Archive for greening up home



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Last week my daughter and her two children stayed with me while getting ready to move across the country. It was a wonderful experience and allowed me the pleasure of their company before their departure. I also realized up close and personal some of the differences in understanding and knowledge between my childhood and theirs! Let’s start with basic awareness about laundry.

These days, it seems, if you wear something once, it goes into the dirty clothes pile. There is no place to put those things that can be worn again because they are not really dirty yet. The exception might be outer wear – jackets, sweaters – only sometimes! It seems a simple thing to just wash everything, and on one hand, it is!

Years ago there was so much more to think about before putting something in the wash. Clothes wear out faster the more often they are washed and whether they are dried outside on a line or in the dryer, the sun or heat also takes its toll on a garment. The use of water was also part of the equation. Many of us had wells and being careful of our water use was part of life. Ceptic systems, common before sewers, were also fragile and if you didn’t have a grey water system, you monitored the amount of water that went into it or it overflowed into the yard. Cost of detergent figured into it, amount of electricity used, time to hang the clothes on the line and then take them in before the dew fell, and so forth.

It sounds like alot of bother now. And yet it created the web of connection between all things, the knowledge of our actions being so much bigger than just ‘throw it in the wash’ and somehow it will magically appear back in our drawer! I have a vivid memory from 4 years old about laundry.

I loved wearing dresses and had a favorite dress above all others. I was very careful of my clothes because I didn’t want my favorite dresses turned into rags before I outgrew them. My Mother would make me change my dress after three days, not because it was dirty (as she was fond of saying) but because she was tired of seeing it! Then after she washed it and hung it on the line, I watched it drying in the back yard while I was playing, and occasionally felt it to see when it would be dry. I remember standing on tippy-toes to feel the hem so I would know when it was dry and could be taken down to iron. I knew the entire “trip” my dress took before I could put it on again at a very young age!

I want my Grandchildren to know this about their clothes and their lives. I want them to be aware of the connection to ‘all that is’ a sock has, or a dress, or a pair of pants. We can return to the place of remembering and create a sacred connection to the earth through these small things. This is how we will clean up our planet as well. Wear things that are not dirty more than once. It’s a start!


Thinking About Water

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Water is becoming a more precious commodity day by day in our world. Other than air to breathe, it is the next most important element to keep us alive. In my varied life I’ve learned to conserve water for many reasons: such as carrying in and out all the water we consumed due to camping or plumbing considerations; living in the desert; or melting snow when the power went out in winter. These experiences have made me more conscious about waste water and wasting water.

Even so, I have become more aware of water use and misuse in my home recently. I find I still have some habits that need to change, some ways of using water that are better (or worse) for conservation of one of our most precious resources. One way I alert myself about how much water I just let go down the drain is to put a basin or dish pan under the tap whenever I am playing in the sink. This has created some unexpected changes and some ideas about how to save more water in the future.

I am reminded of my Mother and my Grandmother with some of these ‘savings’ and it’s been handy to have these memories surface. I can see her throwing the dish water out the back door onto her flowers, putting it in a bucket for the chickens or pigs, and hand washing the cleanest clothes first so the wash water can be used for all the clothes with just an addition of some more hot water. So when I want hot water and have to run the tap to get it, I fill jugs with the cold water until it is the temperature I want to use. This water sits to release the chlorine and is then used to water plants, fill a fish tank, for pet water, drinking water and ice cubes. I also fill my coffee pot with the cold water from the hot water tap in the morning to ‘get to the hot’ faster.

In the shower, I run the tap into a bucket for watering outside until I have hot water. I’d love to have a recirculating system for this water – flick a toggle and the water goes back into the system instead of down the drain. When it goes down the drain, it then goes into a grey water system for outside watering. All in good time…

One of my worst habits has to do with brushing my teeth. I stopped running the water endlessly awhile ago. Now I find I need to remember to just barely turn on the tap to rinse my brush, not turn it on full tilt! When water is really scarce you can use a cup with water in it for tooth brushing, preferably outside over the flower bed. Dip the brush in the water, brush teeth, take a mouthful to rinse out the mouth, spray it on the brush to clean it and repeat with the rest of the water, all the while watering the flowers. Kids love to do this!

Another big waste of water is letting it run while doing dishes, even at a trickle. Use a dish pan, large pot, or bowl to run water into. You’ll be suprised how fast it fills up! When you’re finished, empty the pan, pot or bowl on the lawn (use bio-degradable soap), into a bucket, or onto the compost pile if it’s dry. When I lived in the desert, I kept a dishpan in the kitchen sink to catch all the water I could, using it anyway I could. This is also an eye opener for how much water runs down the drain!

The most important thing is to keep track of what you use. Then you can decide how to save more, how to reuse it, and what habits to change. Most of us know about the brick in the toilet, fixing leaks, keeping the toilet from running, and shortening our showers to 3 minutes or less. This is just the next piece and may take some thought to start with. After awhile it will be second nature, a new habit you can be proud of.  Just remember everything counts!


What About Plastic?

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Thinking back to my Mother’s kitchen, I’ve begun unearthing the images and ideas from my childhood about how we held food, wrapped and saved food, and functioned without any plastic readily available. There are many reasons for this, of course, including our health, the environment, and the use of non-renewable resources to make it.

Waxed paper is a valuable addition to the kitchen and is used to wrap sandwiches, line cookie sheets and cake pans, and as a liner in a jar top for acid things. It’s hard to use as a cover on its own since it does not cling like plastic. With sandwiches, you have to fold it quite like a present with the ends tucked under and for kids a small piece of masking tape helps.

I don’t buy plastic anymore so I have been saving the ‘clean’ bags to reuse in the kitchen. You know how hard it is to open some of the chip bags, salad bags, and cereal bags…well they make wonderful reusable bags for left-overs, sandwiches, and snacks. I also take the produce bags back to the supermarket to use again, bring in my own peanut butter jar to refill at the bulk station (have them weigh it first empty), and reuse the coffee bean bag from the bulk coffee section. Saving and reusing bags and containers has actually given me more storage options than I ever had before!

For reheating food in the microwave (I’m so undecided about a microwave…but one thing at a time) I have bought glass lids and pie plates at the second-hand store. The lids cover a dinner plate or pie pan equally well and usually cost under $1.00 . I have also found storage containers of glass, ceramic, or stainless steel at great savings, hopefully with glass, ceramic, wooden, metal, or bamboo lids. On line there are sites that sell Japanese style lunch boxes (tiffins) made out of stainless steel or bamboo which will last for years and have many different size and shape compartments. Stainless steel water bottles are also coming down in price and I have seen them for under $10.00.

Best of all, I am using my Grandma Armstrong’s glass refridgerator containers with lids that allow safe stacking. These have been in use since the 40’s or so. I find my grandchildren handle things more carefully when they know it can be broken! An added bonus!

Let me know your ideas about reducing any new plastic into your home and what you do instead. Together we CAN make a difference!