Hippie Holidays!

I'm doing a talk tomorrow at Master Composter training about recycling through the holidays. Actually it will be more like stumbling through a quick presentation. Anyway, my counterpart is doing more gift-y type stuff and I'm doing some table centerpiece ideas.

When I get some non-phone pictures of them I'll walk you through the how-tos, but they really couldn't be easier and 2 of the 3 are 100% kid friendly!

Respect your Elders

There is one blueberry bush in our yard (of about 10) that has berries on it. I suspect that's because it's tucked beside an elderberry and the birds have been so distracted with the elderberry they haven't noticed the blueberry. Whatever the reason, it will have a nice-sized harvest when/if they ever ripen.

Yesterday I went to check on it and saw the elderberries are ripe! I'd had it in my mind that they'd be ready sometime in August. I guess that needs a mental correction? Anyway, it seems early to me. I harvested about 3/4 of the clusters from the 2 largest bushes. There were enough clusters that were nearly bare to tell me there have been ripe berries for a few days at least. The remaining unpicked clusters are mostly green and will be harvested in a couple weeks, I suppose.

Earlier in the spring I saved a few flower heads for use as herbal tea. Now I have about 2 cups of fresh berries. I'll probably dry half and syrup (You can verb 'syrup' right? You can verb 'verb' right?) the other half. Elderberries have historically been used for prevention of winter ailments, they're packed with vitamins (A, B, and C) and immune boosting antioxidants.

Later today we're going blackberry picking! Any berries in your neck of the woods? What's lookin' good?

For those interested in growing elderberries, one of my bushes was started from a twig I simply stuck in the ground. I believe it is Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra). The other is one I purchased from Gardens of the Blue Ridge and is the North American native elderberry, Sambucus canadensis. If you're interested in purchasing one, I can't recommend them highly enough.

Keyhole Bed: A recap

April 2011
May 2011
June 2011

Then in 2013 I didn't do much gardening...
I was pregnant with Fox. I did
get some onions in the ground in the fall.
Late 2012 the plum tree had bad blight so we chopped it down.

Sometime in early 2014 I put bricks we had on hand
for another project around the bed. This is April 2014.

Here it is now, taken over mostly with perennials, a few annual veggies
tucked here and there, and some flower seeds yet to sprout.

Green 'n clean carpet follow-up

I meant to spend some time with a few rugs this past weekend, testing out the Earth Friendly Products Carpet Shampoo. Between Fox officially crawling (and trying to crawl up the stairs) and prepping for a 30 day detox I didn't get to all of the rugs, but I did try out the goods.

The EFP shampoo is more concentrated than the Bissell (uses 1.5 oz to Bissell's recommended 2.5 oz). It also uses essential oils for fragrance rather than artificial fragrance, which meant I didn't end up with a migraine post-use. In fact, the EFP fragrance was pretty much undetectable after the rug dried, the Bissell lingered for the next 24 hours or so.

Did it clean as well? Absolutely. I cleaned this small rug from C's and my bedroom, one that sees the most traffic in that room. Though it's relatively new, it needed some attention. For several weeks M had a nighttime cough that I approached with Hyland's Cough Syrup (disappointingly, I realized it has Sodium Benzoate, so out it goes) and raw, local honey. There were spots of gunk across the carpet thanks to the combination of those 2 sticky substances plus nighttime doses.

A quick steam and the dirty water that cycled back into the tank was a murky medium brown. I still had some clean water and shampoo in the tank, so I used it up on an area of the main rug in the den...that very same rug we'd cleaned 2 weeks ago. The 3'x5' area of that rug cycled black water back into the tank. Total yuck to the nth degree.

The visible results: The sticky mess from the bedroom rug is gone. A few of the stains on the larger carpet are significantly less visible than they were after the Bissell round. 

The short of it: I'm glad I researched and decided to try this particular carpet cleaner! While I'm pretty sure nothing can return our carpet to it's new glory, I can definitely breathe easier having little hands and feet playing on it all the time.

Green Laundry

My sister-in-law was recently tested for allergies and learned she is allergic to cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB). CAPB is used in many "natural" products because it's derived from coconut oil. Hearing about her allergies has renewed my interest in ingredient reading.

I think I'm pretty aware of what goes in and on my family's bodies, but to be honest I can't police everything. Some things are purposefully overlooked just so I don't beat myself up over the facts that M had a piece of artificial-everything candy or that Fox drinks formula.  Back to the crunchy part of our lifestyle...

My old recipe. The Fels-Naptha is way too fragrant, I switched to 
Dr. Bronner's castile bar soap

I alternate between homemade and Seventh Generation liquid laundry soap and making our own, but checking out ewg ratings, I noticed Borax that really brought the score down; boy did I feel ignorant. A quick search for alternatives and found out the possible danger was old news! A little more searching and I found a recipe by Amy Bayliss for a Borax-free version.  After I run out of my current batch (that I just made yesterday) I'll have to try her version.

In the meantime, what else should I try making? What do you DIY or trust a natural brand to do for you?