Laundry on the Line

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It’s finally dry and warm enough to hang laundry on the line again!  For us, this one of the true harbingers of Spring. We so love the smell and feel of sheets, towels and clothes hung in the sunny air to dry! We’ve been experimenting with different homemade laundry soaps in our attempt to eliminate toxic chemicals from our little corner of the world. So far, our favorite is an adaptation of a recipe made with soap nuts, water, and essential oils.  We make our version in a large batch and like a citrus-y scent–we think it goes great with sun dried laundry!

Citrus Laundry Soap

Put 25-30 soap nuts in a large kettle or pan and add 1 gallon hot tap water. Put this on the stove and turn to medium high heat.  When the mixture starts to steam, turn the heat down to medium and let simmer for one hour.

Remove from heat and strain into a large glass jar (we use gallon jars like the ones used for cider or vinegar).

Add 10-15 drops each: grapefruit, sweet orange, and lemon essential oils. Put on a lid and shake carefully to combine.

This will keep for a couple months, but will likely need to be shaken a bit periodically.  We use about 1/4 cup per load of laundry. This can be combined with other detergents or soaps, if you’d like, but it works just fine on its own.

Ordering Seeds

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It’s cold…and grey…and foggy…and cold, but those of us who garden know that this season is only temporary.  This may be the dormant season for some, but for us, it is time to order seeds, continue to build up our soil, and get our seed-starting station set up and going! The past couple weeks have been about making the lists and figuring out not only what we want to grow this year, but from whom we’re going to source our seeds. 

Last year, we decided to work on learning how to save seeds ourselves and we succeeded in saving a few from favorite tomato, pole bean, sunflower and pea plants.  We won’t know how successful we actually were until we plant those seeds this Spring and see how they grow. Each year, we try to grow some favorites but to also try new varieties.  The increasing interest in heirloom and non GMO (genetically modified organism) plants has meant that each year, there are more and more options for gardeners and farmers and we find this incredibly exciting!

This year, we are again ordering a big chunk of our seeds from SeedsNow.com as we were quite happy with the plants and varieties we grew this past Summer.  We are also ordering some intriguing varieties of heirloom squash seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (these folks have quite the catalog and good information about every seed variety on their website). We are ordering our onions from Renee’s Garden Seeds as we were rather disappointed with the onions we grew from some locally sourced sets this past season AND we want to try growing some less-readily-available varieties. We tend to grow mostly perennials and herbs (particularly those the bees love) in our flower gardens but there are a few annuals we absolutely adore and grow every year.  We are sourcing our calendula, sweet pea, and nasturtium seeds from Territorial Seeds, a wonderful local-for-us nursery. Finally, because we really want to get adventurous with our potatoes this year, we are sourcing our seed potatoes from the Potato Garden. While we have had good luck with the seed potatoes we get locally in the past couple years, we wanted to try growing some varieties that aren’t the typical ones grown in our area.

This year, we’ve set a goal for ourselves to try to start all our seeds and seedlings ourselves here on Cedar Street.  Since Teri has worked at a wholesale nursery for the past several years, we’ve got many of our Brassica (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) and tomato starts from that nursery, but, since she has a new job and won’t be there this year, we’ve decided to set up the heat pads and grow lights and start our own seedlings–stay tuned for more on those adventures!

The seeds are ordered and now we wait for those colorful and promising packets to arrive on our doorstep. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we can start planting many of our cool-season crops in mid-February so while it may seem like the dead of Winter, it is actually pre-Spring in the gardener’s world!

Pre-Season Purge…on the Homefront

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Everything possible has been frozen, canned, dried, and preserved from the garden.  We’ve added compost to all the beds and, as the leaves fall, we are raking them up and adding them to either the garden beds, the chicken run or the compost piles.  The time has come to turn our attentions to the INSIDE as the house has been a bit neglected during the “growing” months!

We have already rearranged the furniture into our cozy wintry configurations, but it is time to give the kitchen a good going-over.  The canning equipment and food dehydrator can be stored in the garage.  We might actually be able to sit and eat at our dining table once again after we clean off the soap molds and colanders. As most of you know, our house is not very big and we try to take advantage of every bit of space to make it as comfortable and useful as possible.  In other words, our counters, shelves and tables are not just for looks!

From now until Christmas, we will be baking, cooking and entertaining so our kitchen has to go from preserving mode to holiday mode and THAT is going to take a good day’s worth of purging and cleaning!