Sunday, February 26, 2012

Trash and Treasure

Early last spring my eldest daughter got a job at a small health food store in town. Nearly every day she worked, she brought home expired dry-goods and/or a huge banana-box of “rotten” vegetables for my compost. “Expired” is probably a legitimate term for a stores selling dehydrated veggie crisps and gluten-free, wheat-free cranberry flax seed granola bars. But “rotten” is a term more subjective, I imagine. For health-food hippies, if you’re going to buy an organic bok choy, or organic lettuce for $5 more than you would pay at the WalMart, its leaves had better not be bent or wilted. The peppers had better be without blemish, and the asparagus ($7.99# for Pete’s sake) had better be crispy—or dipped gold if you ask me.

I really did enjoy foraging through these boxes full of often legitimately, slimy vegetables in search what a solicitous hippie might toss aside as rotten, but a humble, frugal mommy sees as cash (or slightly wilted cash) in the bank. My biggest boon was green onions, lettuce, and Swiss chard. I still can’t figure out why they threw away the lovely, crisp bunches of onions I rescued, but I won’t complain. Some of the regularly tossed items were broccoli sprouts, cilantro, parsley, sweet potatoes and kiwi. A few times I ran across a pear or a strawberry which an employee had partially eaten and tossed away. So this job of mine wasn't without its share of nastiness.

We were also given two huge salmon carcasses. I boiled one for fish stock and let the other one sit on the patio till it was positively wretched. Then I dug a big hole next to the garden and buried it there. My mom says this keeps bunnies away. Whether this helped, I'll never know. But next time, I’m going to skip the rotting fish and rely on my cats.

A few weeks into Lent Rose showed up after work with three gallons of expired, raw milk and four gallons of expired whole buttermilk. Having been making tvorog at Pascha for years, this was indeed a Godsend, and it turned out lovely. I also made buttermilk cheese which turned out very nicely too.

This year the kids and I have been dumpster diving of a different sort. I have a friend whose son built his entire treehouse from discarded lumber. There are a number of new neighborhoods popping up all around us, and since hearing this we have hauled in an amazing number of boards and posts from these dumpsters. Some are only slightly warped or knotty, and most of them are treated deck lumber. But they are entirely useful for our purposes.

At one house we visited there was a long board just waiting for us. We pulled it out and pushed it carefully into the back of our van. Just then, around the corner came a man with two other long boards on his shoulder. We thought we were going to get into trouble, but he asked, "Would you like these too? And there are a few more in the back I'll go get for you." Apparently he was making the stairs for the back door and had just finished his job. We were delighted and happy to accommodate.

Now I no longer have any excuses for not building the treehouse, the chicken coop, the picnic table and the miscellaneous other things I have wanted to do since buying this house with the acre of woods at the back. I got a miter saw for Christmas. So that with my circular saw and my jigsaw should be enough for us to get started on something soon.

I have wondered, though, which were worth more before they were thrown away, the banana boxes of organic veggies or the pile of lumber.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade laundry detergent has been my best discovery in years. It is simple and inexpensive. I made my first batch two months ago and I still haven't made a dent in the five-gallon bucket I made.

Here's the recipe:

4 Cups - hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar (I have heard you can use any kind of bar-soap, but I don't know)
1 Cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*
½ Cup Borax

Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (will gel)

Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled.

-Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)

-Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

*Arm & Hammer "Super Washing Soda" - in some stores or may be purchased online. Baking Soda will not work, nor will Arm & Hammer Detergent - It must must be sodium carbonate.

I'm grateful there are enough homemakers in Lexington, SC that the WalMart has all three items right next to each other on the shelf. I found this at the Duggar Family Website.

Monday, February 6, 2012

This is by a Facebook friend of mine (Matushka Ann Lardas) on today's saint, Xenia.

[I] am thinking about the first Christians, and how they lived in a world that was okay with infanticide and all kinds of deviance and took money from them to fund their own persecution, and yet they not only survived, they overcame. Why? Through the power of their very great love for God and for each other. When they were first killed, they had no way of knowing if there would ever be more Christians. But they didn't think about "legacy," they thought about salvation, and a nation and an empire and the world was transformed. Today's amazing St. Xenia was named for the martyr St. Xenia, a rich patrician who didn't want her family to stop her from being a Christian, so when the Romans arrested her and asked her name, she replied only "Xenia," meaning, "Stranger." We are strangers here. This world does not reflect or revere our values. But through love, we can be transformed, and in the process, a thousand souls can be saved around us.

Love is stronger than hate, and through Christ, life is stronger than death.