My Home Sweet Home


“My Home Sweet Home”

Tweenies Greenies:  Monday Edition

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I am proud to say that we have taken one more small step to “green” up our home.  I have finally taken the plunge and changed our cat litter.  The cat litter has been a very touchy subject at our house.  Both Tomas and I HATE to change the litter.  It’s a dirty, stinky job, but somebody has to do it.  Plus, we love our little kitty and want to do what’s best for her as well.  Awwww….

One of the reasons that I hate to change the litter, is because my allergies act up quite badly when I change it.  I seem to be very sensitive to animal urine.  I know it sounds wierd but that is also why I can’t have gerbils or hamsters in my home.  It’s not the fur and dander, it’s the urine soaked cedar chips that trigger the sneezing and coughing.  If their urine touches my skin, it flares up in huge painful hives.  I have years of doing laboratory work with mice to thank for that sensitivity.  Anyway, I have that type of allergy and then also to dust.

If you have a cat and use clay based litter, you may notice a cloud of dust that rises up when you pour it into the litter pan.  This is what makes my eyes water and my throat scratchy.  Claylitter has silica in it, and that is a known carcinogenic.  When, you get that big dust cloud or even when your kitty paws around to bury her business, both of you are inhaling dangerous silica dust.  Overtime, that can be a big deal for both yours and your kittys health! 

Then there is the dangerous sodium bentonite that is the clumping agent in the scoopable litters.  It acts like expanding cement to “clump” the litter.  Just imagine what that does to then insides of your kitty when they lick that dust off their fur when they are cleaning themselves! 

Now, let’s talk a little about the environmental downside of clay based litters.  Clay is not considered a “renewable resource”.  Tons of it is strip mined from the Earth for the purpose of creating clay based littler.  Over 2 million tons of non-biodegradable cat litter made from clay ends up in our landfills every year.  Like other non-biodegradable materials, it will just sit and sit and sit there for years taking up space and wasting resources.

The last time I needed cat litter, I grabbed a bag of Feline Pine Cat Litter.  It’s made from pelleted renewable pine (no new trees were used) and is biodegradable.  Which means, no stip mining and that it won’t sit for ages in the landfill.  It is all natural, has no dust, no silica, no artificial fragrances are added and it also is not tracked out of the box by your sweet kitty. 

I just switched my whole litter box at once.  Our cat is not too picky about her litter.  But if you suspect yours may be a finicky fellow, you may want to slowly introduce the new litter by mixing it with the old.  I was worried that the pine litter wouldn’t soak up the urine and that it would stink to high heavens.  That soon proved to be a wasted worry.  There was literally very little odor, period.  The pine naturally neutralizes the ammonia in the urnine.  It absorbed any waste quickly and was easy to scoop.  Both Tomas and I ended up loving it.  It worked better than the clay clumping litter we had always used before.  Plus if you shop the sales, you can usually get it for just arond the same price as the clay based litters.  A big green change for a little money.

There are a few options for environmentally friendly litters.  There are those made from pine and there are litters made from wheat, corn or recycled newspaper.  Any pet supply store or major supermarket/shopping center should at least have one of these.  I have found Target to be the most reasonably priced in my area.

Take the plunge and switch your litter!  It’s so easy and the environmentally friendly brands really do work.

One more sidenote:  please do not flush your cat litter, even if you are using a flushable litter.  Our water treatment plants do not treat incoming waste water for toxioplasmosis gondii.  This is a parasite that many cats may carry and is found in their feces.  This parasite is dangerous to pregnant women and marine life.

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Go to fullsize imageIf you are like me, you are trying to be a “greenie” type person.  You do your best to buy mostly organic foods (minus the donut and pastry weakness) and you attempt to buy all natural or organic products whenever you can.  I have been doing pretty well with this overall.  I still have my “issues” and so does everybody else.  I try to think of it as a balancing act.  Such as, “if I put this donut laden with processed sugars into my cart/body, I will balance it by drinking 2 cups of all natural pomegranate juice today AND I will reuse my son’s ziploc snack baggies for tomorrow’s snack”.  Usually that works for me.

One area in my life that I have made virtually no attempt to “greenify” is my wardrobe.  Honestly, have you looked at the prices of organic cotton or ecofriendly clothes?  It’s ridiculous.  Plus, I can never find eco-friendly or clothes made with organic cotton at Goodwill or Salvation Army (which at least I am still regularly shopping at for quality used clothes to put a little dent in my fashion eco-world).  How else am I going to afford clothes made from organically grown cotton?  Heck, the tutoring business is really slow in the fall and the bedrest for the past month has not been helpful to the budget.  (Not that we have trillions to spend normally).

Why buy organic clothing anyway?  I don’t have a skin sensitivities and I am not taking bites out of my shirt when I get hungry.  So, it’s not like this non-organic stuff is getting into my body to damage organs.  Well, in doing a little bit of reading I found that it’s not just about putting something directly into my big mouth.  It’s about affecting the world around me, which in turn affects my health and the health of everything around me, including my kids.

Buying organic cotton makes a big environmental impact.  Less than 3% of the world’s agricultural land is used to grow cotton.  But 25% of the world’s pesticides (many of those are known to cause cancer) are used on that 3% of land.  Not quite balanced is it?  Besides the pesticides that end up on the cotton, think of the pesticides that go into the ground, into the water, on the workers, and into the air to be inhaled.  Oh, and let’s not forget the pesticides that can remain on the cotton fiber and rub on your skin all day.

Just think, if millions of people switched to buying mostly organic cotton items, we could do some great things.  Here’s a short list of 5 great things you would be doing:

1. Protect our fisheries
Runoff containing pesticides from cotton fields killed 240,000 fish in Alabama in 1995.
 
2. Prevent chronic health problems in Egyptian cotton workers
In the 1990s, fifty percent of Egyptian cotton workers suffered from chronic pesticide poisoning, including neurological and vision disorders.
 
3. Prevent health disorders in some of the poorest workers in the world
Chances are that famous-label tee shirt you’re wearing was made in Bangladesh where ninety-one percent of Indian men working in cotton eight plus hours/day suffered illnesses related to chromosonal aberrations and cell death.
 
4. Save American lives
Each year, more than ten thousand Americans die from cancer associated with pesticides.
 
5. The life you save may be your own
A third of a pound of fertilizers and pesticides are used in the growth and production of every cotton t-shirt you pull over your head.

Hmmm…maybe I should be making more of an effort to buy organic cotton.  I did also find some pretty reasonable sources for organic cotton clothing, once I started to really look.  Walmart is now carrying some organic cotton clothing.  Victoria’s Secret has some lovely organic cotton underthings.  I know that many major clothing brands are trying to incorporate something organic to jump on the green wagon.  Granted, you may not be able to buy an entirely new organically grown cotton wardrobe.  But, you could replace items little by little, and lots of little steps can lead to big change.  If you have any suggestions of where to buy affordable organic cotton clothing, let us know!

I have to say that this has been the worst summer for the itchies and the scratchies around here!  First, it was the mosquitos that were migrating from the abandoned pool next door.  Those have since migrated elsewhere since a bunch of “flippers” are doing an amazing job on getting things cleaned up fast on that once trash ridden foreclosure.  Now, we are blessed with the arrival of fleas and ticks.  You know, if it’s not one thing, it’s the other.  There’s always something!

Our lovely little one year old puppy, Harry, is scratching up a storm!  He did this last year as well.  It was only a matter of time before we would once again be alarmed at the little bugga-boos he brings into the house.  My time is now spent on vigil, waiting for the next itch or twitch (I am not talking band members or “So You Think You Can Dance” contestants, so don’t be confused here).  Thank goodness our husky mix doesn’t have nearly the skin, bug issues Harry does.  There is something to be said for that protective undercoat they have.  I just might try to tape some of the big hair tumbleweeds that float around our wood floors to Harry to see if it helps.

I hate to keep putting all kinds of chemicals on him. The kids all snuggle him and I don’t want his itches from fleas/ticks to turn into itches from skin reactions to applying combos of meds to it.   He has already taken the oral pill thing that the vet gave us a while back and he still suffers.  Of course, I dug out all my “recipe books” and started looking for something less harmful but still effective.

I aim to try a couple of these out by the time the summer flea season is over. First of all, you need to get rid of existing fleas.  I have given Harry a wonderful flea bath.  I personally used a natural shampoo that I purchased at the pet supply store because I was in a frantic state thinking about how many fleas were being transported into my home.   I didn’t feel like I had time to research yet.

However, you can easily make the following flea shampoo:  10 ounces of Water,  1 or 2 tablespoons liquid castile soap (the less the better), 1 teaspoon glycerin or 1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon orange oil.  Combine ingredients in a jar.  Shake to blend.  Dampen your dogs fur and put enough shampoo on to cause a lather.  Work into fur and rinse.  This can keep in the jar for 6 months in a covered glass jar.  This recipe should kill fleas in all stages of development due to the citrus oil.  Do not use this on cats however, because they are known to be sensitive to it. 

Once you have your little buddy washed up.  Focus on washing everything and anything they may lay or sit on.  Try to wash or at list dry all bedding and furniture covers at a high heat to kill the little nasty pests.  That made a huge difference.  Then I sprinkled the dog beds with a natural flea repellent powder. 

Here’s a recipe for a flea repellent powder:  1/2 teaspon dried eucalyptus, fennel, or rosemary and penny royal.  Grind herbs in a blender or a spice mill.  Add to 1/4 cup cornstarch.  Combine in a glass jar by shaking.  Sprinkle on pet bedding and you can also rub into fur.

Here’s a spray that can also be used:  1 or 2 drops each essential oils of eucalyptus, citronella, tea tree, and penny royal, add to 2 cups Witch hazel in a glass jar.  Put a few drops on the pets collar to see if they react at all to the essential oils.  REMEMBER:  Essential oils can be very potent.  Especially for some pets with skin sensitivities.  If the pet doesn’t react.  Place 1 teaspoon worth on the pets collar and rub 1/2 teaspoon into their fur.  Do not use with citronella on cats!  This can be stored indefinitely in the glass jar, covered.

Some other great ideas:

Make a dream pillow for your pet bed to repel fleas.  Make a large sachet about 8 inches by 11 inches.  Fill with any of the following insect repellent herbs; southernwood, rose geranium, palmerosa, rue, camphor, feverfew, lavender (LOVE lavendar, it’s so useful and smells so good!), rosemary, sage, catmint (YES!  You should see all the catmint I have growing around here anyway!) pennyroyal,  or eucalyptus.

Other natural measures you can take:  Use a flea comb to remove present fleas, Ingesting Brewer’s Yeast will cause your dog to give off an odor that fleas don’t like (there are wafers and supplements available at pet stores and health food stores.  I know that Pet Supplies Plus stocks these.), Add a couple cloves of garlic a day to the pet’s food (mmm…that sounds yummy.  Garlic doggy breath), Submerge pet in water to drown fleas (that means all but the head.  That’s almost impossible with my wiggly dogs, but I tried!).

If you are having tick problems, the same soaps above will help.  You can use a repellant by placing a couple drops of essential oil of rose geranium or palmerosa on their cloth collar every week.  Be sure to always check pets if they have been in tick populated areas. 

Here’s an article about fleas and ticks.  I use one of my favorite books “Better Basics for the Home” by Annie Berthhold-Bond for the above recipes.  If you want more choices, look here or here.

I have completed everything except I still have to wash some of the furniture covers.  Although, I did vacuum all the areas thoroughly being sure to dispose of junk in the dirt catcher (What do you really call that part?  I don’t really know.) and clean out the dirt catcher throughly with flea killer/spray.

Hopefully Harry and your pets will soon sleep soundly.  May the only itching be the itch they have to chase bunnies in their sweet doggy dreams.

“My Home Sweet Home”

Tweenie’s Greenie’s: Monday Edition

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I dare you, oh pesky mosquito, to try and bite me!  I double dare you to bite my children!

How I hate that blasted mosquito!  Forget the hornets, forget earwigs, and forget those little ants that seem to sneak into my house this time of year.  They can go about their business in relative peace.  But, those mosquitoes need to die!  Yes, I said it…die.  And I mean it too.  I would squish every one of those skinny little devils if I could.

Today was the first day that I really noticed that the mosquitos were out.  I fear that this year is going to be a horrible mosquito season for us.  The reason I think this is that the house next door has a literal West Nile breeding ground.  The house is in foreclosure.  Yes, I was so excited at first because the twenty something boys who bought it were a raucous bunch.  But now, they have left and they have left a huge mess for the world to see. 

To start with, the grass has not been trimmed/mowed all spring/summer.  I called the city but nothing has happened so far.  The front lawn is about 1foot high and the back areas are about 2feet right now.  There are weeds everywhere!  Tomas sprayed weed killer on part of it but to no avail.  The weeds…are….much…too…powerful. 

Then there is the pile of trash (yes, literal trash) that they left on the front driveway.  They were nice enough to cover it with a bright blue tarp.  How thoughtful.  So nice of them to think of covering that trash heap because they left a huge pile of crap on the side of the house too.  That is all uncovered and includes an unused giant hot tub that is filled with water. 

If the piles of trash and the mile high weeds weren’t enough to attract thousands of mosquitos, the uncovered algae ridden inground pool and hot tub in the back should do it.  This pool is so green and disgusting that even a family of ducks left it in a couple days for better pondage.  There is just a film of slime everywhere.  You can’t even see through it.

Anyway, you can see why this will be the mosquito season to beat all mosquito seasons over here.  Normally, I would just smear on a little “Off” Mosquito Repellent and call it good.  But every since I have had kids, I have been leary about covering them with bug repellents, even if they say they’re for the family.  It just seems a little wrong to be giving little absorbant bodies a chemical sponge bath. 

So, I set about to find some “natural” bug repellents.  Here’s what I found.

To help make your body or your little one’s body less attractive to those @#%$#@ mosquitos try the following:

  1. Wear loose clothing.  Mosquitos can easily bite through tight clothing, so forget the hip huggers and tube top.
  2. Avoid sugar and caffeine.  What!???  I think this is a conspiracy against me to nix my vices.  I guess that mosquitos are attracted to carbon dioxide release and lactic acid build up.  That’s how they find their targets.  Sugar and caffeine will make your body produce more of both of these.  I think I will still eat my donuts and coffee but just breathe less instead.  I’ll let you know how that works.
  3. Remove standing water around your yard/home.  Exactly!!  I am going to call the city and tell them the neighbors home is affecting the health and well being of my children.  I am sure they will love another call. 
  4. Avoid perfumes and scented lotions.  Mosquitos will just think you smell prettier and much more attractive.
  5. Use mint.  Crush up some fresh mint and rub it on your skin.  Uugh!  I just pulled out all of my mint from my garden because it was growing everywhere.  Maybe I can just roll in the compost pile where I tossed it.
  6. Burn something.  Either a campfire or candles.  If you have a little fire pit or something you could burn lavendar (I guess?) to ward off the bugs.  If you use a candle made to repel the bugs, they usually only work if you are within 3 feet of them.  Maybe I could put a candelabra on my head, walk around and wave burning lavendar sprigs around the edge of my yard.
  7. Turn on a fan.  Mosquitos can only fly about 8 miles an hour, so wind will keep them away.  Great! One gigantic yard sized fan should be easy to find.

If those don’t do the trick or you miss smothering your body in something to keep the bugs away, try this essential oil mixture:

These ingredients can be easily found at your local health store. Be sure you get Essential Oils and not simply fragrance oil. You will not get the benefits Essential Oils will give you.

What you will need:

A 4 ounce dark bottle

A carrier oil such as: olive, avocado, or sweet almond oil.

Lavender essential oil

Geranium essential oil

Cedar wood essential oil

Vitamin E oil

Fill the 4 ounce bottle to ¾ full with the carrier oil of your choice.

Add 5 drops each of the lavender and geranium essential oils and 3 drops of cedar wood and vitamin E oil. Top off the 4 ounce bottle with carrier oil, shake the bottle to blend and you’re set.

If you use the heavier olive oil as your carrier this blend will be better suited to a bath oil. If you use a lighter carrier, after your shower but before you towel off, massage into your wet skin. Lightly pat dry with a towel.

Always keep your Essential Oils covered. Essential Oils lose potency when exposed to air.

And finally, if you do get a bug bite from those little unbuzzworthy bugs, dab essential lavendar oil or peppermint oil on them.  Or use our old stand by, baking soda (3 parts mixed with 1 part water).  That will help to neutralize the bite.  I have used this remedy before and it really works.  However, I warn you that if you have a bunch of bites, you will look a little strange walking around with white baking soda polka dots all over your body.

 

I found the essential oil recipe here.  So don’t come banging on my door expecting me to fix it if you turn purple.  Even though I love to use essential oils,  I just follow essential oil recipes and hope for the best myself 🙂

 

Go to fullsize imageThe rain has stopped for a couple days which means that I can go back to greening up things around the house.  I have been experimenting with fabric softeners since I am line drying about everything possible thanks to the clothes line challenge.  A good friend of mine, was sure to recommend use a really good fabric softener to keep things soft and supple.  I tried some “homemade” recipes for softener.  They worked, but didn’t make my clothes smell as lovely as I wished.

So far, my favorite smelling environmentally friendly fabric softener is Seventh Generation.  The blue eucalyptus lavendar scent is heavenly (since I love both of those scents).  It makes me want to roll in a big pile of my clothes.  Or maybe, I could just take some all natural cotton material, wash it with the fabric softener and tear it into smaller strips.  Once I have made the strips, I can roll them up into a small tampon like shape and shove it up my nose.  I figure, that way, I can smell it for hours and still get work done (since I won’t have to stay situated in a pile of clean clothes).

Has anybody else found a great smelling eco-friendly fabric softener?  Let me know because despite my love for Seventh Generation, it is a little pricey and that may be a problem if I use it all the time.

 

Go to fullsize imageThis weather in the Midwest is driving me bonkers and has us trapped inside for days on end.  Just long enough to make me disgusted of my house.  Looking around I notice all the cobwebs and black dust from the furnace running all winter.  Why do we have that dust anyway??  We have good filters and we have had our ducts cleaned recently (last year). 

What else can I do but start cleaning.  I haven’t even dared keep the computer plugged in for too long because of the lightening.  I have had bad experiences of computer frying even with a surge protector in the past.  So yesterday, I cleaned and cleaned.  One thing led to another and I did accomplish a lot but I had a huge backslide with the green cleaning thing.

For one, I used a TON of papertowel.  I was cleaning my windows and no matter how hard I try, I can find nothing that is as fast and efficient as premade window cleaner and papertowel.  If I was just doing a couple windows, I would use the vinegar solution and newspaper.  However when I have a whole house to do, time is of the essence.  That movie the kids are watching is less than 2 hours and that’s how much time I have to get things done (if I’m lucky).  At the end of the day, about 1 1/2 rolls of paper towel gone.  Thanks to a house of windows/sliding doors needing to be cleaned inside and out.  It was so much paper towel, but when I can look outside through a crystal clear window, I have to think it was worth it.

I will say that my new favorite window cleaner is Mrs. Meyer’s aromatherapeutic Window Cleaner in Geranium Scent.  It may seem a little pricey at $4.99 a bottle but it goes a long way.  (look for it on sale. I originally got this bottle for $2.50 at a local health store)  No streaks, an awesome scent and best of all, no toxic fumes/byproducts.  I guess I can be glad that my gigantic pile of used paper towel, was aromatherapeutic and helped my mood during cleaning.  I highly recommend Mrs. Meyer’s stuff.  So far, I have not been disappointed.

After I cleaned the windows, I was sure to take down the draperies and was them.  Of course, since everything is drenched from rain and storms, I put them in the dryer.  The clothesline challenge is a bust for me this weekend.  I have mountains of laundry and no place to hang them all.  My dehumidifier is running at capacity and the basement is still dampish.  I have to dry it using even more energy than ever.  (include my air conditioner running 24/7 and we are going to have a heck of a bill for June)

On the upside, I did find some fabric that I bought a year ago and never used.  It was intended for curtains.  I finally took a couple hours while the laundry was going and whipped up 4 curtain panels.  I love them and they look beautiful on my sparkly clean windows.  I guess that was kind of green.  Actually using what you have instead of letting it waste in a closet.

Today, I continue my laundry quest and hope that our power doesn’t go out as we are to get more storms today.  Although if the power goes out for a while, it might off set my energy bill from using my dryer and air conditioning so much.  **Sigh…**  I can only hope!

Go to fullsize imageI have waited on pins and needles to get this beauty pictured here.  Yes, it is an umbrella clothesdryer for outside.  I looked high.  I looked low.  I finally found it and saved big money at Menards.  It was originally $39.99 but was on sale and then there was a rebate.  The final sale was about $24.99.  It’s so exciting!  I can hardly stand it!  This will definitely assist with helping me maintain my commitment to dry 90% of my laundry without the use of a dryer.  See Gift of Green’s Clothesline Challenge.

I wondered just how much money I could save by switching all the laundry to air-drying/line drying.  The average dryer costs about $80-$85 to use annually.  (That’s not as much money as I would have expected but, anyway, I will move on to my point.) So, if I continue to line dry my clothes, I will have made my $24 that I spent on the umbrella line back in no time!  Plus, I will be cutting back on my carbon footprint.  Next to the refrigerator, the dryer is the most costly appliance in your home to run due to the amount of energy it consumes.

Therefore, can there be a more logical choice??  I think not.  Go save some big money at Menards and buy your umbrella line.

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