Monthly Archives: May 2010

How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent

I had to laugh this morning when I read Soulemama and saw she had posted a recipe for laundry detergent, because that was the exact thing I wanted to share with you today too! I have been using a liquid homemade laundry detergent since about January and I really do love it! I have to add in the disclaimer that I’ve never been that picky about laundry detergent, I can’t seem to see a difference in any brand I use, but I do know that this recipe is insanely cheap to make much like my handmade lotion recipe.
I first heard about making your own liquid laundry detergent last year when I was researching garden safe laundry detergents, (although I have since found out that borax is not good for the garden) but I couldn’t seem to find the right ingredients here in town. But last December I stumbled upon all three things I needed at Sonoma Market while I was grocery shopping. For the Sonoma locals, you know that Sonoma Market isn’t the place to get things inexpensively. It cost me about $9 to buy the washing soda, borax, and Fels-Naptha there. However the washing soda and borax will last through years of detergent making, so I figured it was well worth the investment. I have a strong feeling that if you can find them in your town, they will be cheaper. Or you can order them online through the links below, if you can’t find them where you live.

I’ve since learned that Fels Naptha is made up of chemicals taken from petroleum, so in an more earth friendly move, I suggest that you make this recipe using either Dr. Bronners or another kind of all natural soap, which I’ll do next time. Although after keeping the Fels Naptha around, I’ve found that if you rub it on stains before washing they come out like magic! This recipe makes about 2 gallons of detergent and I found that they fit perfectly into two empty and well cleaned milk containers. I found an old detergent scoop in the back of my laundry room and I pour it out into the scoop as I would a store bought detergent. Super easy! The best part about this recipe is that it only takes about 15 minutes to make which is fantastic!
Onto the recipe:

Liquid Laundry Detergent

1/3 bar of soap, grated. Such as Fels-Naptha
1/2 c. Washing Soda
1/2 c. Borax

In a large pot bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add in grated soap and stir. Meanwhile in a seperate pot heat up another 4 cups of water until hot. When melted add the washing soda and borax. Stir until dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour in additional 4 cups of hot water.
In each empty, clean milk jug put 11 cups of tap water and half of your hot soap mixture. Let sit for 24 hours and it will gel together and look like egg drop soup. I like to stir the mixture every couple of hours with a bamboo skewer to help in mixing the solid and non-solids together.
Use 1/2 cup of liquid laundry detergent in each laundry load.
In this last batch I made I tried adding essential oil. I used about 30 drops of lavender into each gallon and it was strong enough that I could smell it when I use it but that the clothes didn’t smell when they were dried. That makes me a happy laundress, smelling the beautiful lavender, and makes the three guys in our house happy too, as they would prefer not to smell like lavender.

If you’ve read about making your own detergent before but thought it might be too much of a hassle, you really should give it a try. It’s so easy and so very, very cheap!

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Filed under Recipes

Up a Tree with Cherries & Chicks

Thanks to everyone for the well wishes! This pregnancy (I’m sure my last) has been so enjoyable. Yes, sure there was morning sickness in the beginning, but it wasn’t bad and I’ve been feeling really good ever since. My last pregnancy was much less enjoyable so I’m trying to ‘be-in-the-moment’ as much as I can with this one.
Today, those cedar waxwings camped out permanently in our oak tree waiting for us to go inside so they could strip the cherry tree, so we decided we had to pick as many as we could. They weren’t quite as ripe as we would have liked them, but better to have them slightly under ripe than not at all, I suppose! The cedar waxwings have this incredible song, it’s not a chirp, but rather kind of a ‘shirrrr’ kind of sound. Or maybe think of a flock of crickets high above your head, only more bird like in sound.
I put the boys to the task of pitting most of them with the cherry pitter. Half of those went into a pot with sugar for jam and the other half went on a cookie sheet and into the freezer (later to be put in ziplocks). The rest will go in our mouths. Have you read Blueberries for Sal? I thought of that book as I was picking. Kaplink, kaplunk, kaplonk.

For fun I was checking out my past cherry posts, here’s when we had the same bird problem, when we harvested them in 2008 and what I did with the frozen ones a few months later.

We also let the chicks outside for most of the day. We used the screen Scott built for sifting compost as a makeshift cage for them, put in their food and water and let them enjoy a little outdoor time. Having been kept in incubators and our guest bathroom for their entire short little lives, they were completely freaked out in the grass, but quickly adjusted. They are still too little to put with the big girls and probably will be for quite a few more weeks, but it’s great to see them outside getting in touch with their inner chicken-ness.

Have a great weekend blog friends!


Filed under chickens, Fruit Trees

Growing a New Variety – a Daughter

February Girl for My September Baby
Would you like to know the real reason I needed a blog break? I was going through my first trimester of pregnancy! Luckily as far as my pregnancies have gone this first trimester was the easiest so far. We are safely (knock on wood) planted firm into week 22 and I feel safe to announce it here on this space and to report that all ultrasound pictures show this to be a girl. We have two boys, ages 5 and 3, so this came as an extra delight. I guess you could say that we tend to grow our babies along with the growing season, the boys were born in August and October and this little girl is due in September. It’s a fun thing to look forward to as we progress into the dog days of summer.

During the wait I’ve taken up with lots of baby knitting. If you happen to be a Ravelry member, you can find me here.


Filed under Life in Sonoma

Roses & Cedar Waxwings

Now that spring is here, I’ve been trying to make a habit of keeping fresh flowers from our garden on the table. I usually keep it simple with a fistful of purple pincushions in a canning jar, but yesterday I felt fancy and made more of an effort. Four years ago Scott and I both picked out roses to plant and as you can see, they both turned out beautiful shades of dusty pink/red. I’m not really a very fussy flower gardener, I give my perennials a healthy dose of tough love, so roses sometimes frusterate me with all of their rust spots and carefully needed pruning, but even in my laziness I’m glad to see them turn out some beautiful flowers.
Last night was also our first invasion of the cedar waxwings. They come every spring, and only in spring, to attack our cherry tree. So whilst out BBQing we both admired their beauty through binoculars and then hoot and hollered at them to go back to where they came from. We don’t mind sharing a few cherries with the birds, but they come in flocks of over 100 and we aren’t willing to share that much!
As you can see from this photo they camp out in the oak tree that grows right above the cherry tree. Shoo birds, shoo!
cherry tart
The good news is that where cherries are ripening, cherry tarts will need to be made soon.


Filed under Fruit Trees

Three New Chicks & Sally the Miracle Chicken.

Two weeks ago we tried out a family dog. Scott has always wanted a dog so when the local animal shelter called us and said they had a great family dog, we gave it a try. He was a great dog in every way, half golden retriever and half lab, already house trained, great on a leash, however he really wanted to eat our chickens and cats. No really, he really did want to eat them. We saved the cats from near misses twice, however we weren’t so lucky with the hens. One lovely Sunday morning we were all outside enjoying the fine weather when all of a sudden one of our chickens, Sally jumped over her highly fenced ‘free range’ area and into the backyard….right in front of the dog. He quickly grabbed her and ran, feathers flew everywhere. We were screaming, the chicken was screaming and the dog was running all over the yard with her. We finally got him away from her, but when we found her, we feared for the worst. All the feathers were pulled off her back and there were about five deep, two inch long gashes where his teeth had been.

I guess had we been real chicken farmers we would have put her down right then and there, but instead we thought we’d give her the night to see if Sally could make it. After our adrenaline had calmed down we picked her up and put Neosporin on her cuts, something a vet had advised us to do for another chicken cut a few years back. Then we put her in a small bathroom that rarely ever gets used, gave the poor girl some food and water and a box full of hay and let her have the night to heal. And she made it! We left her in there for about four nights and the sweet thing even laid a couple of eggs. Slowly we started bringing her outside, watching her carefully to keep the flies off of her (because if flies get wind of a fresh chicken cut they will lay there eggs there and the maggots will eat the flesh – super gross!). We eventually put her with the other chickens and made sure they didn’t peck at her and now she is fully back with her gals. We call her Sally the Miracle Chicken now. We did decide after some soul searching that right now our priority is with our first pets, the cats and hens, so the dog went back (and he’s already found a good new home!).

As consolation for our two young sons, we got some new baby chicks. Aren’t they cute? A buff cochin and two ameraucanas to add some blue into our brown egg mix.


Filed under chickens

A new kind of raised bed

Every once in a while Scott, normally a careful planner, throws caution to the wind and acts on a whim. He had seen this picture of a raised bed built out of hay bales and then next day a phone call was placed to the local feed store. They showed up two hours later with 10 bales of hay and the boys quickly got to work.
He liked how substantial the hay bales made the raised bed look and the thought that we could sit around it. Being that the rest of our yard is filled with raised beds made out of old thin redwood fencing, a comfortable place to sit while weeding sounded good to me.
He dug a shallow trench right in the middle of the garden, a spot that still lacked a raised bed and placed the bales into the trench. The challenge was finding enough dirt and compost to fill the enormous new bed! How he found enough without having dirt delivered is beyond me…but maybe I should go out and check my flower beds to see if there is any dirt left in them!
Now the melons seeds have been planted in it and we await their growth. Meanwhile we have actually spent quite a few moments sitting out there talking as a family. The boys love running around the perimeter and jumping off of it. Economically, I don’t think this was the most cost efficient of raised beds, doing the whole thing out of wood would have been slightly more expensive and would have lasted a lot longer. But what is a garden if not for experimenting, being creative and trying new things?

Are you doing anything new in your garden this year?


Filed under experiments

Across the World Garden Connections

Year after year we plant our summer garden from seeds that we order from a mail order company. We plant the seeds, watch them sprout with awe and tend to them all growing season long. I’ve never really felt a connection to where the seeds come from until this year. We have done seed exchanges through Seed Exchange before, but still we didn’t know the people, so it was just as personal as if we had ordered from a catalog.

Last summer, a blog I’ve read for a good while now, Down to Earth held a little blog contest where the winner would win two bars of her handmade soap, two hand knit dish towels and a homegrown loofah along with seeds to grow the loofah. Of course it was too late in our hemisphere to plant them, however a few weeks ago we were sorting through our seeds and came upon the little folded envelope. I couldn’t wait to see if they would sprout and they did! Now every time I walk by these two little pots, it is such a neat thing to know that someone, halfway around the world, in Australia, saved these seeds from her garden, packaged these little seeds up and sent them to me so that I try them out in my garden.

You can be assured that if we are able to grow these successfully, then I too will have to throw a little giveaway with a loofah and seeds. And maybe a hand knit dishcloth and who knows, maybe even a bar of soap…the lye is in the mail!


Filed under Sprouting

Happy May Day

May Day Surprise.

Hello friends! Happy May Day. Our family was delighted to find this surprise on our doorknob this afternoon. Shh, I don’t know for sure, but we have a sneaking suspicion that it was put there by this sneaky and crafty family.

I’ve been long gone from this space, but I hope that come May I’ll return with some garden goodness!


Filed under Life in Sonoma