Monday, March 18, 2013

Love, Peace, & 20 Mule Team Borax

Dear John,
 
Today it was the 1960s around here. I returned to my earth-mother hippie roots and did homesteading things. It was lots of fun, until I thought that I couldn't wait until you got home from work so I could show it all to you. You have no idea how many good things you ruin by not bothering to come see them. So get it together.
 
I've been collecting information on Pinterest about how to make your own cleaners at home, for less money and less exposure to chemicals that are banned in the rest of the world. So today I made window cleaner, floor cleaner, bathroom cleaner, cooking spray, dusting spray, furniture polish, laundry detergent, and the world's greatest hand-&-body lotion, in huge quantities, for about $12. The secret ingredients? (You really need to get on Pinterest and read these things yourself.) Mostly water. Plus things like hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, lemon juice, olive oil, canola oil, Dawn, baby lotion, Vaseline, vitamin E cream, baking soda, washing soda, and good old 20 Mule Team Borax. I've tried out most of the final products, and found them to be much better (and better-smelling) than anything manufactured and sold in stores.
 
It's aggravating to learn how toxic some of the manufactured products are. It's equally aggravating to discover how easy and inexpensive it is to make your own. You can do some things according to your own style, too - pick the Dawn with the fragrance you're in the mood for, add the essential oil combination that suits you, get fragrance-free baby lotion. We all have some of the ingredients already sitting around the house. And when you dump the old chemical cleaners, you can save, wash, and reuse the spray bottles they're in, so the containers are free.
 
After three hours of this I started humming Share the Land, and I had to think about you and laugh. You hated that song - hated utopianism in general. You knew long ago that human sin doesn't go away just because you homestead in western Canada or live in a BuckyBall. And I agree completely. But I love to continue the crafts and skills my grandmothers had - to make your own clothes and household textiles, to use products from the land and the livestock instead of a chemical factory, to buy food direct from a local farmer. And I'm afraid of those skills being lost because they aren't necessary for survival here and now.
 
It's like the Y2K scare - we weren't worried around here, because we're all used to not having power for long stretches, and a third of the population lives without it all the time. We have enough vegetable gardens and livestock to manage for a very long time. We'd run out of gasoline, but not horses because they're self-replicating. We'd run out of pharmaceuticals, but if we were eating real food we might find that we wouldn't need some of them.
 
And today I got name, address, and phone number for a local farmer that sells raw milk. I'll call him on Thursday, check out his milk policies and prices, and see what else I can get from him. I have more time than money now, so it sounds like a gardening-&-canning summer is coming. Rachel at church wants to learn how to can, so I've volunteered to teach her the same way Ginny taught me - go out early and get a bushel of something and can it together, then send Justin out for dinner when we're done.
 
I've lived to see this swing all over the place. Our grandmothers canned and sewed and churned, and some spun. When our parents were married, manufactured equivalents were becoming available, so they put everything rural behind them and bought manufactured - it was part of being in the middle class. Then we came along and wanted the craft part of homemaking, the idealistic back-to-the-land movement. Now a newer generation is joining us because doing it that way is more ecologically sound. And the economy crashed so we're all poor like our grandparents were. And Pinterest plays a not-inconsiderable role in all this.
 
Long unnecessary sociological piece there, but you know what I mean. We talked about it many times. And now my laundry room pantry is redone with my own homemade cleaning products in it. I'll make up labels for all the bottles tomorrow night. You really would love it. And I know you'd be proud of me - you always were when I did things like that, like the day I bought a $1.50 sheet, got out the buttonholer, and made a shower curtain out of it. We used it for 20 years. Thank you for your encouragement, for never having a box that you wanted me to fit in. Today I was definitely a homesteading hippie singing Share the Land.  The only one I want to share it with is you. But I can still do good homemaking in my own little corner.
 
Missing you in this corner,
Joan.

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