18 February 2009

Doily jug cover and answers to comments

I must have done something good in the past to deserve the wonderful group of readers I have here. I was overwhelmed by the response to yesterday's post and the jump in visitor numbers. Thank you. Those of you who read here regularly know that Mondays and Tuesdays are the days I do my voluntary work and on those days I'm always busy, rarely able to comment during the day. Usually, all I can manage is to read the comments and okay them for publication. I sometimes have good intentions and resolve to answer when I come home, but when I get here and there are emails waiting and a husband to talk to, I walk away from the computer so I can relax and recover from what are always mentally and physically challenging days.

But now I've had a good night's sleep and I'm ready to face the world again. Today's post will be a bit of a patchwork affair. I want to show you a very quick milk jug cover made last week and I hope to answer the questions asked in the comments this week. Before I go on though, Sharon will be posting on Friday, after the deadline closes on the swap on Thursday. She will then give you all the details you need about the swap and let you know when the list of partners will be ready.

I made this little cover to show you how to make a jug cover using something you might already have at home. I used a small old doily, stitched this little posy of roses on it and tied on some weights in the form of pearlised dangling buttons. You could also use shells from the beach that you drill a hole in, or just your average buttons. I think buttons of different sizes would be fine. The stitches used here are backstitch and French knots; the entire thing was finished in an hour. It's just right for a weekend craft or a weekday one for those of you who are working outside the home or have littlies and need a small project that you can pick and and put down.

Now, to answer some queries. Sarena, I grew the pineapple by cutting the top off a bought pineapple. I let the top dry out a little and then just planted it in the vegetable garden. Hanno fed and watered it, and, I have to tell you, complained about it for two years. He didn't like it in the middle of the vegie patch where he wanted to plant other things. But for those two years, he cared for it. In Spring of the first year it sent up a spike that turned into a fat pineapple. It took a long time to ripen and when I picked it, after it had fallen over due to its weight, it sat on the kitchen bench for about a month. It slowly turned that lovely golden yellow that screams ripeness, but I kept testing it by trying to pull a leaf from the top. That is the true test of a ripe pineapple. When I could pull a leaf out, I cut it open. And yes, it was worth the wait.

CM, I'll ask Hanno to help me with a raised bed post. Just last week he took photos when he cleaned out one of the water tanks and he'll help with that post soon too.

Carmell, don't aim for perfection, love. Nothing needs to be perfect, just good enough for you to enjoy your home. And get the kids to help you, it is their home too and they should at least keep their rooms clean and tidy, depending on their ages, of course. When my boys were very young (4 and 5), I taught them to get their own breakfast - just cereal and milk, not toast or anything cooked. They enjoyed that independence and it lead to other things. I think children benefit from having to help in the home. It teaches them how to look after themselves and it allows them to contribute to the home, and that gives them self respect. I hope you find some enjoyment in your homemaking. I send you warm hugs.

It's good to see you back, Gail. I was wondering where you were.

Attilathehen, I too like seeing others living as we are. It's comforting to know there are many others out there who are doing it or working towards it.

jenniepowell, I'm sorry to hear of your illness and hope today is a bright one for you. I don't claim to understand depression but I have a couple of people very close to me who suffer from it and I see others at my work. I send my best wishes to you and hope you find true and lasting happiness in your home life. Don't ever expect, or aim for, perfection. All you need is to do what needs doing on that particular day and if you can't manage that, there is always tomorrow. Look after yourself, love.

Joanne, thank you for your thoughts and for reaching out. Yours are wise words and I appreciate you sharing them here.

Hello Colleen, yes, I get the picture. I had days and weeks like that when my sons were little. As I said before, don't aim to be perfect, just do what you can do and be satisfied with that. Everyday strive to do a little more, if you can't, then you can't, but try again the next day. Big hugs to you. I hope you like your hot chocolate today.

Alecat, thank you for the award. I appreciate you thinking of me. However, I have to tell you that I stopped accepting awards a few months ago because I never have the time to pass them on. Thank you anyway. I left a comment on your blog.

Sarah, yes that's fine. :- )

And to all of you who needed the encouragement of this post, to those who stopped and reflected on how they do their work, and to those who are struggling with illness, I send my best wishes to you and hope today is a good one.

Rachel, I've never tried soap nuts but I've heard of them. I'd be interested in knowing how you go with them. Good luck growing them too.

Hi Donetta, it's good to hear the sourdough is a great success. I'll start another one as soon as I can.

Blossom, leave the borax out if you use your grey water. It can build up in the soil. Make sure you use the washing soda with the soap, you might even like to increase the amount. I'm sure it will be fine.

Ajoyfilledlife, you can use water from the washing machine on your garden but don't add borax to your washing powder or liquid. However, you can't store grey water because the bacteria, which quickly die in the garden, will multiply in a rain barrel. Many people in Australia, run a hose from the laundry straight onto the garden, and move the hose to different areas in the garden when they do the laundry. So if you drain the grey water into a barrel, make sure you use it that day or the next. And good luck with your gardens.

Jan Hatchett, adding caustic soda to your laundry mix is not a good idea. It will clean, but it will also harm your clothes, sheets and towels. It's too strong. The caustic soda in soap is neutralised in the process of soap making, and that removes the ability of caustic soda to burn - both clothes and skin. You may not notice it straight away but the fibres in your fabrics will be weakened by it. Use washing soda, not caustic soda. Vinegar is not necessary as a rinse aide. I rarely use vinegar in my washing machine and my clothes are fine. If you do use vinegar, usually the smell goes when the clothes/sheets/towels dry. If you're concerned about soap buildup in your washing machine - and usually the addition of washing soda and borax stop that build up - run an empty short cycle with a cup full of vinegar. That will clean everything out.

Hi Angela, Hanno used to be a diesel mechanic so I know about greasy work clothes. There is a heavy duty laundry powder recipe in the green cleaners link that should work for you. Make up two batches of powder - one for your normal washes, and one for your husband's work clothes. The ingredient in the heavy duty mix that makes the difference is it uses as stain removing soap and if you can let the load soak for an hour or two, all the better. Our stain removing soap here is called Napisan but I'm sure there is a similar overseas if that's where you are. Another way to deal with this is to make up the normal washing powder and add a cup of powdered oxygen bleach. That is also called Napisan here but I use the Aldi verson of it because it's much cheaper.
Here is that recipe:

For use on worker’s greasy or dirty overalls, football and sports uniforms or fabric that has food spills.
  • 2 cups grated Napisan soap (or one cup of powdered oxygen bleach like Napisan or Clorox)
  • 2 cups grated soap or soap flakes
  • 2 cups borax
  • 2 cups washing soda
Mix all the ingredients thoroughly and store in a plastic container with a lid. Use two tablespoons per wash. The powder will not make suds.

For a very heavily stained load of washing or tradesperson’s clothes, if you have a top loader turn the machine off when the powder is completely dissolved. In a front loader, operate the machine to dissolve the powder and then stop the machine for an hour to soak the clothes. Leave to soak for an hour, or overnight, and then turn the machine on and continue washing as normal.

If there are any readers who have a good and reliable source where you buy washing soda and borax, would you please share that information with us. There are quite a few readers, particularly in the US and UK who have trouble finding those products.

Leann, the ingredients for soap making do need to be accurately weighed. I use an old postal scale and it does a very good job but any scale that is accurate would do.

Linda, washing soda is sodium carbonate. Does anyone know where Linda can buy washing soda in South Africa?

Hi Kim, it's good to see you tried the soap and it's working well for you.

Elaine, the homemade soap is more expensive than commercial "supermarket" soap, but less expensive than the natural soaps you buy online or in little stores.

I was interested to read your comment, Billie. I sometimes use emu oil or olive oil as moisturiser on my skin, both work well. I'll be experimenting with some lotions soon so I hope you keep in touch and let me know how yours work out.

Hi Ellen, yes, I really like rice bran oil. Adding it to soap makes a noticable silky difference.

Maureen, I'm sorry I can't help you with an air freshener, I never use them. I wonder if any of our readers here have something to share with us. Hopefully there is someone who can help.

Barbie, it's good to see the family on board with this!

Kim, how great your dad is helping. I think the soap will be good for your baby's skin. I have two washcloths and some homemade soap ready to give my next door neighbour who is due any day now.

Lady Katherine, it's fine to share the recipe, the more people using it, the better. Hopefully we'll have some readers today who will tell us where they buy their supplies for soap making. I love the Back to Basics book too and have written about it somewhere way back. It's a great book with a lot of very helpful information.

Robyn, I've written above about leaving the borax out, it's fine. Cornstarch and water makes a good starch but you could also use wheat flour and water. I used to love making the starch for my mother when she did the washing. In those days, almost everything was starched. LOL!

Que, you can't use the aluminium forms unless they are lined (with plastic) - it will ruin the soap and the forms. The soap makes about 10 or 12 cakes, depending on how large you make your cuts.

This post is very long, I'd best stop. Thanks for the comments. It is really interesting reading about the lives being lived in Australia and far off places.



  1. Good morning Rhonda,

    Another informative post. Hope your day goes well. Lots of rain here in Sydney and all over the state. This wonderful country of ours is certainly mixing it all up for us at the moment. After the fires we are now thinking of all the poor people who are in flood. Hope you are not getting to much rain up there, just enough to keep the tanks full and the garden growing well.

    Blessings Gail

  2. Washing soda: http://www.summernaturals.co.uk/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=330

    Borax: http://www.summernaturals.co.uk/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=342

  3. Good morning Rhonda. I've got to do something about my very grotty lounges. Have you used any of your homemade soaps on upholstered furniture? I know I would need to be careful about how wet they got but I'm thinking of some heavy marks that I need to remove. Thanks.

  4. In the UK we can get the Borax and the Bicarb (washing soda) at Tesco's on the "Naturals" shelving along with all the Ecover products. It is time they put the white vinegar there too but that still has to be got from the vinegar shelves.

  5. Here in Ontario, Canada, I have a hard time finding both Borax and Washing Soda.
    The places I have the best luck are Sobey's and Wal-Mart. It seems like none of the smaller chains will carry it.

  6. Rhonda,

    The easiest place I've found to buy the ingredients to make my laundry soap is a website - http://www.soapsgonebuy.com. They sell the washing soda, the borax and the old Fels Naptha soap(recommended by many.) The Fels Naptha you can buy in the bar, or in bags already grated. Hope this helps everyone on the way to making their own laundry soap.

  7. I'm not sure who wrote or what exactly the question was about air freshener, but I make my own by mixing water with essential oils. You need to have a fine mist spray bottle (I recycled mine from some natural air fresheners that I purchased with a screw off lids). You can determine your own scent preference and strength. I mix about eight ounces water with 10 drops of essential oil. It seems to last forever without degrading. I spray it in the air and on my towels. Works great

  8. Rhonda,
    I live in a small midwest town and find both the washing soda and 20 mule team borax at my local grocers. I have also found them both at WalMart. They are always in the laundry soap area. Same goes with the Fels Naptha bar soap that I grate.

  9. Hi Rhonda,
    Thanks for the post. Like many others I found yesterday's post very moving and inspiring. My favourite cleaning days are when my husband is not home and I can just potter at leisure until the place is clean.

    For Maureen: I make my own air freshener. In a spray bottle I combine water, a few drops of essential oils (the real stuff not synthetic) and a drop of eco dishwashing liquid to mix the oil and water (I think that's what its for). I use this in the bathroom and spray window screens so that the breeze blows in the scent. Various blends of oils can be tailored for favourite scents.


  10. Hi Rhonda,
    I was going to suggest Summer Naturals http://www.summernaturals.co.uk/ too, Solomon has beaten me to it! They also sell all sorts of other eco products/ingredients in bulk sizes - and sell soapnuts (for uk readers). I don't use air fresheners as such, but I do burn pure essential oils in an oil burner (a few drops of chosen oil in a base of water, never burn neat essential oil) to freahen and fragrance a room, and to disperse cooking smells. Hope that helps. Also - permacuture magazine has really useful articles and how-tos for water harvesting, and grey water use - and Rhonda, the current issue has an article on green weddings, available online, which may be of interest. website is: http://www.permaculture-magazine.co.uk/ and the green wedding article is: http://www.permaculture-magazine.co.uk/articles/articles_59.html

    Best wishes,

  11. Hi Rhonda just a little comment/helpful hint. We can't use Napisan because it kills the organisms in our biocycle, that processes our waste water, however dishwashing powder is fine and guess what? to get grease, oil, anything out of clothes (including house paint - for enamel fresh is best for removal) soak them in hot water (boiled is best) and one dessert spoon of dishwashing powder for about a day then wash as normal. Trust me this is better than anything including napisan.


  12. You can but both Borax and Arm and Hammer Washing Soda at Kroger Supermarkets in the South and Midatlantic US

  13. You are such a dear heart for treating everyone so special! Each and every one gets a special note from you ~ and really, we all so love that special touch!

  14. Hi Rhonda.
    I live on the east coast of the US and I'm able to find all the ingredients for laundry soap at Target.

    Thanks for all of your time and effort you put into your blog. It's one of my favorites to read daily!

  15. Thank you so much for answering my comment, for I know you have to be busy! I am home, on leave for my illness. I can't keep up with all the blogs I love. Yours is wonderful! Hope you got your book published. For it will be great as Back to Basics!

  16. Thank you very much for the air freshener help, again your blog is wonderful!

  17. I recently tried making a heavy duty washing powder, the recipe I found had Sards Wonder soap instead of the napisan one.  Think I'll be sticking to it, less work than the liquid.  It also has a little bit of me in it - not just made with love, grated my thumb while doing the soap.  :)After seeing your pineapple plant I decided to give growing pineapple tops another go.  The first one I did just sat in the garden, barely growing for months until it sumcumbed.  I planted 2 after researchng on the net the best way to do it.  I removed all of the flesh, removing some of the lower leaves which exposed tiny roots.  Let it dry before standing them in a cup in water until the roots started growing.  Then put them in potting mix, used a clear plastic cup, kept it extra moist lessing off the water so the plant could aclimatise from being in water only.  The cup enabled me to watch for signs of roots.  When I could see roots I planted the plants outdoors in pots,  They are looking very nice and growing well.  I don't know if I'll get pineapples but they are nice looking plants.  I often use scented candles as air freshners, saved the left over wax from a favourite that is now unavailable.  Was going to make another candle from it but instead I melted it last week and using paper cups made little wax blocks big enough to fit into the bowl of my oil burner.  I had been buying readymades at $4, now have 5 of my favourite scent for nothing.

  18. Hi Rhonda,

    every time i visit your blog i find another gem! on my kitchen counter currently are a crock of sauerkraut and a jar of ginger beer start. in the refrigerator is a big bowl of homemade dog food waiting to be frozen and now, my 14 yr old son has sketched out plans for his next project...an aquaponics set up. i've learned so much and found so much inspiration here that i like to think of you as my virtual auntie who i sit down with, have a cup of tea and feel right at home. thanks for being a community builder

  19. I buy my washing soda @ Costco warehouse store here in Grand Rapids, Michigan

  20. Thanks so much for addressing my question. I think I will try not using the vinegar in the rinse every time to see if the smell will go away.

    Thanks also for the warning about caustic soda. I meant washing soda, but used a local term. I use Arm and Hammer Washing Soda. Sorry about the confusion and thanks again for your help!

  21. Hi Rhonda- I had to come over and tell you (I always read your blog but feel you have enought commentors to not need to read one more from me) that I made laundry soap last week. I put it in a glass container with a sweet little childs cup to dispense it with. I had the hardest time just putting the 1 TBLS in the water as I was used to using so much more of my store bought soap- but it did the job beautifully and this soap looks a lot prettier than those ugly old boxes I had!!

    I hope to do a post on my blog about it soon.


  22. Hello Rhonda,
    I'm a quite "silent" reader, enjoying your post every day...Just a little statement: I use homemade soap for nearly everything, the ones with fine oils for whole families skins, the ones with cheaper oils for washing (with soda etc) and the little leftover bits and pieces are grated for cleaning the kitchen cupboards and floors.
    I don't use air freshener because in every room stands a bowl with dried homegrown lavender and herbs near the door, so, when I'm moving from one room to another I just put my finger in the bowl, stir round and a wonderful scent comes up, which makes me smile thinking back of summer days. Simple magic :-)
    If there is very strong and ugly smell (like cats "accident") I grate a few coffeebeans and sprinkle them over the warm oven.
    If someone is interested, since at least 3 years I homemake my own bodylotions, creames etc and like to share my recipes...it's not difficult at all and you get best results for low prices.
    Sorry for this long comment....

  23. Hi, I live in the UK and have been lurking for a week or so. It's exactly what I'm striving for in my life.
    I order my borax and soda bic from an independent chemist (there are a few left in the UK). I have to wait a day or two but they can order a couple of kilos at a time. I also use soap nuts (not much chance of growing them in Oxfordshire though!) and love them. I use a few shells 5 or 6 times and then compost them, so a bag lasts ages. They obviously aren't local, but probably no more transport miles than the total miles of commercial soap powder ingredients. Making my own soap is an aim for this year.

  24. I get my washing soda and borax from good ole' Wilkinson's here in the UK.

    I noted someone mentioned having scented candles. Another idea for a natural room freshener is to get some hyacinth bulbs and grow them in the glass "bulb forcers" You just fill them with water, and plop the bulb in about November. By now, you'll have beautiful hyacinth blooms in the house, and a sweet fragrance. I follow these up with paperwhites, and then cut lilacs from the bush outside, and then roses, and then rose potpourri which I make myself. Another tip if you have a Dyson vacuum is to drop 3-4 drops of lavendar oil on the foam filter. When you vacuum, the whole house smells fresh.

    For carpet/upholstery cleaning, I have taken washing up liquid (dish detergent for handwashing, NOT dishwasher cubes), and put 1/2 cup in my mixer with a little water. Put on the whisk until it foams. Using the foam only, take a small brush and rub into the upholstery in a circular motion (do a test area first to make sure the fabric won't bleed). DON'T use the water, just the foam. Let dry. Then take a damp (NOT WET) cloth and wipe the soap off. I've found this imitates the foam cleansers really well and isn't so toxic.

    AM of the Bread

  25. Hi, your site looks great. I will definitely be coming back for a more thorough read.

    You came up as a recommendation in my google reader. Glad it did. I look forward to visiting often.

    All the best.

  26. Hello Rhonda,
    I found you yesterday, and I feel that I have found a long, lost sister....and all this time, I thought I only had 5 sisters LOL!!!
    I love your posts, and expect to continue to enjoy them for a very long time. The thoughts that crossed my mind as I read your words were: 'Common Sense', 'Down to Earth' {:)}, 'Real', 'Genuine', 'Sense of Value', 'I do that!', 'This is Me'! Thank you for your delightful insights to everyday living!

  27. In the UK, You want to look for a company called Dri-Pak who do washing soda, Borax and soap flakes. You can find it online - I use a company called Summer Naturals. Go to http://www.summernaturals.co.uk/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=80 and you'll see lots of familiar items on that page! Also, they do traditional handmade soaps like Rhonda makes, but I found it quite cheap for that (around 75p - £1 a bar) and its made me decide to make the soap, as its a good way to try it before investing in the moulds and ingredients to make your own.

    Soda crystals can be bought from the supermarket, and sometimes large bottles of white vinegar, but I struggle to find the other stuff on the high street.

    I hope this helps :-)

  28. I find borax and washing soda at Hy-Vee (MO, US) That is the only store around here that carries it. Our Wal-Mart doesn't even carry it.

  29. In the US, I get my washing soda and borax at Meijer (they have stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana)

  30. I can find all 3--the fels, borax and arm and hammer washing soda at Krogers--they also have zote.

    I live in east Texas, USA

    I make mine in liquid form since I wash in cold.

  31. like minervabird i get my laundry supplies from Wilkinsons. They do the borax and washing soda on the cleaning shelf, usually next to each other. They also do soap flakes - but this you find in the laundry section.

    we have a dog, and in the process of walking her the bottom of our jeans get muddy. Because this is an ongoing thing we rarely change when we get home, just keep wearing them, so the mud dries and builds up a bit. (this sounds really bad, but its not, just the occasional swip of mud along the bottom of the jeans). i have found that your powder doesnt get this off, so i had gone back to a commercial washing powder, temporarily, but what i might do is to try adding the oxygen bleach stuff, see if that helps. if not, napisan it is!!

  32. HI-I'm a "virgin" poster or a "newbee" what ever you want to call it. LOVE your blog. Learning SO much. Inspiring me SO much. I have been trying to gather supplies to make your bar soap recipe. having problems... I live near San Antonio, Texas. Can't find the Rice Bran Oil at all (maybe on line and order it). Washing Soda - HEB grocery store $3.17. HUGE jug of Olive Oil at Coscto $21.99 (at least I can use it for cooking too! ha). Coconut Oil at WalMart $5.28 (saw at HEB too). and Caustic Soda - found at a small feed store just last night. For the laundry detergent - that is on my list too once I run out of the commercial stuff. My god mother orders bars of Felds Naptha on line, so I have a source for that. Borax - I know I can find that in a grocery store or WalMart/Target. so that should be easy to do and I am looking forward to that a lot. I don't have a dryer and have a wonderful long clothesline in the back yard. I am looking forward to getting a veg garden going but we have SO many deer I need to get a tall fence up first. and I am looking into large containers to set up water collection off the roof. Right now I set a bucket in the shower and collect the water while waiting for it to warm up. I have been making homemade (no-knead) bread for 5 months now - love it and it is EASY. Will try your bread recipe one day soon.

    the one question I have about making your bar soap. do you pour the oil and caustic soda mix in a glass or hard plastic bowl to mix to trace? I don't think it will all fit in the sauce pan?? can I use that glass or hard plastic bowl for food later?

    Enough for now. Thank you again for all you share. Emily

  33. Here in the South Eastern US. all the ingredients for the homemade laundry soap can be found at the Harris Teeter Grocery Stores. The others I checked in to had some of the stuff, but the H.T. had all plus the washing soda. The hardest to find.

  34. On the point about air fresheners - fresh air is always best but not always possible - I use about 1/4 pint white vinegar, 1/4 pint water and about 10 to 20 drops of lavender essential oil, mixed up in a spray bottle. It gets rid of nasty bathroom smells and cat litter pongs - not that it's the girls, human and feline, that make the bad smells in this house; it's the males of both species!! ;-)

  35. thank you, rhonda! Hope you have a good day.

  36. Hi Rhonda! I was wondering - can you use your washing powder in a front loading high efficiency washer? If so how much would you use?



    PS for occassional air freshener I simmer cloves, cinnamon and orange peel in water...

  37. I just love your posts. I always manage to come away having learned something new and very useful.

  38. Thank you for your encouraging comments. I am taking it a day at a time, and actually managed to get quite a lot done the other day - sorted out loads of old clothes for the charity shop and also put aside some t-shirts with which I plan to make a couple of rugs for our bathroom floor.

    Keep writing!

  39. Air Fresheners! Something I can finally help with! I mix up about 4 ounces of jojoba oil and about 20 drops of essential oil (any kind you fancy). Put the mixture in a glass bottle (you probably have a small vase or bottle already, just make sure the opening is small). Finally add about 10-12 reed sticks (some people use skewer sticks, but they aren't porous like reeds (I buy reeds from ebay). It will take about 48 hours to get to full-power, but one 4oz bottle lasts about 3-4 months and you won't need to replace the reeds if you keep with the same scent.

    Note: be careful to not get any oil on wood or painted furniture. I hear it can mess them up. To prevent this, I mix everything in an old plastic bottle with the cap on and shake it to mix it up then pour the contents into the glass bottle.

    If you are interested in a spray air freshener, check out this site: http://greengracious.blogspot.com/2009/02/sweet-smell-of-spirits.html. It only uses water, vodka, and essential oil.


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