My mum gave me a lovely book about making your own household cleaners using natural ingredients. I love it - it sits neatly on my bench next to my collection of pristine unused cookbooks. I even give it a little spray with my Mr Muscle every now and then to get the pasta sauce splatters off the pretty cover.
Yep, that's right. I use Mr Muscle. And Viakal. And Domestos. And some kind of blue liquid that cleans glass. And a black one that's something to do with car interiors I think. Not a hint of Ecover to be found. I haven't bought it since my husband decided to get involved with grocery shopping. Now we have to buy 10 of whatever's on special offer.
I feel guilty about it sometimes - like I'm simultaneously destroying the environment and covering my children with chemicals with every spray and wipe....but obviously not guilty enough to read the book or change my behaviour.
Then I found this....
An idiot's guide to making your own cleaning products on the back of an empty spray bottle. It even has named coloured cloths inside for forgetful people. The recipes (I know that's the wrong word) are so simple I am actually using them.
So, for those unfortunate souls with plain old spray bottles, here they are...
2 tablespoons of baking soda and 16oz warm water (16oz is about 450mls)
1 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar and 16oz warm water
10-20 drops of tea tree oil and 16oz warm water
16 oz warm water
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap
1/2 teaspoon borax
Squeeze of lemon
Splash of vinegar
Spray floor and mop as usual.....actually sod it, that's ones too hard,
5 drops of scented oil and 8oz water to freshen linens etc.
That's it! All done.
PS. Sorry it has been a long time since my last post
I don’t think I wash my children enough. My daughter has had a faint tomato stain on her chin for quite some time and there’s a definite musty odour wafting from my son’s head.
I’d like to blame it on being green and saving water but, to be honest, by 6pm I just can’t be bothered. They don’t like it, I don’t like it, and so they stay dirty.
Don’t get me wrong – we’re not animals. I at least give them a quick wipe over with a wash cloth and wet their hair a bit to create the illusion of clean. Unless of course they’ve been swimming, in which case I don’t bother. After all, a pool is just like a giant bath, isn’t it?
The evenings I do bath them, I’m not sure it’s much better. I don’t so much clean them as sit on the loo seat painting my toenails, watching them sit in water. My role is purely as a lifeguard.
I realised how pathetic my child-washing technique was last year when I broke my shoulder and a friend of mine had to bath them for me. The poor smelly things didn’t know what hit them. They were lathered and scrubbed to within an inch of their little lives. She even washed between every individual toe and then got some fresh water to rinse them off afterwards - no used soapy bath water here.
Judge me if you like, but it turns out my woeful parenting is accidentally saving the planet. We use around 150 litres of water a day each and a bath uses about 80 litres. So by not bathing my children every day I’m practically an eco-warrior.
But if you’d rather not save water in such a disgusting way, there are more hygenic options – here I’ve listed the ones that require the least amount of effort.
2. Have more short showers, less baths (a 5 minute showers uses around 40 litres – half that of a bath. Unless you have a power shower which is bad. If you do have a power shower think about changing to an aerated showerhead instead. )
3. Turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth.
4. Make sure your dishwasher is full, use the eco setting and don’t bother pre-rinsing plates – just scrape them.
5. Put a jug of cold drinking water in your fridge, so you don’t waste water waiting for the tap to run cold every time you want a drink.
6. Put a washing up bowl or plug into your sink to catch excess and use it to wash your veg in or water plants.
7. Only fill your kettle with what you need.
8. Use a lid on your saucepans – it’ll reduce the amount of water lost so you don’t have to put as much in, and also speed up cooking times.
9. Use the most water efficient setting on your washing machine and make sure it’s full.
10. Fix dripping taps. Even I can do it, so it can’t be that hard.
These are all things most of us know already, but we just get into bad habits. So just try to adopt a few new ones and let the green-ness seep in without you realising.
Why do we need to save water? Water is in an endless supply, but good quality water isn’t. Also, the energy used to pump the water around the place and to heat it in our homes is huge, and produces lots of greenhouse gas emissions.
If you would like to be ever so slightly more ethical this Christmas, have a look at the Winter issue of Baby London, Baby Surrey and Baby Hampshire magazines for my top ten green gift ideas for little ones. You can download the PDF below. (for my family...there will be no vicarious goats this year, I promise)
"Honey, can you come outside? There's a snake with legs in the pool."
Possibly one of the stupidest things I had ever heard my husband say.
Until I went outside and saw this slimy thing:
The conversation afterwards went a bit like this…
"What the hell is that?"
"Maybe it's a lizard?”
"But it has two freaky little legs."
"Or a baby snake? Do baby snakes have legs?
"Maybe they do...before they hatch?”
"Do snakes lay eggs or give birth?”
“I don't know. Google 'snakes with two legs.'”
I know. We are the dumbest people on Earth. But it gave us our answer. Firstly, no baby snakes do not have legs. And secondly, this delightful creature is a worm skink. A harmless little thing that normally lives underground, and is listed as a threatened species. How it found its way into our pool I don’t know, but I am obviously never swimming in it again regardless.
In the UK, I was fairly altruistic when it came to wildlife, but the worst we had were harmless bugs, snails and the odd moth. I didn't like them touching me or eating my clothes, but I knew their little lives were important for the ecosystem and always tried not to harm them or use any chemical sprays.
Being in Australia is more of a challenge. In the month that I’ve been here, our house has been graced with 2 cane toads, 1 huge goanna, big fat marsh flies, wasps (which stung me twice), several massive spiders, a few angry looking little spiders, and an unidentified green and yellow flying thing. We also had a dead snake on the driveway and, of course, the drowning worm skink.
On top of all that, I’m concerned the things I left in the UK will be infested when we return. I left my clothes in storage and I’m worried creepy crawlies have found their way into Big Yellow and are eating my Reiss coat.
This paranoia, coupled with the fact our children are - quite literally - scared of flies, means our Australian excursion has presented a problem. So I’ve been researching ways to repel things, rather kill them, while at the same time avoiding covering our house, the environment or our children with chemicals. Repellants are harder to come by, so some of these suggestions kill things instead. Which I know is neither kind nor green...I might need to change the name of the blog. Anyway, here are the best ones I found:
Basil spray (for ants, spiders, earwigs, flies, beetles and caterpillars)
Pour 1 litre of boiling water over 2 firmly packed cupfuls of chopped basil leaves. Allow to stand until liquid is cool. Strain and use within 2 days.
Citronella (for ants and ticks)
Combine one part citronella oil with 10 parts water. Pour the mixture into small containers/jars and hang them in the affected trees. Empty mixture and replace once a week.
Garlic (for snails, spiders, caterpillars, beetles, termites and ticks) Spray which only keeps for a few days: Roughly chop 10 cloves of garlic with 1 litre of water. Leave to infuse overnight, then strain.
Spray which keeps for several months: Roughly chop 200g garlic. Add 7 tablespoons of mineral oil. Cover and leave for approximately 24 hours. Dissolve 20g of pure soap in 1 litre of water, add this to the garlic mixture; mix well. Filter finely. Store in a cool dark place (cooler the better). Use diluted at one part concentrate to 10 parts water.
Marigolds (for ants, cockroaches, bugs, fleas, beetles and flies)
Pour 1 litre of boiling water over 2 firmly packed cupfuls of flowers and leaves. Allow to stand for half an hour. Strain and use within 2 days. Spray is potent.
Mint oil (for ants, bugs, cockroaches and fleas)
Place several handfuls of mint leaves (preferably - pennyroyal or peppermint) into a glass jar and cover with oil (safflower or sunflower oil). Place in a sunny position for 3-6 weeks, shaking ever few days. Strain and use within a few days.
My daughter is learning about growth and development at school. Which I discovered when I overheard this conversation between her and my mother-in-law ...
"What did you learn at school today?" "That it goes: baby, toddler, child, teenager, grown up, Grandma, dead. So you'll die next, Grandma." Silence. "Don't worry. You'll just go to Devon - that's where dead people live.....but Ben lives in Devon and he's not dead, so how does that work?" "I think you mean Heaven." "No, it's Devon. But I'm not going to Devon - I'm going to be an elephant. And mummy doesn't believe in cheeses so she's going to turn into dirt." More silence. "So, when are you going to die, Grandma? I think it'll be soon because you're quite old, aren't you?"
She's a delight. And she was on a roll. Later that week, she stomped out of school complaining that one of her friends kept telling on her. Apparently she had been repeatedly telling her small 5 year old friend that she was going to die (not in a threatening way, more creepy and serious). She was baffled as to why her friend took issue with it, but smug that she didn't get into trouble. "I told the teacher that it's not mean because it's true. She is going to die. And so is the teacher. But I said they could be elephants too if they liked. Because that's kind, isn't it? Yes it is. Don't you think so, mum?" Um. Is it kind to tell someone they can be an elephant after they've been terrified into thinking they're about to die?
Anyway, I've decided to harness the horrifying macabreness of my offspring and give it a less socially disturbing outlet. I am proud to say I have resurrected our (ie. the people we bought the house from's) old compost bin and tried to transfer her interested to decaying vegetables instead.
It's not going well. But I'm still hoping it will satisfy her disturbing obsession with death.
The three main obstacles to composting in our house so far have been:
1. Spiders under the lid of the compost bin. Every. Damn. Day.
2. Having to walk outside and touch gross stuff. Hassle.
3. Knowing what to put in the bin, how long to leave it for and how to get it out (so basically everything to do with composting)
4. My 3 year old son eating the decaying scraps while I'm trying to put them in the bin.
So, for those of you as dumb as me, I have created a basic how-to-compost-when-you're-lazy-and/or-clueless guide (although if your local council has a food
waste collection service, you might not want to bother.)
Composting for dumb people
1. Buy a compost bin for outside plus a mini bin for inside. Ideally put your outside bin in a sunny spot on bare earth.
2. Fill your bin with this stuff - a mix of 'greens' (tea bags, fruit and vege peelings, salad scraps, grass cuttings, coffee filters etc) and 'browns' (cardboard, egg cartons, paper, fallen leaves, twigs, bark). Too much of one or the other is bad, so mix it up well to get a good blend of both greens and browns.
3. Don't put this stuff in - meat, cooked veg, dairy, diseased plants, weeds with seed heads, nappies, dog poo or cat litter.
3. Wait for ages (about 9-12 months) and keep topping it up.
4. Look at it - once it looks like crumbly, dark soil and smells earthy, it’s ready to use. So lift the bin a little bit or open the hatch at the bottom and scoop out the fresh compost.
5. Stick it on your garden
That's it! Hopefully you now know vaguely more about composting, or how to terrify an old lady, than you did 5 minutes ago.
If you would like more detailed info, visit www.recyclenow.com.