Tuesday, July 05, 2005

homesteading stuff

I spent the entire weekend at home, doing homesteading type things. Saturday I started doing laundry early in the morning so I could take advantage of the sunny, breezy conditions for drying. I did about three loads in the wringer washer, which is working fine now, and I'm starting to work out a system: heat up a pot of water on the propane burner, pour it in, add a small amount of detergent and whites/light colors, fill with more water. Agitate for a few minutes, run clothes through wringer into first rinse tub. Put second load of clothes into wash water, agitate, during which time I run first load through wringer into second rinse tub, which contains about half a cup of white vinegar in the water. Then, run second load of clothes through wringer into first rinse tub, add third load into wash water (which by now is looking pretty dirty, but amazingly still gets clothes clean), wring first load and place in basket for hanging up. Et cetera, et cetera. I was pretty satisfied with the results; the vinegar really does work as a fabric softener. Baking soda in the wash will help neutralize odors (I did have some stinky stuff in there! ) A drop or two of lavender essential oil in the rinse water adds a nice fragrance. When I use up the current supply of Tide (which will last a long time using this method), I am going to explore more environmentally-friendly or homemade detergents.

Russ spent a day and a half building a chicken tractor for the meat chickens. If you're not familiar with the concept, it's basically an open-bottomed, enclosed, movable pen for chickens. The chickens scratch and work the soil, eating grains and insects, and the pen can be moved to a new spot every few days, leaving a richly fertilized bed behind for next year's garden. Permaculture in action. On Sunday we set it up in the garden area and moved the chicks to their new home. At nearly four weeks old, these are hardly cute fluffy Easter chicks; picture 1-2 pound, scantily feathered reptilian looking birds with grossly oversized breasts and rumps. They know how to do one thing: eat. When it's feeding time, it looks like the scene from Chicken Run: "Chicken feed, my favorite!"

We loaded them from the chicken coop into a portable dog kennel, and transported the kennel in the trailer of the garden tractor, which my 8 year old son drove quite skillfully. Then we unloaded the confused birds into their new home. I had the job of reaching into the kennel and pulling out the chicks, one by one. The bottom of the kennel was slightly wet to begin with, and a few of the chicks had defecated along the way, so the birds were slimy and stinky and they all crouched towards the rear of the kennel, which was big enough I had to actually put my head inside to reach all the way in. I held my breath each time.

I didn't do too much intensive work in the garden, but I did weed and fertilize the tomatoes with my Stinking Nettle Tea, which made the beds smell like a freshly manured field. Quite an olfactory assault of a weekend here! The tomato transplants are producing flowers. The first potatoes I planted are starting to flower, and need to be mulched. One of the Diva cucumbers flowered yesterday for the first time.

Sunday night we had a bonfire and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. I didn't think it was anything special, but all of the kids kept telling me on Monday: "Mom, that bonfire was so fun! It was so SPECIAL! Can we have another one?" Ahhh, the simple pleasures.


lené said...

I've been using vinegar and baking soda to wash my clothes for nearly 14 years now. On the rare occasion that I need maximum laundry power, I use Seventh Generation or Ecover. Both work well, but don't add too much vinegar if you're using the Seventh Generation.

A few years ago, I had a load "tie die" for some unexplained reason. The company reimbursed me for every item in that load--none of us could figure out what happened. They treated me like family and made sure I was happy enough to buy another box right after that. I haven't had a problem since.

One day on the radio, I heard a woman talking about introducing children to the garden. She recommended using a stethascope (sp?) to listen to the tomatoes before and after picking them. She said you can hear them gurgling before they're plucked from their stems. I've always wanted to try listening to plumpy red fruits gurgle, but I just haven't gotten around to it.

Deb said...

Thanks for the info, lene. Do you just use regular baking soda, or washing soda? I've seen recipes that call for equal parts of washing soda, borax, and grated soap (Dr. Bronners or fels naptha).

I'll have to try that stethoscope idea. I wonder what noises the other veggies make?

lené said...

I use plain baking soda, but washing soda works well too. Occasionally, I'll use borax if I've got mildew to deal with (shower curtains, towels, door mats). I try to avoid fragrance in my laundry products and I've found that the washing soda and borax pick up fragrance from surrounding products, which makes the plain soda more desirable because it's on the baking isle. That's just me, though. :)