Living the country life
I am back from another trip. More inspired than ever! I do apologize, though, to certain friends (Lisa, you know who you are) who worried my offline-ness might translate to „something bad happened“.
Note to self: in the time and age of „There is no offline, there is only away from keyboard“, announce any awol from the virtual life (technically, is it „awl“ then?). At least for as long as there is no way to virtually transmit the bad smell coming from your apartment that might alarm your neighbors – who might not even care since you live in one of those anonymous big city shoe boxes – but not the ones who do care but don’t live close by. Another note to self: keep notes to self short…ish.
Anyway. Peter and I were visiting a friend who lives the way we hope to do one day – somewhere on the Swedish countryside, growing lots of her own food, with no stupid electro smog. There was no internet. It was beautiful. Not because or despite that fact. It just was. Although we were only there from Thursday through Tuesday, this trip was a real learning and healing experience – most of all, unsurprisingly, about myself; my current state (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, … in any way) as well as my wishes for my future.
I realized that …
- … a life closer to nature and more self-sufficient is not only what I imagine I want. It is what I do want.
- … the difference between life in the city and on the countryside is not to be underestimated. My body had a hard time adjusting to physical labor (which does not always allow for ergonomic execution), my mind had a hard time accepting that I/we took so many breaks. I felt very unproductive, although our host did not express any such complaints – or any complaints at all. Here at home I want to get through with everything I have to do as quickly as possible, there you spread out the (more physically exhausting) work over the entire days, take it slow, take time for conversations, contemplation, simply being.
- … I am especially unhappy with my job here at home.
- … the difference between the life I am currently leading, and the life I want is huge. I had an episode of deep depression the second day when I realized that gap. I had no idea how I should get from one to the other, and this uncertainty scared and frustrated me. I still don’t know but I am hopeful now.
When we came home I was excited to see if any of the seeds I had sown had grown anything during our absence. The score: two tomato plants are sprouting and I can see the beginning of morning glory.
No poo – tested for you
Well, ok, it wasn’t a completely selfless act, I do dig these kind of diys. I have been meaning to write this post since last Wednesday (that’s when I tried some recipes) but I wanted to wait till I had some pictures. As most of the times, I am not completely happy with them but I am afraid if I wait until I am, I will never share this with you. And that would be sad because trying out these recipes really was a revelation for me. So: do try this at home!
I tried some of the recipes from this ByzantineFlowers post, namely the soap nut shampoo, the green tea conditioner, and the coffee scrub.
The soap nut shampoo I simply did because I had those nuts (that are berries) at hand. It’s actually what we’ve been using to do the laundry with, I had no idea you could use them as shampoo. Boiling the soap nuts in water for 30 minutes, preparing the shampoo every time you want to use it rather than storing it – the procedure is simple yet somewhat time-consuming, so I am not sure I will stick with this one in the long run. The liquid does have a distinct smell, which I find neither particularly unpleasant nor particularly pleasant. It’s ok. As to whether this shampoo worked or not – I find it hard to say. I mean, my hair did get clean and looked nice but I can’t say for sure that it was the soap nuts, or simply washing my hair (after all, some do use water only), or …
… The green tea conditioner. Now this one I loved. My hair usually is very hard to comb (I don’t even use a brush). I have gotten used to it and don’t even think about the discomfort anymore but those days are over! I was skeptical, and wondered how this was supposed to work, after all, the green tea is water, and won’t that just run down before I even got a chance to rub it in? I have no clue how it worked – but it did. My hair was super-easy to comb, and it did look nice (again, I can’t know for sure what to contribute that part to).
The real revelation however was the coffee scrub. It is easy to make, relatively cheap yet it feels really expensive (which is the best, right?), feels nice, and makes you smell so good! I only deviated from the original recipe in so far as I used coconut fat instead of olive oil. Again: because it was at hand – and also because it is supposed to be good for Pitta (yup, I just had to sneak in something Ayurveda). Also I used vanilla sugar instead of regular since I had prepared a jar full a while ago (you just put a vanilla bean in a jar with sugar and let it sit), which we don’t use anymore (the sugar being white). Same goes for the coffee: we haven’t been drinking any lately, so this is the perfect way for me to enjoy its smell anyway.
In the original recipe it says it’s against cellulite but I just went ahead and used it as a full body scrub. Peter was concerned that maybe that way I’ll just end up spreading cellulite. Very good point, so I will keep you posted as to whether I suddenly develop cellulite on my nose or something.
I have been combining using this scrub with the Ayurveda massage technique from the morning routine, so I fancy myself getting the benefits from both. I am no expert though, so I don’t know, I am just going with my gut here. Another thing that’s great about this scrub (yes, there is more!) is that the coconut fat (or whatever fat/oil you’re using) keeps your skin from drying out in the shower. At the same time, you don’t get so sticky that your towel or clothes feel greasy after using them. Your skin just feels really nice and smells like coffee – how cool is that?!
FYI: all this coming from someone who normally doesn’t use more than shampoo and soap in the shower – read: I don’t get excited about beauty products very easily. Yesterday I even managed to get Peter excited about this coffee scrub. His only concern was that he was going to a lecture, and that the coffee addicts among the guests might be tempted to start licking his skin. No reports of the sort have been filed, so I guess this delicious scrub is safe for use in public. Well, maybe not the actual use but you know what I mean.
Spring cleaning pt. 3
Mission completed! I did enough to be able to abandon this project, and show some after pictures that don’t reveal everything I didn’t do. Success! Oh yeah, and I tried out some more no poo methods which I now can recommend with a clean conscience.
I cleaned the stove according to this recipe: Sprinkle some baking soda onto the plates, add some drops of white vinegar, let it sit while you do the rest of the cleaning. Then you just wipe it off. Before wiping the stuff off, I used one of those metal brushes (I don’t know what the technical term is, they are specifically for these kind of stoves). I found the recipe for this on a Swedish site, they had a lot more useful tips on cleaning, mostly also no poo: Bästa städtipsen för ett fint hem.
For all of the surfaces (cupboard doors, tiles, working spaces, mopping the floor) I used the white vinegar/lemon/water mixture again. For the sink I just cut a lemon in half, rubbed it in and let it sit for a while before rinsing with water. Again, I am really satisfied with the results, so I am definitely done with the poo that we have standing around here.
I found another link with no poo cleaning methods on ByzantineFlowers (I really find this blog inspiring, makes me wnat to try out a bunch of their recipes!): DIY Citrus Cleaner – you’ll find a lot more no poo alternatives than what the title reveals.
Spring cleaning pt. 2
Although I didn’t get as far as I had hoped, I still got the chance to try out some no poo cleaning techniques – and can therefore make some actual recommendations:
- Oil and a mix of vinegar, water and lemon (roughly equal parts) turned out to be my best cleaning friends, I didn’t use much besides that. When it comes to oil and grease stains, it’s really a fighting-fire-with-fire kind of method – and it works, too! The spice rack being located above the stove was covered in a sticky layer of cooking grease and dust. I just dabbed some paper towel in oil and wiped the sticky surfaces. Just use the cheapest you have/can get, doesn’t need to be you precious EVOO. This is obviously only step one, unless you’re content with replacing the old grease layer with a new one (that will get yucky in a few weeks). This is were the lemon/water mixture comes into play. Why not use that one first? Well, I guess you can, but when I tried it felt like I needed to use much more force with that one – using oil was a lot easier.
- I tried out the recipe for cleaning the oven (actually started with that one since you’re supposed to let it sit for 8 hours). I found that the ratio in the recipe made the mix to dry, so I just went with my instinct and added more water until it took on a „wasabi-like“ texture (if you were to conclude from this that I have a sushi-related problem you’d be right on). Also, I used about double the amount of the original recipe. I got good results – I am telling myself that the stuff that I couldn’t get of has been there even when we moved in. This recipe is perfect for me since I am not a very patient person. I tend to get sloppy at the end of a task but luckily, with this recipe, I do not need to worry about whether I am going to die from the next meal I prepare in the oven after cleaning it. Sometimes you can have the cake and eat it, too!
- Oh yeah, maybe the most useful piece of advice that I managed to ignore once more after already having made the mistake: filter the lemon juice before you pour it into a spray bottle. Otherwise the pulp will clog up the pipe/spray head thingy. Or: don’t use a spray bottle, just dab the cleaning rag in the liquid.
No poo for everything!
I promised recipes and diys – so here we go. This morning, a chain of events (trying out another Ayurveda recommendation, massaging my skin with oil – taking a shower – greasy bathtub) led to me seeing the necessity to clean the bathtub right away. After having read and thought about the whole no poo concept only so recently, the thought of grabbing the bottle with the suspiciously blue (kinda like the blue Gatorade) and strong smelling cleaning product that we have used so far didn’t seem so appealing. There must be something else, I thought, and checked online. Disco! To no surprise, even a very quick research delivered a bunch of helpful sites, and I ended up cleaning the bathtub with a lemon. Yes, with a lemon – and it worked, too.
Among the results of my quick search, I particularly liked a (Swedish) blog post by The Green Eco Journal. The instructions were short and easy, while covering many things you might want to clean in a house/apartment. Also, all that you need according to post is vinegar, baking soda, lemon, and olive oil.
Here is my translation of the post, so please note that the source for the following (unless otherwise marked) including the picture is The Green Eco Journal, anything lost or messed up in translation is completely my fault:
(White wine) vinegar
- For cleaning in general, pour equal amounts of water and vinegar into a spray bottle. Comes in handy when you want to clean up something.
- To freshen up the toilet bowl (it literally says „seat“ but from the rest I gather that it must be the bowl – Solveig), pour two to three deciliters (ca. 1 cup – Solveig) white wine vinegar into it. Wait a few hours, then scrub and flush.
- To clean windows, use the vinegar/water mixture for general cleaning. Spray onto the window. Instead of wiping off the mixture with a towel, use pages from a newspaper (from what I know it works – which it does! – because there are silver particles in the black ink – Solveig). (Paper towels get stuck easily.) You can still recycle the nepspaer after this.
- To clean the floors, pour vinegar into the bucket instead of your regular cleaning product.
- To clean the laundry machine, pour 1/2 deciliter of vinegar (ca. 1/5 cup – Solveig) into it. Start the machine without laundry. This helps to take away old laundry detergent that might have gotten stuck.
- This is a good cleanser for stains and to take away bad smells. It’s also excellent to clean pots.
You can pour half a deciliter (ca. 1/5 cup – Solveig) into the laundry machine to clean it. So next time you’re going to wash something, your clothes will get extra-soft without you needing to add strong fabric softeners.
- Mix a little bit of baking soda and castile soap (my link – Solveig) or regular dishwashing detergent to clean sinks and surfaces that are hard to reach. It’s also a good cleanser for drains. To make it smell nice add a few drops of essence.
- If you have rugs that smell because of pets, sprinkle some baking soda onto the rug before vacuum cleaning them.
- For cleaning the oven, mix 3 ts baking soda, 1 ts salt and 1 ts water. Spread the mixture inside the oven and let it sit for 8 hours. Scrape away and wash off afterward.
- For when your drains get clogged: pour in 1/2 deciliter (ca. 1/5 cup – Solveig) and 1/2 deciliter of white wine vinegar. Let it sit for a while, then rinse with warm water.
Another way to clean the toilet bowl is to pour in 1 ts baking soda and 4 ts vinegar. Let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes, then scrub and flush.
- Lemon juice is good against grease stains. So it’s perfect for kitchen cleaning.
- To get a natural and fresh scent in a room, make your own room spray from warm water, 1 ts baking soda and 1 ts lemon juice, and put the mixture into a spray bottle.
- To „bleach“ white laundry, add lemon juice to your laundry detergent.
- To give your dishes that extra shine, add lemon juice to your dish washing detergent (not on anything silver, though).
- A spray bottle filled with half water and half lemon juice comes in handy when taking away stains from windows and mirrors.
- Mix 2 tbs olive oil and 1 tbs lemon juice to create a natural furniture polish.
- When cleaning brass and steel material, use a cleaning rag with some olive oil on it.
- When cleaning shoes, use some olive oil and a few drops of lemon juice to make them nice and shiny.
Now all we need to do is find the appropriate dumping site for the poo we’ve been using …
If you can’t eat it, you probably shouldn’t put it on your skin, either. That’s the philosophy behind „No Poo“, which obviously both stands for „no shampoo“ and/or shampoo without „poo“.
I learned about No Poo in the current issue of åter (meaning „back“, „backwards“, „again“), a Swedish magazine about self-sufficiency and alternative life styles. Although I didn’t find out about this concept until yesterday, I am not surprised that it exists. As a lot of people clearly do, I have been thinking along those lines myself: when you are concerned about your health, you realize after a while that it’s not just about what you eat.
The stuff we use on our body is as important as what we put into our body, since that’s actually were it all ends up. (I am not even going to open the can of worms that is the clothes we buy which are treated with all kinds of chemicals – another reason for buying second-hand.)
When I still lived in Germany, I was really excited when organic became popular and affordable thanks to franchises like the dm-drugstore or the Alnatura organic super-market. Being on a university student budget, I was glad that I could buy organic food and cosmetics (not all the time and all my food/products, but still). I became aware that these products weren’t ideal, and that the whole franchise concept of these stores also meant that they probably weren’t as humane and great as they seem.
You shouldn’t fool yourself, these kinds of stores and their products really only fulfill a minimal standard. I don’t know about dm, but I remember that Alnatura seemed less great to me when a friend told me that the notes with customer questions (Alnatura apparently has a blackboard for comments in their stores) about the wages for Alnatura employees always disappear „mysteriously“ – and unanswered.
Still, I thought, as long as I can’t print my own money, getting the stuff that at least abides to a minimal standard of eco-friendliness is better than no standard at all. (I am aware of the issue with small producers not having the financial means to get their products certified as organic, and the possibility of certified organic stuff being a bluff – but for the sake of keeping one train of thought, I don’t want to go into that right here right now, either)
After I moved to Sweden, where everything is more expensive in comparison, and a lot of organic products I see in stores are actually imported from Germany, I started stocking up on organic cosmetic products (not that I use a lot, mainly shampoo, conditioner and some mascara) on every one of my visits to Germany. Friends and family knew, so whenever I get care packages, they’re filled with organic soap, tea, deodorant, all that good stuff. I had a box in our bathroom cabinet filled with alverde stuff to last for years.
You read right: had. Like I said, I already knew that organic products that only have the EU certificate that guarantees a minimal standard are not necessarily ideal. There are all these rules like if so and so many ingredients are organic, the product is organic – meaning, there can be crap in there but they can still call the product „organic“. Then Peter told me about one ingredient, sodium „something“ sulfate (the „something“ being interchangeable), which may cause cancer. Although the fact that this may be didn’t come as a surprise, having heard someone (whose judgement I trust) say it so straight out made it impossible for me to shower and not think about it. First I cracked jokes about my „cancer soap“ and my „cancer shampoo“ but then I stopped. Stopped joking AND and I am on my way of stopping applying poo, too. Even if I believe that the equation isn’t as simple as shampoo = cancer, why take a risk?
Another reason for why I have been wanting to make my own shampoo (and other related products) is: I like making things myself. So in a way this really doesn’t feel like it’s going to be a sacrifice but one more fun thing to do.
For those of you who speak Swedish, I cannot recommend åter, and Tanja Thuman’s No ‚poo article in the current issue (1/13) highly enough. Same goes for (her?) website, nopoo.se (also Swedish). Obviously there’s lots of stuff in English to be found if you just search for „no poo“.
Here are just three links that seem interesting and inspiring to me (note though that I haven’t actually tried any of this stuff yet – feel free to beat me to it and tell me about your results):
Teeth whitening and hair care – Yolanda Bertaud’s blog is full of health related recipes and diys – love it!
The Oil Cleansing Method – No poo skin care.
Skin Deep – A database with lists of ingredients for skin care products and their health risks.