Posts Tagged ‘Round Up’

Last week we spent several days cleaning my (Xan) mother-in-law’s apartment.

Before you get all sad on me, this was not because she passed, but because she invited friends from the Old Country, whom she has not seen in nearly 60 years, to stay with her.

Mom’s apartment is the subject of rueful, affectionate…,well, I have to say, disgust in the family. She never throws anything away (we’re talking thousands and thousands of those plastic bags you bring your veggies home in from the market), and  she likes to be able to “get at her things” meaning nothing goes into cabinets, it’s all out on counters. She fries everything. Rather than cleaning, everything is covered in little bits of saved plastic and old newspapers, which she changes, oh, once a decade. She’s 87 and frail.

When my daughter was 6, she ran barefoot into that kitchen and had to be carried back out, crying. The level of grease is not to be described.

We had to clean this needless to say. We cannot let people from the Old Country see how she lives. They’ll blame us! We started with her stock of cleaners– 409, Comet, Palmolive, that soap-treated steel wool, sponges. A couple of hours into it I realized these products were not going to work. I was feeling ill from the fumes, and things weren’t getting clean.

So I brought in my REAL clean stock–vinegar, washing soda, rags, brushes. Forgot the castille soap, so I stuck with the Palmolive as a surfactant. Halfway through I knew I would be writing this post, and was wishing I had brought my camera to document the difference.

And the difference was amazing. Easier, cleaner, and I felt like I could breathe. If these things can clean the Superfund site that was Mom’s kitchen, they can clean anything.

So, I’m making the transition. I have my borax. I have castile soap, washing soda, salts and vinegar at both the kitchen and the laundry stations. I have my Ligget’s bar shampoo (everyone’s been complimenting my hair) and I’m going to take Susy’s challenge and find a natural deodorant. I just took out towels washed in Peppermint castille soap, borax and vinegar; they’re hanging on my line in the basement and making the whole room smell wonderful.

Most of the difficulty of relearning the old cleaning skills is in, as I said in an earlier post, establishing a new routine. Instead of pouring out a capful of chemical cleaner, I need to measure, dissolve, and mix. Instead of just grabbing the product off the grocery store shelf, I have to hunt it down a bit. But routines can be changed, and old dogs like me can learn new tricks. Little by little I’ll start removing the old items from the household so that my husband will have no choice but to learn these new old ways as well.

And I think that together, we’ll save the world, one bar of soap at a time.


rose & lavender hand oil

For me, Jennifer, things haven’t changed too much this past month. I have had loads of fun mixing and experimenting with some new products. Researching has been a blast and I’m thrilled to see so much available on the internet for so many people to access. As for my cleaning supply list, I really didn’t purchase anything new, which I absolutely love! Of course we hope that most of you will purchase a whole lot LESS, but having already kept a basic group of items including Borax, cleaning soda, old boxes of baking soda, vinegar, and castile soap, well, purchasing was easy on me this month.

The few things I did pick up were nice oils for my skin which were absolutely lovely. I adore the rosewater hand oil that I created (which I lovingly coined “hand salad dressing” here at home), but regret not having time to play more with concocting new recipes. I’m hoping we get to do this again in a few months so I can experiment some more ::hint hint::. But my absolute favorite was the Milk & Honey with Coconut scrub I started using! My face feels amazing and the smell is just YUM.

So what does the future hold for me and Real Clean “products” and “not-products”? I am definitely going to take up Emily on the hair washing experiment; I’ve given up for the time-being on finding a recipe that I like for dishwasher detergent; and I will get back to brewing and concocting some more yummy hand lotions and balms.


We hope you’ve enjoyed our “Real Clean” month!

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Our weather this week presented me with a new real clean dilemma: garden dirt.

Winter laundry tends to be light on the grime, but once that warm gardening weather hits, everything gets covered in dirt. As I (Xan) was looking at a shirt and wondering if anyone would actually NOTICE that it wasn’t terribly clean, the brain gears started clanking, and a word from the mists of my childhood surfaced.

Pre soak

This was what you didn’t have to do anymore because of Tide (or whatever miracle detergent you were using). So I checked my washer: lo and behold, there’s a pre-soak setting (how smart was I, to buy a washer with a presoak!). So I mixed up some borax and some castille soap, and dropped the really dirty things in. While this was running, I cleaned out my now-empty seed starting bench; by the time the pre-soak was done, the bench was clean, and I threw the laundry into the regular cycle with the soapnuts I’ve been using for about a month.

And this is the point of real clean–the detergents and convenience products do not get your clothes any cleaner. They just remove a couple of steps from the process. But, you know, without that presoak, that messy planting bench would be hanging over my shoulder, looking like a task. Instead, it became a convenient time filler.

Maybe for next week’s laundry, I’ll just pull out a book.


This week I’ve been contemplating how to ethically and efficiently clean my dishes. For me, Jennifer, it’s a conundrum and I’ve read all the arguments: “the dishwasher is better if you pack it tight and turn off the air dry, but only if you rinse your dishes off first…” or “hand wash if you only partially fill your sink and don’t keep the water running for just a few dishes.” At this point I’m not sure that I’m that much further than I was when I started, beginning with “ecological” dishwasher detergents and dish soap.

cloudy dishes

The recipe I’m currently using is one I found on TipNut, but I’ve seen it all over the interwebs. I’m trying to adjust for the residue left on my dishes even after a vinegar rinse and I don’t know that adding extra citric acid is a good choice for either the waterways or my septic system. And adding more detergent seems like a bit of a waste to me. Anyhow, lots and lots of people rave over this recipe – I just have to find the right ratios for my limestone-y water.

  • 1/2 cup Borax
  • 1/2 cup Washing Soda
  • 1/4 cup Kosher Salt (optional) – for scrubbing
  • 1/4 cup Citric Acid (optional) – as a phosphate replacement

About 1 Tbsp of the mix goes into a full load, but you may need more or less depending on how dirty your dishes are and the efficiency of your machine.

So far I’ve found using my base recipe of Borax and washing soda and adding salt and the acid as needed can help cut down on wasted ingredients. (I use citric acid for making cheese; it can be found at cheese making suppliers and some health food and bulk stores).

For a rinsing agent I’ve been using straight vinegar in the rinse cycle – right in the compartment.

I’m looking forward to getting this perfected so that I can save a tremendous amount of money!


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Today we’ll be giving away an assortment of heirloom seeds from Seed Savers Exchange to one of our lucky readers! Be sure to post your Real Food Challenge progress at the end of the post. We’ll use a random number generator to choose the winner – only one entry per household please!

Now that things have calmed down here, I have again been able to focus on the Real Food Challenge completely. I’ve felt that I haven’t been able to put my heart into it as much as I’ve wanted between having Mom stay with us for two weeks, then staying with her for a week. So, here at Unearthing this Life I’ve been back to making enough bread, baking pitas, cooking tortillas, beans, and soaking grains. We even got around to making yogurt cheese, which the Kid ate up in two days!

Since spring has officially arrived, we’ve been picking wild greens and blossoms including chickweed, dandelions, violets, and redbud blossoms. Hubby’s not too keen on the bitterness of some of the wild foods, but the Kid loves them. We just have to teach her to look before she picks and to avoid, um, animal potty spots! We’ve also had the first few asparagus spears pop up in addition to some leftover kale from winter’s garden.

Finally, we live less than five miles from an organic farm/CSA that allows us to choose how many veggies we want to purchase. I love that we’re not locked into a box of goods considering how much I garden. Thursday I picked up a bag of carrots that wintered over, some rutabagas, and some spinach. I’m loving the fresh veggies!


Here at Chiot’s Run the week has been hectic as usual. The weather was very nice at the beginning of the week and we were able to get out and start work on our new plot of land that will become a large vegetable plot. For me, early spring is a time when the excitement of eating fresh from the garden vegetables starts to grow. I dream of delicious fresh peas as I plant them around their supports. I think about juicy red tomatoes in August when I start sorting through my seeds. Eating healthy real food isn’t a challenge for me during these time, my body craves lots of fresh greens at the end of a long dark winter. This week we enjoyed a lot of freshly harvested weeds from the yard, mostly bitter cress and dandelion. Garlic mustard is just starting to emerge and will start to make up a large part of our salads. There’s something so wonderful about harvesting things you didn’t sow.

Since it’s citrus season we’ve been enjoying lots of it. One of my lovely blog readers sent me a box of beautiful lemons from his tree and we’ve been enjoying lemon scones, lemon bars and lemon pound cake. I also make some lemon sugar and lemon salt along with a some frozen lemon juice to preserve the taste for this coming summer. I plan on making a batch or two of lemon syrup that I can use to make lemonade during the long hot days working in the new garden this summer. We’re finishing off the last of the grapefruit from the huge box I purchased back in February and I have a few Meyer lemons hanging on in the basement pantry.

Our main focus of the Real Food Challenge was our pets and getting them on to Real Whole Food from local sources. The dog is loving her new diet, she gobbles up her portions readily every morning and evening. The outdoor cats are also loving their new diet of local chicken and vegetables, which they supplement with mice, chipmunks, birds, and other things they catch in the garden and the garage. Miss Mama has slimmed down considerably from the photo above after being put on Real Food. She’s one of our garage cats, a feral mama that moved her kittens into our garage this past summer. One of our indoor cats is enjoying the new diet, but our two oldest cats are still holding out. It’s been a few days since the kibble ran out and they haven’t eaten a thing (besides some dried catmint I sprinkled on the floor for them). One of these days they’ll get hungry enough to eat the new food, I’m just wondering how long it will be. All-in-all, our Real Food challenge has been going well.


Overall, the Real Food Challenge was more challenging for us this year than it was last year. For one thing, last year it was new, and was filling me with the soul of righteousness (Testify, Sister! Praise the Lord and Micheal Pollan, not necessarily in that order!) This year Real Food had become almost routine, and as with any routine, you tend to slip around it. So I found myself falling into the HFCS miasma via Hershey bars a little more often than I’d like.

The other difficulty was our insane March schedule. Between my musican-husband’s rehearsal and performance calendar, car-sharing with my daughter and my own late teaching nights, I found myself able to plan and cook only a couple of nights a week. My head is brimming with ideas for late-winter meals from the ever-diminishing larder, but my reality is leftovers.

But my main focus this year, on inspiring young adults to explore Real Food, has been inspiring to me as well. I taught my daughter Nga Jee a traditional family favorite. She’ll be here on Sunday to help with the garden, introduce me to her boyfriend, and cook a vegetarian lasagna (the boyfriend is here as forced labor– I need someone to help put up the rabbit fencing, and I figure he can’t refuse since he has to impress me!) I also got started on my summer Hipster Supported Agriculture projects; more about that in my regular post on Monday. But the best personal satisfaction I got was when Nga Jee, not a particularly politically-motivated individual, chose Real Food and sustainable agriculture as the topic for a college research paper. She’s been reading everything from USDA reports to literature from Weston A. Price, and is feeling a little bit of the righteousness herself. I think if I was not so committed to this, the topic would not have occurred to her.

Thus the small pebbles that each of us throws in the pond creates ripples that, I hope, change the world.


This week has been the most challenging yet for us at Tanglewood Farm. We began the week in Chicago, and I’m sure if we lived there we would be able to find resources for real food with no problems. Unfortunately, we aren’t very familiar with the area so we were eating out with friends and I was left trying to find foods that leaned towards real in restaurants that seemed to be completely unfamiliar with the concept. Ah well.

By Monday night we were back home and settled in to a week of busy preparation for several happenings scheduled throughout the week. We were able to enjoy flaxseed/raspberry yogurt smoothies for breakfasts, and a few mixed greens salads topped with a simple local goat cheese for lunches. Wednesday was a book signing for my comic-book-creating-husband, so we did eat out this week but when we did we were able to find simple, real foods from a local restaurant.

My greatest real-food endeavor this week was the horse show I ran. I coordinate at least five horse shows a year for the barn where I work. My husband runs concessions (what a guy!) while I run show office and while it makes for a stressful day it’s totally worth it to see my students, and the folks who trailer their horses in to the show, learning to show their horses in a fun and laid back environment. I don’t know whose idea it was to put me in charge of buying concessions to sell, but I have been working over the last two years or so to make the horse show menus as real-food-saturated as possible.

This weekend was the first show of the year so we were very disorganized, but we did manage to sell all natural, grassfed beef hot dogs with no nitrates on whole wheat buns (with no artificial sweeteners!), potato chips in which the ingredients were simply potatoes, sunflower oil and sea salt, little baggies of trail mix, free trade organic coffee with cane sugar and stevia as sweeteners and local cream rather than chemical creamer, bottled water in biodegradable bottles and canned soda with natural sugars. In addition to this we also sold big-name candy bars which is always a sticking point. Horse show attendees love to buy candy and sweets because their days are long, exhausting and stressful. In the future I hope to substitute the big-name candies with organic chocolate covered pretzels and other simple-to-make sweets that I can pull off a few days before the show without them going stale. It will be a challenge, but last year Michigan changed their food-sales laws and it is now legal to sell baked goods (and other “cottage foods”) to the public without procuring the use of a commercial kitchen, so despite the added stress of having to bake before a horse show, at least it won’t be illegal!

I admit that last night after the horse show we crashed both physically and morally into a dinner of carry out with nary a real food to be found. It’s relapses like these, and the adverse reactions afterward (“Ugh, I don’t feel good.”), that remind me how important real foods are to us on many levels. You just have to chip away bit-by-bit at old habits until you’re left with new habits, or even a new lifestyle!


How has your week of the Real Food Challenge been?

edit: we’ll hold the drawing on Wednesday, March 30th – so you’ll have until then to post your progress!

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