Miss Mercy Keeps House

Part of our journey toward sustainability has involved being more aware of household cleaners and scents in general. Before the Mad Farmer and I got married, I used scent free laundry detergent, soap and lotion. I am not opposed to scents; I just wasn’t a fan of the super scented stuff. I did have a little guilty pleasure in candles, but eventually even that became too smelly. The Mad Farmer used scented laundry detergent and scented soap. Slowly, over the years, we have managed to minimize the amount of scented stuff we use. The commercially scented stuff is just over the top – and not pleasant to my nose.

However, dishes still need to be washed, laundry still needs to get done, and cleaning house still needs to happen. What to do? Scour the internet for homegrown methods for housekeeping, of course.

I started our personal care journey by making some soap, which went pretty well. However, I didn’t continue to make it. I also tried making our deodorant, that didn’t go as well. Every recipe I tried, the baking soda was too harsh for my skin – so that was a no go. We finally settled on using Apple Cider Vinegar, which works pretty well. I have found a recipe that uses vodka and white vinegar that I have yet to try – here is the link: https://wholelifestylenutrition.com/natural-solutions/all-natural-deodorant-recipe/ 

I was interested in using as few chemicals as possible for housekeeping, so I started my search once again on the internet for dish soap. Most of the recipes I found called for white vinegar and castile soap. The problem with this mixture is: white vinegar desaponifies the soap. That is not helpful. Finally, I found a recipe for dish soap on The Hippy Homemaker that I LOVE! I have been making it for the last 5 years. I use about 10 drops of lemon or thieves essential oil. Here is the link:  https://www.thehippyhomemaker.com/diy-dish-soap-that-actually-works-its-simple-no-melting-and-no-waiting/  What I love about this recipe is that I can make multiple batches of it at a time, and I just use a recycled soap bottle – that is 5 years of not buying plastic containers of liquid dish soap – how cool is that! I have tried a few recipes for dishwashing powder. Unfortunately, thus far I haven’t found one that works as well as I would like.

The same cleanser I use for the dish soap, Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, I also use to clean the bathrooms and do the laundry – who doesn’t love a good multi-tasker when it comes to cleaning! Here’s a great link to Lisa Bronner talking about Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds: https://www.lisabronner.com/sal-suds-or-castile-soap-which-one-should-you-use/  There is a pine scent to Sal Suds, and while it isn’t overpowering, it is noticeable. 

I hope you find some of these links helpful in your journey to more sustainable housekeeping and personal care. I look forward to sharing what we have tried and liked (or maybe was a miss), as we continue trying to simplify and live more intentionally.

2021 Greenhouse Build

Preliminary Greenhouse Sketch

It’s almost Spring at the homestead and we have been blessed with a few days with decent weather. Less than three weeks ago it was -12F as the high with a low of -16F (for those of you on the metric system that is very, very cold). This first week of March we had 3-4 days where it was Sunny with a high of 70F and lows in the 50’s before the weather started to turn back to typical Spring and start getting rainy and gloomy and colder.

So, while the weather was nice we started to layout the greenhouse that we are building. Our house is a brick airplane-style bungalow with a long side facing South, a great place for a greenhouse. The only downside is that the kitchen windows look outside onto the yard right where we want to put the greenhouse. Never Fear – the Mad Farmer has a plan for that!

Greenhouse site - facing North
Greenhouse will be built next to the deck facing South. The two Kitchen windows are on the right.

Several years back the Mad Farmer and Miss Mercy were at the Mother Earth News Fair and met Marc Plinke, the author of the “The Year-Round Solar Greenhouse”. Mr. Plinke was a physicist before designing greenhouses and is a fascinating fellow and a wealth of information. We discussed the Farmer’s proposed plans and it was pointed out that the greenhouse should not be built directly against the brick because that would trap moisture and the brick would degrade and crumble. Great information to have! So the plans changed to build the greenhouse out a couple of feet from the wall to prevent moisture problems. That also allows for a neat space to store ladders, so win-win.

Originally the plan was to build the greenhouse to 10’x17′ to take full advantage of the area from the deck to the first kick-out wall where the dining room is built, as Jack Spirko says “no one ever said I wish I had built my greenhouse smaller”. Little did we know that in the last several months that lumber prices in Kansas have almost tripled! So, rather than fight odd sizing we scaled it back slightly to 8’x16′ to take advantage of dimensional lumber. We use recycled materials whenever possible but sometimes you have to bite-the-bullet and buy some things to finish a project.

We have been collecting windows from various sources over the last couple of years after we decided to put in a greenhouse. We picked up some excellent windows from a house that the Farmer’s brother (The Renaissance Dude) is flipping, extra windows from a co-worker and a random blessing when someone in the neighborhood was removing a screened-in porch. Sadly we haven’t been able to find anyone getting rid of polycarbonate roofing…

Greenhouse site - facing West
There will be an entrance off the deck with steps down to the Greenhouse floor, some of the windows are against the house

As with most of the projects the Farmer sketched out a rough draft with dimensions. Excuse the lack of artistic ability.

Then, because we have a large deck (Mad Farmer and Miss Mercy love decks), we decided to use screws and string to define what the back and side walls of the greenhouse would look like so we we could layout the windows and see how they might fit together in the finished walls.

East Door Layout
Windows from a flip and a storm window that will be turned into a door on the East side of the Greenhouse

To our great relief we had plenty of windows and most of them will be useful. Miss Mercy oversaw the arrangements, added feedback and helped clarify where the doors will go and various and other sundry things we think about.

The farmer took a break to attend a Pantry Management webinar put on by Nicole Sauce at the Living Free in Tennessee podcast (great content, well worth the time). Through it all our fierce guard dog Sasha kept watch for nefarious critters that might interrupt the process.

Helper Sasha
Our dog Sasha preventing the build site from being overwhelmed by squirrels

By the end of the afternoon we had decided what windows go where, adjusted the dimensions, discussed materials and type of floor (probably going to end up gravel), discussed if we were going to install a Rocket Mass Heater (probably at some point – stay tuned for that) and then labeled all the windows and sketches to show where they were going, and took the screws and string off the deck (oops, missed one, found that out the hard way)!

All-in-all a pretty productive afternoon and a great way to spend a nice day after months of cold and gloom.