware store and bought two very simple clothesline pulleys, like this:

These cost about $5 each.

We got 100ft of clothesline (which was plenty for our needs, but we had to make sure, of course).  This cost us another $3 (approx.).

Then we grabbed ourselves a clothesline tensioner.  That is this creature:

Beard tells me this is invaluable.  It maintains the tension of the line and just makes the pulleys function better.  This little thing set us back another $4.

Finally, in order properly use a clothesline, we had to buy clothespins and a clothespin bag.  We found a bag of 50 clothespins and a bag for $1 each at Dollar General.  (I bought two bags of clothespins, though, because I have this horrible fear of starting to hang clothes and not being able to finish because I run out of clothespins.)

This whole project set us back approximately $30.  Not really a ton in the grand scheme of things.

How hard was it to set up?

Not at all!  Each pulley came with a screw hook like this:

Beard screwed one of the screw hooks into a wooden beam on the front of our shed and the other to the top rail of our back deck.  He simply fixed each pulley to each screw hook, then strung the clothesline around the two pulleys.  He pulled one end through the tensioner (those are fairly self-explanatory and most come with some instructions), then he tied the two ends together.

We now have a cool, old-fashioned clothesline.

Our electric bill for last month’s usage was around $85, which included some air conditioning usage (we had quite a few days in the high 80’s and 90’s last month).  This month I’m interested to see just how much of a difference not using the clothes dryer every day can make in our electric bill.  I’ll be sure to update when we get the bill for this month’s usage.

Not Your Grandmother’s Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers.  For some people, just the name brings gross thoughts to their head; they see poopy messes that must be dumped in giant buckets of bleach, and they smell poop in every room in their house.  Not only was this not true with your grandmother’s cloth diapers, but it is most definitely not true with today’s new and improved cloth diapers.

When I was first pregnant, Beard and I were on a pretty tight budget, and I knew diapers would be a significant expense for us.  Being the amateur hippy I am, I decided to look into alternatives to the traditional disposable Huggies or Loves.  Of course there are some great prices for both generic and name brand prices in certain wholesale clubs or on some websites, and these are great options for those who cannot even dream of washing diapers in their washing machine.  But I didn’t like the idea of having to pay each week or month for paper that would just catch my daughter’s waste.  It seemed, well, a bit wasteful.

This week I’m going to write a few posts about our decision to use cloth diapers.  I’ll talk about what kinds and some common brands that are available, how to wash your cloth diapers, and then I’ll finish up with how to make cloth diapers work with your crazy life and schedule.

Tune back in tomorrow for the first installment!

On a side note, for your enjoyment I have a picture a friend took yesterday of the Bitsy Girl.


Natural Homemade Bathroom Cleaner

I am a closet germ-a-phobe.  On the outside I tell people that I don’t mind my daughter chewing on the dog’s toys because it will build her immune system, and I don’t have a problem eating a cracker that has dropped on the floor (within time constraints, of course).  That is why yesterday I had a bit of a panic attack when I realized I was out of my Scrub-oxy-super-bleach-bathroom-cleaner-of-doom.  This stuff could sanitize a truck stop bathroom floor so well you’d eat off of it.  (Maybe.)

But it was gone.  I tried the spray handle about 5,000,000 times in hopes of getting every last ounce.  I looked inside to see if I could dilute it with a little water, but alas.  It was gone.

How then, do I sanitize my bathroom (the grossest of all gross places in my home)?  I looked up several online recipes for homemade bathroom cleaners; thank God for the internet.  I found a ton of recipes, but most of them had at least one ingredient that I didn’t have on hand, so I had to study them to determine what really these recipes were trying to accomplish, then make my own recipe.

I determined a good bathroom cleaner recipe requires the following:

Some kind of scrubbing/grainy substance – This is usually baking soda or Borax.  The main purpose of this ingredient is to physically scrub soap scum, etc. off your sink, toilet, tub, and tile.  Both ingredients have an odor-eating element to them, which makes the great for the bathroom.

Some liquid soap – This is either Castille soap or dish detergent.  These have antibacterial properties and just make surfaces look clean.

An antibacterial/santization agent – This can be anything from lemon juice to vinegar to tea tree oil.  Any of these will kill the tiny living creatures the lurk about your bathroom.  Sorry to gross you out, but us admitting they are there is half the battle in getting rid of them.

Water – Self explanatory.  Water just adds a little bit more liquid to make your cleaner the right consistency.

Scent (optional) – You can use an essential oil to give your bathroom cleaner a specific scent.  If you are using lemon juice or tea tree oil for your sanitization agent, your cleaner may already have a pleasant smell to you.  Vinegar, on the other hand, is not a smell everyone loves, and you may want to mask it with something more like orange or lavender essential oil.


So the cleaner I made yesterday was:

1 cup baking soda

1 tbsp dish detergent

8 drops tea tree oil

3/4 cup water

15 drops lavender oil

I put all the ingredients except the oils in a Mason jar, closed the lid, and shook very well.  After the ingredients were well mixed, I add the oils and shook again.  I transfer my cleaner to a spray bottle first, but because of the baking soda, this cleaner didn’t spray very well.  It’s more of a paste.  So I used a squirt bottle instead.  Perfect!

Anyone made their own cleaning products before?  Let me know what you think of this breakdown.