Archive for the ‘Household’ Category

Baking Soda and Vinegar Hair Wash

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

It’s time to wash my hair again. That’s not exactly breaking news (!), but I thought it might be a good moment to write a post about how we wash our hair here on the Farmlet.

Since about April this year, I’ve been washing my hair with baking soda and vinegar.

How do you do this?

Just put a couple of tablespoons of baking soda in a dish, and mix with enough water to form a soft paste. Once your hair is wet through, apply the baking soda paste to your scalp (only the scalp, not the rest of the hair). Take some time to massage the baking soda into your scalp with your fingertips. Leave for a few minutes, massage a little more, then rinse thoroughly.

After washing out the baking soda, I rinse my hair with a solution of water and apple cider vinegar (about 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 3/4 cup of water). I don’t apply this solution to the scalp, only to the hair shaft — especially the ends. You can rinse out the vinegar if you want, but I like to leave most of it to condition the hair. Of course, I smell like a pickle for a while, but the odour disappears once the hair dries.

NB: Baking soda is a strong hair wash. It will probably dry out your hair if you are using it too frequently (I think this is also true of most commercial shampoos). The formula works best if you wait until your hair actually needs a wash — this might be about once a week, depending on your hair and your lifestyle.

This simple baking soda and vinegar formula seems to work fine for me (My hair is normal to slightly oily, with a tendency to get a bit dry at the ends.) Reputedly, baking soda doesn’t work too well on dry hair. People with dry hair might try using honey, which is a natural emollient, to moisturise the scalp. I’ve heard that this works, but have never tried it.

I wish Kevin and I had known before this year that we could wash our hair like this. It’s a simple, inexpensive trick that really works. Admittedly, Kevin and I are not very fussy about the state of our hair. We never bothered with designer haircuts, blow drying etc., even when we were not living out in the wopwops. Still, I think our hair is in better condition than it was when we were using commercial shampoo. And then there are all the dodgy chemicals and additives that we are not pouring onto ourselves and into the environment.

Building a Clothesline and Other Subversive Behaviour

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

What’s one of the simple joys of life on the Farmlet? Kevin and I relish the freedom to line-dry our laundry in the fresh air. For much of my life, I might have taken an outdoor clothesline for granted. That was before I went to live in Irvine, Southern California.

Can you ever be too far away from Irvine?

Back in Irvine, the student housing complex where I lived forbade subversive practices like air-drying laundry. (Such rules are commonplace around Irvine, and not just in student housing.) One was supposed to use the expensive coin-operated tumble dryers they’d supplied, of course. Coming to New Zealand from Southern California, we really think it’s nice to be able to dry our laundry

a)without wasting energy,

b)without being threatened with sanctions by angry bureaucrats, and

c)without fearing we’ll be branded as enemy combatants.

Recently, we have had to build a new clothesline. Our old clothesline died a sad death when we cut down the gum trees that were threatening to fall on our roof every time the wind blew. With no clothesline, we resorted to hanging our laundry to dry on the fences. This was fine for small items, but didn’t work so well for big items like sheets. I was afraid we might end up with no clean sheets and a very stinky bed if we didn’t make a new clothesline soon.

We are pleased with the new clothesline. It’s made with scavenged timber and rope, but we had to buy a bit more rope, as well as the concrete for the post holes. In the end, it was very inexpensive to make — especially compared with a tumble dryer. And then there’s the matter of the electricity it doesn’t use. . .

Kevin and I do not have a washing machine or tumble dryer here on the Farmlet. Our laundry setup is very basic:

  • One large plastic tub
  • One plunger
  • One garden hose
  • Water
  • One bottle of plant-based non-toxic laundry soap
  • One clothesline
  • One basket of clothes pegs

Wash cycle

Closeup of our washing “machine”

Originally, we were using a toilet plunger (it hadn’t been used in a toilet) to plunge our laundry. Lo and behold, when we were helping my parents to move, we unearthed a fine copper laundry plunger! Mum says she thinks it may have belonged to my great grandmother. My parents have very generously allowed us to bring the laundry plunger to the Farmlet for safekeeping — and for much enthusiastic use! Believe me, it’s much easier to use and does a better job than the toilet plunger. We now feel that we have a deluxe laundry system.

There is one more aspect of the laundry system that still needs to be put in place: Back in February, I bought an antique hand wringer. We have it here in the garage, but need to find a suitably sturdy bench or stand to mount it on.


Friday, September 29th, 2006

In our quest to become more self reliant, we are always on the lookout for ways to make things for ourselves rather than buying them ready-made. Often the results are healthier for us and kinder to the planet — as well as costing less.

Recently, I decided we should start making our own toothpaste. I have seen various recipies for toothpastes and tooth powders in books and on the Internet. This one, which I found on Path to Freedom, appeals to us because it consists of just a few easily obtained ingredients.


6 teaspoons baking soda

1/3 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons vegetable glycerin

15 drops natural peppermint essence (optional)
Combine all ingredients, mix well, and store in an airtight container.

Note: Kevin and I like a thicker toothpaste, and don’t mind if it’s not very sweet tasting, so we halve the quantity of glycerin in each batch. Also, we like to make at least a double mixture, since the quantity this recipe makes is pretty small.

We get a lot of satisfaction from this toothpaste. It contains no saccharin, no artificial flavourings or colourings, no flouride, no sodium laurel sulphate, no sodium laureth sulphate. . . to name just a few of the less desirable ingredients that can lurk in commercial toothpastes. It’s easy to make, and our teeth feel shiny and clean after using it.

But what say we ran out of vegetable glycerin, or even baking soda? Or what if we wanted to buy even fewer ingredients? Then what? Well, we could always clean our teeth with salt and sage leaves. We bought a tiny sage plant at the market last Saturday, so perhaps we’ll be able to try this before too long.