Saturday, April 28, 2012

How to make your own laundry soap on the cheap!

Last year I decided to challenge myself to see just how much money I could save if I made those expensive cleaning products on my own. At first I envisioned myself over an outdoor cooking pot with a long wooden stick or paddle making soap and from that, cleaning products. After a lot of research I found recipes, concoctions and formulas that were made from inexpensive products easily found at your local grocer. I adapted those to my own formulations which we are sharing with you today.

I started with about $10.00 worth of ingredients and was on my way to my first batch of laundry soap, window cleaner, general purpose cleaner and dish washer detergent that would last me, on average, about 6 months.

I couldn't tell you the exact amount we saved but I do know we spent under $25.00 the entire year on cleaning products. Now I purchase store bought laundry detergent only if I can get it on sale with a coupon and each load is under $.08c a load. Then, when the bottle is really low I pour the remaining laundry detergent in my homemade laundry detergent bottle that had about a quart left in it and add a cap or two of water.  Over time I will have a full gallon again that will not go bad and I can use in a pinch.

This is how we made those products.

Laundry Detergent:
$.03c a load

1/2 bar Zote Soap, Fels Naptha or Large Ivory Soap bar
1 c. 20 Mule Team Borax
1 c. Washing soda

Zote soap and Fels Naptha are bar soaps for laundry and are found in most local grocery stores on the laundry soap aisle. If you don't know to look for them you won't see them as they are generally kept on the top shelf and are not heavily stocked.

20 Mule Team Borax is a product that has been around for generations. Washing soda is different than baking soda and also can be found on the laundry aisle.

Cut the Zote/Fels Naptha/Ivory bar in half. Store the remaining haf in a zip lock. Grate the soap on a box grater or just cube it up in 1/2 inch cubes.

In a large stock pot combine soap with 2 qts of water. Turn burner on medium to low to melt the soap. This might take a while, up to half an hour. Do not let the water boil. Nothing will blow up, but it will bubble over and you will have a huge mess. Stir occasionally.

When the soap has melted (or almost all has, you may not get it all to melt) add in the  borax and washing soda, pouring in a little at a time and stirring until it is well mixed.

Turn off the heat and let this sit until it cools down to warm not hot. Slowly pour into a 1 gallon jug and fill with water. Remember you started with 2 qts of water which should have filled the jug up to half.

If you want a scented version, add 5-10 drops of an essential oil to the gallon jug and shake.

Use a regular liquid detergent cap full when you do laundry.


Shake well each time before you use it. At first the water and the soap mixture will separate. Over time it will mix together.

The first few times you use this your water will be dark and nasty. Don't worry, this homemade mixture is getting out dirt and grime other detergents never got. You'll be very surprised.

Dishwasher  Detergent:

1 c. 20 Mule Team Borax
1 c. Washing Soda

Mix together in a clean jar. Use 2 tlb per load. 

All Purpose cleaner

1/2 c. vinegar
4 c. water
1 tsp Homemade Laundry Soap

Pour into a spray bottle. If you want scented use a few drops of essential oil. You can also use 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice to add an additional cleaning agent and to add a lemon scent. Or, add orange peels and let it sit for about a week.

Window Cleaner/Stainless Cleaner

1/2 c. vinegar
3-4 c. water.

Mix together. This is absolutely the best cleaner for just about anything in your kitchen. Your stainless will shine to a mirror finish.

A couple of handy tips:

If you have laundry that smells like mildew or if you have a load of work clothes that smell oily and sweaty but cannot seem to get that smell out, instead of using a fabric softener in your laundry, use 1/2 cup of vinegar. Your clothes will not smell like vinegar when you dry them nor will you have those yucky smells.

It's a great way to freshen up all sorts of things in the laundry.

Also, take those leftover slivers of bar soap and add them to a gallon jug with 3-4 cups of water. Shake occasionally. As it gets thick, add 3-4 more cups of water and continue to add left over slivers of bar soap. If you have an almost empty jar of liquid hand soap you can rinse the container and pour that in too. Over time you'll have liquid hand soap. This will not go bad over time and may be quite useful one day.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

You know the dewberries are ripe on the farm when......

The first week or two in March is an annual event in South Texas. The dewberries start blooming which signals spring approaching. It also is the time the fish start running to shallower water to spawn and you can catch some mighty big fish.

It takes about 6-7 weeks for the berries to grow and ripen. Once ripe it's an event to pick them. Many people in the community take as many family members to their favorite place to pick these incredible berries.  Some folks sell them up to $30 per gallon ziplock bag. With all the rain we have had early winter and through the growing season, the dewberries should be big and plentiful.

However you have to take some precautions. The vines themselves are very prickly with tiny thorns that bury themselves in your fingers and break off or scratch your arms when you picking the big berries inside the brambles. Sometimes you run across a rattlesnake and because the chance is good you'll spot one, many folks take something to dispatch the snake when they see it. You also have to get to the berries before the birds find them and pick them clean.

In our case, you have to get to them before the roosters do.

This afternoon John came in and announced that the dewberries are ripe on the Rural Living farm. He didn't go look at the many vines we have. He just looked down on the cement walkway. It's quite obvious that the roosters have been in the dewberries as there are purple spots all over the place where they have been walking and left a "trail". It is the signal at the Rural Living farm that the berries are ripe.

So the dewberries are ripe at the Rural Living farm and while I love them I would rather buy them from someone who took the time to pick them than to deal with the rattlesnakes and thorns. I'll leave our crop to the roosters.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A realistic view of Hobby Farm life

I am hooked on Pinterest. My favorite topic is, of course, the gardening pins. I love browsing the pins and getting ideas for the farm.

Practical ideas.

Oh, I am a fan of the pretty ideas too, but realistically, it won’t happen here. It can’t. We are on a hobby farm, with domestic and not so domestic critters, snakes, bugs, wind, dirt, grasses and weeds either tall or just mowed. And rain. Sometimes lots of rain.

As an example, I have run across many pins of serene, relaxing places created in the garden. Most have pretty cushions and pillows or are gazebo type structures with flowing sheers as quasi curtains blowing in a gentle breeze.  However, if we had one at the Rural Living Farm, can you imagine what it would look like after the feral cats found it one night? The flowing sheers would be dangling shreds as they used them to climb to the top of the structure. Or after the chickens decided to hut for bugs between the pretty cushions? I can just see WJ perched on the back of an outdoor lounger purging his dinner from his backside onto the cushion.  These serene places are imaginary for us. Our farm is real life. Pull up a plastic chair you can power-wash from time to time. It will need it and once you are done, power wash the patio again. The chickens have obviously been here. 

Yes, farm life has it's advantages but it's not always clean and pretty. In fact it isn't clean most of the time. Especially after it rains. For women who insist on a clean kitchen floor, forget it on a hobby farm. Yes, we sweep. And sweep. And sweep and mop some more and as soon as you are done someone comes through the back door after gathering eggs from the coop in the rain or from a long day in the pasture trying to squeeze out every possible second of daylight to get just a little more done. Your house will never look like Home and Garden. It will look more like grit and grime. Wonder if that would make a good pin?

The Pinterest pins I like the most are those recycled pallet projects or alternative growing methods, seed varieties and indestructible projects. Those are real ideas for a Hobby Farm. I saw some pretty wind chimes one day made from tiny clay pots, painted in a rainbow pallet of colors and thought those would be great until I realized they would attract the farm cats as a play toy when they take a break from their "rat killin'". I reconsidered recreating that pin. I also found a lighting project using mason jars and solar lighting and that would be a great idea so long as we secured them.

Oh I am not complaining, no not one bit. I wouldn't have it any other way. My trade off is coffee on the patio in the morning, watching the wildlife, butterflies, dragonflies, birds of all shapes and colors and the humming birds as they fight over newly filled feeders. I love the fresh air, the peace and quiet. I love not having neighbors closer than 1/2 a mile away. And I love taking our Papillion Chuckie out in the evening and hearing a hoot owl then looking up at the millions of stars in the sky.

Being on a hobby farm means I can grow fresher vegetables than I can get at the local grocer and I know how they were produced. It means living with the wonderful things that the good Lord created even if that means I walk around in grey/green rubber boots. It means a slower lifestyle than many and a fuller life than most and a place we call ours with sometime to browse pins on Pinterest. Grit, grime and all.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Where's Silky? Our guess is as good as yours....

The Rural Living farm mascot is missing....again!

A few weeks ago we blogged that he had been missing but we found him. See our post A heartwarming rescue!
Now, Silky is missing again and has been for several days but we think he may still be alive and somewhere near.

We had noticed a while back that he kept to himself in the back of the acreage, the part that borders Gene's corn field. It was where, over time, the corn cob hulls were dumped after harvest. You can see decomposing corn cob hulls all along the property line when we shred, an obvious plethora of good food for a little rooster.

The humorous part was that he was always alone, quietly keeping his secret from the others. We also noticed he was the last to leave the roost and the last to return. Perhaps it was his strategy to keep the amazing find secret. I walked out one morning to go to my 9-5 job and found him still near the roost.

It is a fair walk for a rooster to get to this honey hole.

Then we noticed he wasn't returning to his roost each night and as of posting this, we still have not seen him. Somewhat concerned we knew he was being quite covert with this spot we have theories where he is or what happened to him.

1. We think he may have stopped coming to the roost and has created his own roost in one of the barns or trees, closer to his glorious find. We also have old boats that no longer run that are parked in an area in the pasture. He may be there although I am not going to look for him for fear of running into a good sized snake, big male raccoon or other things that wander in the night.

2. He could have wandered into the cornfield in search of bugs and got lost. This is quite possible. The stand on the corn is now 4' and the rows are very long. For a tiny chicken, he'd get lost in a big hurry. Again, I am not going to search for him for fear of running into a big snake, or other critters that frequent corn fields as they are growing.

3. A hawk could have snatched him. This is also quite possible. This time of the year you see a lot of them cruising over the corn fields and our back pasture looking for quick meals.

5. A coyote could have eaten him. We have heard them on the move quite a lot lately.

6. A snake bit him. While we haven't seen any that are venomous this year we know they are out there. Several of our friends have killed them and a little girl was bitten twice by a rattler. She's fine - now.

So, we may never see our fuzzy feathered friend again. I'll miss him. I know he was a wise one. Friendly. But on the farm things happen beyond our control and we cannot fret and must just let it be. That is a lesson you learn  quickly if you're going to stay. But -then again - we may be blogging someday that he returned or that we found him.