The Half-Assed Human

Ah, 2012.  Seven years ago.  I owned a house.  I had a big yard and garden full of amazing edible things.  I had a three-year-old daughter.  I was in grad school.  I had, I think, no job?  I did things like bake bread and make jam!

Yeaaaaaah.

Hi, 2019!  What’s up?  Well, I’ll tell you!  We sold the house.  We moved, and then moved, and then moved AGAIN.  We are renting and I pray to god we never move again even if it means we never again own a house.  I graduated from school and became a teacher.  And…now I’m not a teacher anymore.  Because, hey!  We have a three-year-old again!  Obviously not the same one.  She’s eleven now.  ELEVEN.  What the hell.  Now she has a little brother.  It’s been…a journey.  Maybe I’ll get into it.  Maybe I won’t.  If I was the sort of person who planned, I would not be the Half-Assed Human.

About that.  Remember 2012?  “Homesteader”, even when meant in a kind of jokey wink-wink kind of way…it just wasn’t so…played-out?  We didn’t even have influencers then!  There was no Instagram!  Or, I don’t know, there might have been, but it was different.  But the point is, I could be like, “Hey, lol, I made some bread, I’m a funny homesteader”, but now things are weird.  So I just felt like I had to change the name.  Plus, I definitely do fewer cool homesteady things than I used to do, so that felt inaccurate, although part of the point of this is that I want to start doing more.  But, I’m definitely still half-assed! Like, in all aspects of my life.  But I still just want to write about things because I find it satisfying, even if nobody ever reads it, and even if the internet people hate me.  So.  Here I am.  And here’s today!

So.  We moved into this new house about a month and a half ago.  I’m still becoming acquainted with all its plants, and also adding things as well.  In the front yard there is a bed of ornamentals.  It has a lonely Paw-paw tree (more on that another day), some really gross pigsqueak, a half-dead sandwort, and a lot of bearberry.  In a fever of excitement I joined a bajillion plant-related Facebook groups, and the first thing I did was post pictures and an inquiry about what the hell is happening to this bearberry.  A genius responded, simply, “Bugs.”  But actually, a bit of research based on this simple response was so helpful!  My plant professional days were so long ago at this point that I’m just out of practice, and as soon as I googled and found the word “galls” I was like OH MY GOD THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THIS IS.  Aphids, the bastards.  So, I’ve got some pruning to do to get those nasties out of there.  I had sweet Hazel do some of it tonight but she was disgusted and moving very slow, which is actually reasonable.  They’re kind of freaky.  She was cutting the bearberry back while I was planting some strawberry plants that I got for free from Next Door.  We’ll see what happens.  I really don’t love this front bed, it’s just weird and super random and  completely overrun with crabgrass.  Like, it seems like a a crabgrass lawn.  So.  That’s what happened today in the outside.

I also got from the Buy Nothing group two huge beautiful “Zuzu plants”.  I did not expect them to be so huge and lovely!  They need new pots and I might even divide them, but they make our living room so much nicer.

 

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So Fresh and So Clean, Clean

One habit that really disturbs me, but I can’t seem to break, is store-bought household supplies.  Probably my biggest problem is the plastic packaging that tends to accompany them.  I know I could go to our awesome local grocery New Seasons and buy pretty much all these things in bulk, but frankly, the whole “Tare” thing intimidates me.  This is something I am trying to get around. But I also like the idea of the simplicity of ingredients in homemade supplies, and of course, it’s cheaper.  So I am going to endeavor to make my own for awhile. I won’t promise to do it forever, but I do want to see what is quick, easy, or cheap versus what is totally not worth it.

I am starting with homemade laundry soap, and so far I am really happy with it!  A quick Google came up with this link, and many others with the same basic recipe, so I went for it: http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/laundrysoap.htm

I already had Borax at home from my experiments with Flubber and from making ant traps, so all I had to get was the washing soda and the Fels Naptha.  They were both easy to find, and all in all I probably spent five bucks, plus buying a bucket that will be useful in other scenarios and a cheese grater.

I started by grating the Fels Naptha, which smelled really fresh and yummy. I bought a new cheese grater for this purpose because I thought it might be difficult to get the soapy taste out of our normal grater, and I’m glad I did – more on this to come.

Added the water ’til it melted, then added the borax and washing soda until they dissolved.  At this point my house started to smell really clean, which is not a bad thing.  Hot water, bucket, more water, and that was it!

I forgot to time it, but based on the fact that I was halfway through Radiolab I’m guessing the whole process took half an hour, and really was ridiculously easy.  I let it set overnight, and then checked on it.  Weirdly, all the websites I used for reference were very clear in stating that it would not be a solid gel, yet mine was.  I’ve done several loads of laundry in it so far though and they have all been clean and fresh smelling, so I am pleased!  I am kind of interested in adding some sort of essential oil to my next batch for fragrance, but I’m stuck trying to figure out what would be a nice gender-neutral, subtle smell.

My one caveat is that I used a stockpot for the soap boiling part, and although we tried mightily, we just can’t get the soapy smell out of it.  So, one of our stockpots has now been designated the “home ec” stockpot.  It’s not a bad sacrifice, though as it was kind of a redundant pot, having been overshadowed by our beautiful and more functional dutch oven.

Probably the best thing about this experience is that, for some reason, Hazel has developed a great sense of pride about the laundry soap.  She wasn’t home when I made it, but I let her stir it later, and ever since then she has been super interested in it.  Guests come over and she wants to show them.  Skype with the grandparents and she says “I wish I could show you our laundry soap.”  She heads back there to give it a stir at least five times a day.  I don’t totally get it, but I love it.

I’m going to attempt to steadily replace all our store-bought household supplies with homemade ones over the next month or so.  Unfortunately, I was going to move on to dish soap next, but I was unable to find a recipe that seemed worthwhile.  I guess I appreciate the increase in purity of the” recipes” that I found, but I just don’t really see how diluting Dr. Bronner’s constitutes a recipe, so until something more interesting catches my eye I will at least commit to asking the New Seasons staff how I go about refilling my plastic bottle with the bulk dish soap.  It’s a step forward.