Monthly Archives: February 2010

My exciting laundry


Today almost felt like spring. So I did almost-springlike things. I started a flat of seeds, fixed the Squirrel-Proof Net Tent after its unfortunate collapse beneath the weight of snow last weekend, and weeded and harvested a few bits of yum from inside it.

I hunted around for helleborus and other signs of almost-spring.

But my most ambitious act in celebration of almost-spring involved laundry. I have been excited about laundry this week.

Why, you ask, would I be excited about laundry?

A few months ago, a friend of mine gave me a recipe to make my own laundry soap. I’ve been meaning to try it and finally got around to it this week. It’s easy, and my laundry detergent now costs $.01 per load. This is the kind of thing that really excites me.

You can get all these ingredients (except the lavender oil) at most any grocery store.

So I mixed up a batch. Here’s the recipe:

  • 3 pints water (6 cups)
  • 1/3 bar Fels-Naptha soap, grated
  • 1/2 cup Super Washing Soda
  • 1/2 cup borax
  • 2 gallon bucket
  • 1 quart hot water
  • 6 cups + 1 gallon hot water

Grate the bar of Fels-Naptha as you would a chunk of cheese.  Mix the grated soap in a medium sized saucepan with 3 pints of water, and heat on low until dissolved.  Stir in Washing Soap and Borax.  Stir until thickened and remove from heat.  Pour one quart hot water into a two-gallon bucket. Add soap mixture and scented oil (optional) and mix well.  Fill bucket with additonal hot water and mix well.  Set aside for 24 hours until mixture thickens.  It will have a slight gel consistency.  Use 1/2 to 3/4 cup of mixture per load, depending on the hardness of your water (harder water, more detergent).  This is a non-sudsing, fragrance-free (unless you add the optional scented oil) laundry product.

I added some lavender essential oil I happened to have on hand. Here’s the result. (And a word of warning — if you try this, wash your hands thoroughly before putting them anywhere near your eyes. Trust me on this! But that’s a whole nother story.)

Turns into a very scoopable gel

The ultimate cheapskate: I store the detergent in a recycled cat litter container.

And then the most exciting almost-spring part. In classic Southern Urban Homestead style, I washed my laundry with my homemade detergent, and I hung it out to dry in the winter sun on my clothesline. I love doing this so much that I actually wrote a song about my laundry last year. Here, in case you don’t believe me, are the first few lines:

I like my laundry on the line;

Prayer flags in the spring sunshine.

When I get to heaven,

I’ll hang my laundry on the line.

It will be on my next CD, due out later this year.


Filed under Conservation, Gardening, Making things

Brokeback Net Tent

“Freeze your ass off tonight,” Snow said to Broccoli. “Better off sleepin in the tent.”

As the tent descended, Broccoli felt he was in a slow-motion, but headlong, irreversible fall.

“Old Brokeback got us good and it sure ain’t over.”

“You’re too much for me, Snow,” Broccoli said. “I wish I knew how to quit you.”

But nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it, you’ve got to pick the broccoli.


Filed under Gardening

The Land of Ooze

Mud pie, mud in your eye;
Mud on a snake bite, don’t you die;
Take a little rain, take a little dirt,
Make a little mud, get it on your shirt.
We’re all just slogging through the mud.

—Guy Clark, “Mud”

Songwriter and truth-teller Guy Clark was never so right — after a year of record rainfalls following years of dusty drought, we are all just slogging through the mud. It has rained here for most of the week. Most of the month, maybe even. The cats don’t like it, the dog doesn’t like it, the chickens don’t like it. Everyone’s getting a little crazy from it. And Georgia’s small farmers have been devastated by flooded fields and lost topsoil and fertilizer (to contribute to the Georgia Farmer Flood Relief Fund, please click here).

Me, I just pull on my big yellow galoshes and get out there. I miss my garden, and I want to watch the broccoli grow. There is only one way to get scraps out of the kitchen, and that is to slop through the mud to the compost bin at the back of my lot. We try to keep the floor of the coop dry with a box fan mounted overhead, but this much water seeps in under the foundation, and the mucky mess needs to be scraped and shoveled out. The hens stay inside or up on roosts as much as they can, but they can’t help but get some of the ooze on their feet and feathers.

"Please dry my feet."

Yesterday I dragged Caleb out into it for a brisk evening trot around the neighborhood. He protested at first, but we both resigned ourselves to getting wet, and I am quite sure it was glee I was seeing on his face as he shook all that mud onto my kitchen floor and cabinets when we got home.

You have to get out there. You have to get a little mud on you. It helps if you remember that we came from mud — the primordial ooze. We all just crawled out of the mud, Guy sings.

But we enjoyed coming in from the rain and mud, too. Caleb loves a good toweling off. For me, it was dry socks and the braised cabbage, roasted sweet potato wedges, and biscuits I had made earlier in the week.

Maybe I’ll make a mud pie for dessert.


Filed under Feasting, Flockkeeping, Gardening