Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Making Hamburger Rocks

Hamburger rocks?  Ya, I said that, too.  But somehow I stumbled onto a survivalist (the sky is going to fall one day) type site.  While I do believe in being prepared and having knowledge to be self reliant, I'm not an extremist in that area...my extremist views lie in the 'let's all do our part to protect the earth' category.  :o)

Okay, back to the hamburger rocks.  This is the link to the actual page on how to do it:
It's basically frying your ground beef, rinsing all the fat from it, and dehydrating it.  From there, the author states that you can pack it in sterile jars, seal and keep it for two years or more!  This might be the ticket for you if you get a whale of a deal on hamburger, but don't have freezer space for it.

I have to admit that I have been feeling a little guilty about plunking everything into the freezer because it's faster, easier and not so dang hot.  Canning in the kitchen on a hot July day in Kansas is not a treat, even with air conditioning that's running non stop.  And I'd rather not be so green here and forego the a/c. However, I did read about someone who did a boatload of water bath canning at one time with a small metal stock tank over hot coals or fire outside.  I don't know if that would fly here at our house, but I'm sure willing to try it on a smaller scale..like the grill.  But I digress, the point here is that I have all the canning supplies and it would be the greener thing to do if I wasn't running a freezer 9 months a year.

A couple of great sites for canning and preserving are http://creativecanning.blogspot.com/  (put bacon in the search bar and see how she's canned bacon!) and  http://www.pickyourown.org/allaboutcanning.htm

Monday, November 22, 2010

When saving hot water is NOT a good idea

Have you ever been somewhere, turned on the tap and smelled that faint (or stronger) odor from the water faucet?  Maybe at your own house?  That's bacterial crud growing in your pipes. 

Years ago, I did the realtor gig for a while.  I always knew which houses had the water heater turned way down and that they didn't use the hot water tap in that sink often enough.  Yummy, mold stench...and someone is rinsing their mouth with that water??

We had the same problem here, but we plumbed our house with a Pex Manifold system, so we were able to disconnect each pipe, run a bit of bleach water into it and turn the faucet on to a dribble for a while to disinfect the pipes.  After that, the water heater went back up a notch and I started using the hot water tap more often.

If you don't have a way to clean those water pipes, you might want to consider different ways to save power.  Perhaps a timer on the water heater, insulating blanket if it's electric, pipe insulation over exposed pipes, or 'on demand' type water heaters in the bathroom and kitchen.  Beats mold in the pipes.

Going 'Poo-less?

I bet that caught your attention, but I'm talking about shampoo.

My initial reaction to the idea of going without shampoo was EEUUUUWWW.  I had visions of yukky, smelly hair, and put that idea into the mental file labeled 'too extreme for me'.

I guess I just needed a while to wrap my mind around the concept.  So I decided to take the plunge after watching the film, 'No Impact Man'.  I looked at a bunch of different recipes online and then started to look for traditional ingredients: Castille soap, glycerin, nice smelling essential oil.

We're rural, so had to do some searching for these things.  Here's what I found:
Castile: $14.99 plus shipping - couldn't find it within a 30 mile radius.
Glycerin: $9.99
Lavendar EO: $22.99 (gasp)

Besides not digging the idea of ordering something that had to be shipped, the thought of spending $48 for experimental shampoo just didn't sit just right, ya know?

Back to the drawing board.  I found another site that suggested Borax (yep, honest!) and vinegar for the primary ingredients  for shampoo and conditioner replacements.  I had both on hand already, so I was ready to go!
Shampoo replacement:  1 TBSP Borax mixed in 1 cup of hot water, stir to disolve, then allow to cool.  One cup Borax to one gallon of water if you want to make a jug of it.
Conditioner replacement: 1 part apple cider vinegar to 4 or 5 parts water - I didn't measure.

The verdict:  It worked!!  I was shocked. 

I put each in one of those little ketchup squeeze bottles.  Since I was in the shower, my hair was wet when I got started.  I just squeezed some of the now cold Borax/water around on my scalp and worked it into the rest of my hair... the whole time thinking that this isn't doing anything.  No suds, no cleaning, right?  Or so I thought.  When I rinsed that out, I was surprised that my hair felt softer than what it usually did after using regular shampoo.  It also kind of squeaked, you  know, when you rub something really clean and it squeaks?

Now the vinegar/water conditioner - I did the same thing, just squeezed some on my scalp and rubbed it in the rest of my hair and rinsed.  It didn't smell as bad as I thought it was going to.

After I dried my hair, it looked clean and smelled clean with no vinegar odor. The best things were no tangles, more volume and shiny hair.  I also had an itchy bump that had been there for a while, and now it's smaller and doesn't itch.  I think I like this stuff.

It's weird, washing your hair with something that is watery and non-lathering.  I'll probably keep using it, but I'm not taking the regular shampoo and conditioner to the other bathroom yet.  I might decide to lather up once in a while.  Even if I just use the alternative every other time, I'll still be cutting my 'poo and conditioner consumerism plus the plastic bottles in half.

Later:  I now have used it twice, and honestly, I do like it.  It rinses out so much faster than gobs of suds, and seems to dry faster.  My naturally wavy hair seems a little curlier, too.  The purchased shampoo and conditioner probably won't be in my shower much longer.

This Changed My Outlook

I recently saw the film 'No Impact Man'.  And here I thought I was doing a good job of lowering my impact.  I have to admit that it inspired me to try to do more.

Today I tried to watch 'Meat the Truth'.  Tried and failed.  I couldn't stick it out just because I knew it was going to put me in a sad mood and I already knew some of what she was talking about.  But mostly because I was getting low, really quick.  And I'm in a really good mood today!  I'm sure it's a great film to watch, so I'll try it another day.

Another really good one is 'The Story of Stuff'.  It gave me a new prospective with everything I buy (what little that is).

There is also one about  how farmers ended up fighting Monsanto (the bastards).  I wish I could remember the name of that documentary.  One thing for sure, it left a HUGE impression on me, and was quite enlightening.  I did some research and found that Monsanto (the bastards) own a boatload of seed companies, so I will always get heirloom plants and seed from organic outlets that have NO connections to Monsanto (the bastards).  Do some research and you'll see how they are helping to starve poor communities with their suicide gene in all their seed.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Toothpaste or Tooth Powder - Make Your Own

I recently stumbled upon an interesting website about homemade toothpaste -  http://mizar5.com/toothpst.htm  .  Generally, I navigate away from any site that is trying to sell me something, but this guy lists different 'recipes' for toothpaste and tooth powder.  There are some pages of dental related information that's a good read, too. 

There are some other sites out in cyberland that have more recipes - http://www.fatfreekitchen.com/teeth/mouth-wash.html  ,   http://www.buzzle.com/articles/homemade-toothpaste.html - some stuff is just funny, you know?

I have been using the 3 parts baking soda/ 1 part salt mix for a couple of weeks now.  And my teeth and gums look better!  I have to say that I was surprised that the salt really does make the baking soda more palatable.  I just added a full packet of stevia sweetener, and oddly enough, I can't taste any sweetness at all.  The salt is less pronounced, so maybe it's worth it.  I wonder if I can put a bit in my Water Pic...would it clog it up?  Hmmmmm.....probably.

I might try a toothpaste recipe whenever I find some glycerin.  The only stuff our little country store sells is glycerin suppositories, and I just don't think that will do it. 

What really surprised me was reading that making your own will cost less than $2 a YEAR for a family of four.  I'm sure that was just the basic baking soda and salt recipe.

This fits into the 'half challenge', too.  There's no way that Bill would even consider using the homemade stuff.  He'll continue using Crest, I'll continue using homemade stuff and that will cut our commercial toothpaste usage in half.  :o)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Not So Approved Freezer Containers?

Years ago, when I was visiting my mother in Denver, she asked me to go downstairs and get some lasagna out of the freezer.  Down the stairs I went, and opened the lid on her little chest freezer.  It was full, and I mean FULL, of little yogurt containers, butter tubs, cottage cheese tubs, etc.  So I'm digging around (I hate chest freezers), looking for my preconceived notion of a frozen lasagna.  Nothing.

So back to the bottom of the stairs, and I holler up that I can't find the lasagna.  She hollers back, "The LASAGNA!"  Like saying it louder is going to help me find it.  Back to the freezer, more digging and no lasagna.  So, back to the stairs, and I ask (maybe not so politely), if she's sure she had a lasagna in that freezer.  "The LASAGNA!"  Even louder. 

Back to the freezer, and I took a closer look at the various plastic tubs.  Sure enough, there were a few that were neatly labeled 'lasagna' on the side in permanent marker.  Some weren't labeled at all, so I guess those were mystery meals, I don't know.

Now then, back to the present.  It's official.  I have turned into my mother.

I used to ladle cooked tomatoes into quart size plastic freezer bags, lay them on a big pizza pan until frozen, then try to stack them in the freezer.  They usually slid all around until I had the shelf fairly full.  Later I learned the hard way that you can not microwave-thaw them.  Trust me, I tried it twice and ended up throwing two bags away because of melted plastic.  Thawing was definitely better in a big bowl of water.  A couple of times I lost some of the tomato juice because the corners of the bag was poked by sharp, frozen edges.  That annoyed me, I want to wash that bag and use it again!  All in all, it was not an ideal situation.

I tried canning jars with limited success.  In the microwave, the outer layer of tomatoes would be boiling hot, while the inside was still too frozen to be able to pour out of the jar.  Planning ahead was important - put the jar in the frig the day before, put it on the counter to thaw in the morning, or plan on some time in the bowl of water... oh, or microwave s-l-o-w-l-y.  I also learned the hard way not to fill it above the shoulder of the jar. 

Go buy gobs of  'freezer approved' containers?  Perish the thought! 

But I did have bunches of quart size cottage cheese and yogurt containers.  Actually, they worked out the best.  I could sit it in a bowl of tap water (didn't have to be warm) and in a bit, it was thawed enough that the frozen tomatoes would slide right out and into the pot.

I originally labeled them in my low tech method (masking tape and a permanent marker), but eventually went to just the marker when I had the tomato overload.

Quart size plastic mayo jars and big peanut butter jars are the right size for soups and chicken broth.  (Gotta label those soups, they all look alike in the freezer after a while.)  They're also the right size for dry cake mixes when I make that in bulk.  I have a few gallon size plastic containers that I use for baking mix (like Bisquik or Jiffy) and self rising flour mix.  All the dry stuff goes in the freezer, too.

I had to go take a peek at what I had in the freezer.  I also have a couple containers of homemade mashed potatoes, a jar of instant potato flakes and a jar of instant rice that I acquired when our youngest son moved out of state.  I try to make everything from scratch, but having something that I can use quickly comes in handy.  There are several mayo jars of spaghetti sauce, some with meat, some without.

I still use freezer bags for potatoes, onions, garlic (I don't care what they say, you CAN freeze garlic and then chop it while it's still frozen - it doesn't freeze rock hard) carrots, green beans and peppers.  The garlic, peppers and onions just get chopped and into bags.  My carrots are embarassing, so I clean them and pop them whole into the bag.  A quick rinse in warm water thaws them enough to chop for soup (same with the garlic).

When the kids visit and I'm making soup, spaghetti or whatever?  If I need something from the freezer, I go get it myself.  I still hear my mother's voice yelling 'the LASAGNA!".