Elegant Water-Wise Gardening
Eight Days Later, May 5th:
|My Cactus Has Opened All Its Blossoms|
The Wonder of Water--Don't Squander It!
Photo ©de Mesterton
We seldom use a washer or dryer. That's by choice. I have plenty of water, two sinks and two buckets. When I say "plenty", I mean it is available, but I don't waste it. The beauty of washing and rinsing in buckets is that one can dump the "grey water" out in the garden. Plants don't mind soap or vinegar, in fact, vinegar and salt are safe fertilizers. I have the luxury of a wash-basin and a rinse-bucket. Note that the silver one matches the sink, while a white basin would look swell in a porcelain one.
This isn't "roughing it". I once lived without running water for over a year, with just wood-stoves for cooking and heating. I took sauna (pronounced "sow-nah", not "sawna") regularly, though. Then there was the time I lived in a tee-pee for two weeks in 25* weather. If you wear tweed clothes, it's warm. I am used to building my own fires for cooking and heat, making my own bread the old-fashioned way, washing clothes by hand and hanging them on the line to dry. Those things are muscle-building, and who needs a fancy "health-club" when saving electricity and doing things yourself keep a gal in shape? I don't watch television; we cut the cable many years ago. No problem--as a radio-nut, I have a lot of them, all operable with batteries, including a regular short-wave and a miniature one with built-in flashlight and alarm. For emergencies, there are now small, lightweight televisions for less than a hundred dollars, which will pull-in a limited number of digital stations. One of my favorite themes here and on the Elegant Survival News blog is getting by without electricity. For now, I use a computer, and someday, when the power-grids fail because of either sabotage or ridiculous energy-restrictions, I am going to adapt to the new situation with my usual vigor. ©M-J de Mesterton 2009
Hydrogen Peroxide (for white items with stubborn stains)
Sometimes I use a combination of the above additives, depending upon the stain.
Shavings of Zote soap produce many washes’ worth of environmentally-friendly detergent.
Cotton Waffle-Weave Towels Dry Quickly on the Line
M-J’s Home-Made Microfibre Dust-Mop
Flowering in the Desert
PHOTO COPYRIGHT M-J de Mesterton 2010
The price of water is going up, and its availability in some locations is scarce. There are some things you can do to keep whatever water you do have from going down the drain in vain.
Bathing usually uses less water than showering. Whether you bathe or shower, keeping the drain plugged will allow you to use this “grey water” later for other purposes.
Use the bath water to give your outdoor plants a drink. They especially like Epsom salts, a time-honored fertilizer in England.
Use a large, gallon-sized pitcher of bath water to flush your toilet. Pouring it down fast creates a flush; sometimes you will want to do this twice. A tubful of water can constitute twenty or more flushes. It works great.
While running water to get it hot, fill pitchers, glasses, any empty vessels you have handy until the water gets hot enough to use, saving the cooler water for drinking later.
When you bathe instead of shower, you usually use less water. To further enhance your water-saving program, carry the used bath-water outside in a large pail or pitcher to the garden. Plants don't mind a bit of soap, and they especially adore Epsom Salts, which are well-documented as an effective fertilizer.
Water doesn’t grow on trees! In fact, there may come a time very soon when water is scarce. Look at the farmers in California who are not allowed to water their crops because of a tiny minnow that must be saved! I am more concerned about the future of the human race than I am about a useless minnow.
Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2008
The Cadet 3 by American Standard
Low-Flow, High Performance: Available at Lowe's for less than $400.00
Using Your Dishwasher the Cool Way
When the weather is hot, use your dishwasher in the late evening, and turn off the heated drying feature. The glasses and dishes will dry naturally overnight. Your place will not heat up as much, and because heat has a bad effect on polymers, rubber and plastics, the items made with those components will last much longer without it.
Elegant, Old-Fashioned Cotton Bedsheets Feature a Breathable 200 Thread-Count for Cool Summer Sleeping
Monday, May 26, 2008
Survival Preparation: Non-Electric Tools
In the event of a power-outage, or complete disaster, you will need certain non-electric kitchen tools. Let's say that you've successfully put away a stock of wheat. You will need to grind it for flour, or crush it for salads and pilafs. The traditional heavy metal meat and vegetable grinder, which attaches by vise to a table or counter-top, is necessary. If you have stored-up a load of coffee beans (whole coffee beans, like wheat "berries", have a much longer shelf-life than their ground forms), you will need a high-quality, hand-operated coffee grinder.
For an affordable and elegant drinks party, make all the canapés yourself and arrange on your prettiest plates and platters, spreading them around a central table. Place stacks of small plates and cocktail napkins conveniently among the offerings. The hostess (wife) can carry platters around to guests often during the party, ensuring the land-locked chatters an opportunity to eat. Wine and soft drinks are sufficient, if you'd like to keep the drink-dispensing simple (cocktails are potent and complicated to mix; the price of a DWI being exorbitant, one wants reasonably sober guests leaving one's domicile...). The husband is in-charge of filling and refilling drinks. Walking about the rooms with a wine bottle to give refills on the spot is a good idea. The wife can monitor the food table to keep it neat, as well as make the rounds talking and relieving guests of empties. This sort of drinks party provides people with enough nourishment to make dinner unnecessary. Some components of your savoury items can be prepared in the two days preceding the event. Offer a platter of brownies or cookies for those who prefer sweets. Clean-up is easy. A team effort of husband and wife is ideal, but, coordination being essential, any two people who work well in tandem will serve.
Food Quantities and Conservation
Provide an average of four canapes in each category per-person. Not every guest will partake of every offering, so this scheme usually works well. In the case of leftover items like angels-on-horseback (bacon wrapped around a water chestnut) and broiled), they are excellent re-heated the next day. Coat your appetizer shells with unsalted butter on the inside before filling them (unsalted butter has less moisture in it.) Butter will act as an insulator against moisture, ensuring that the canapes will not become soft from their contents, and will also be edible the next day. When creating platforms for your canapes, save the extra bread trimmings in a freezer-bag, and use them later for breadcrumbs or in a Swedish meatball recipe.
For Those Who Desire Household Help for the Party
Purchase a server's uniform (black vest, black bow tie, white shirt, optional white gloves) in a size large, so that it may be worn by whomever you find to help, then washed, stored and re-used on the next occasion.
Hospitality for Your Guests' Coats
Instead of having your friends throw their coats on a bed or sofa, empty your coat closets and chuck your own coats onto the bed instead. This way, your guests have the dignity of hanging their coats in an orderly fashion, and of locating them easily for a smooth exit. This is an elegant, kind way to make your company comfortable, and all it requires is a bit of elbow grease. Emptying your closet for a couple of days just might facilitate a welcome closet re-organization, which is a great mood-elevator.
Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2007
Because Swiffer-type cloths are expensive, and not re-usable after a certain point, I now use large microfiber cloths for dusting furniture and floors. They pick up just as much dust and hair as the aforementioned product. Large microfiber cloths are available in bulk at Sam's Club, in blue, yellow, chartreuse and orange. At our last purchase, they were 15 USD for 25 of them. They're soft and washable. Here is what I devised today for dusting floors and cars--it leaves those disposable electrostatic gadgets in the dust:
M-J's Home-Made Microfiber Dust-Mop
Take three large microfiber cloths and lay them on top of each other, at varying angles. Center your stack of cloths over the end of an old broom/mop stick, and then, a couple of inches from the end of stick, strap them on with a tightly-pulled, heavy-duty plastic cinch (available at Sam's and office-supply stores). Better still is a small bungee cord that wraps around and hooks to itself. Invert this and run it around your floor, under furniture, or over your car. Clean the mop by shaking it outdoors. You could even use a lint-brush on it. When it gets too dirty to be useful, the cinch can be cut off and the cloths released for machine-washing. Repeat mop-construction process after they are dry, using a fresh cinch (I use multipurpose ties/cinchos by Thomas Betts). Attach the Cloths to the Broomstick; Invert and Use Dust-Mop
Update: I have found that a microfiber rag will adhere to a sponge-mop. Tie the ends and you will be ready to clean and polish a smooth floor with very little moisture. Fill a one-litre spray bottle with water, leaving room to add a third-cup of white vinegar and one teaspoon of lavender oil. Shake it. This is my preferred cleaning fluid. Mist the floor with it, and go over it with the dry microfibre mop until it is dry and shiny. This cleaning mist can be used on sinks and fixtures, mirrors, microwave ovens, jugs, anything that needs cleaning and shining about the house. It is also a deodorant. The scent of the lavender overpowers that of the vinegar. Careful--this method of cleaning is so easy that you may be cleaning as a hobby if you don't temper your enthusiasm!
M-J's Miscellaneous Hints
Keep newly-polished silver free of tarnish by storing it with a piece of aluminum foil (one of the safer uses for aluminum).
Omit the fabric-softener when washing and drying towels. It leaves a coating which reduces their absorbency. I prefer a sun-dried white cotton towel, which is excellent for an invigorating rub. Lightweight cotton towels for the kitchen and bath can all be washed in a solution of detergent and a little bleach. They dry much faster than coloured velour ones, and lend a look of sparkling cleanliness. Lightweight, white cotton towels may be bought in bulk at wholesale stores like Sam's Club in the U.S.
To keep rarely-used garlic fresh, peel it and store it in a jar in the freezer.
Use salt in your wash-water to help remove stains.
To rid old books of odors, dust the pages with talcum powder, and let them sit for a day. Brush out the powder.
To make cake rise higher, add a half-teaspoon of white vinegar to the batter.
Use old-fashioned wooden clothespins to close bread and chip-bags. They’re cute, easier to manipulate than twist-ties, and cost less than chip-clips.
To remove red and Burgundy wines from tablecloths after dinner parties, wash them immediately afterwards in the machine, with the laundry detergent of your choice, in hot water with the addition of a half-cup of white vinegar and perhaps some table salt. This routine has always worked for me.
Conserving Candle Wax
I have noticed a jump in candle-prices. Many candles are unusable before their wax disappears. Then, you may have a considerable amount of unused candle wax which could go to waste. I save old candle wax, scented or plain, and when I have enough of it, I melt it in an old pan and pour it into a container into which I have put a standing wick. Then I have a new candle. The wicks can be purchased at crafts stores.
Keep defunct candles in a plastic bag until you have enough to melt. A plain metal pot is best, and I recommend melting wax together from similarly colored candles. Shown are stubs from beeswax tapers and a yellow pillar candle. Old wicks and metal anchors for them are not a problem; just use a metal ladle to transfer hot wax, omitting the debris. Caution: don't melt used candles in a microwave oven--there will likely be a metal wick or anchor in it.
Ingredients for a Well-Stocked Pantry
Elegant Survival Kitchen Essentials
Frozen Apple Juice Concentrate or Bottled Apple Juice
Unbleached White Flour
Vanilla, Imitation or Pure Extract
Rum Extract or Flavoring
Aluminum-Free Baking Powder
Hershey’s Cocoa Powder
Dried Red Chiles
Dehydrated Mixed Vegetables
White or Basmati Rice
Corn Meal or Grits
Dehydrated Garlic or Garlic Powder
Toasted Sesame Oil
Sesame Tahini Paste, Joyva brand of Brooklyn is best
Popcorn, loose: Jolly Time Organic is better than Orville Redenbacher, at one-third the cost
Peanut or Corn Oil
Mustard Powder, Colman’s English
Spanish or Hungarian Paprika
Green Peppercorns in Brine
Rose’s Lime Juice
Maggi or another brand of Chicken Bouillon Powder
Canned Tomato Paste: store brand
Canned Whole Tomatoes: store brand
Canned Beets: store brand or generic
Canned Small, Peeled Potatoes: store brand or generic
Canned Green Chiles, whole or chopped
Coconut Milk, Canned
Whole Water Chestnuts, Canned
Canned Vienna Sausage
Canned Beef (usually from Argentina)
Canned Pineapple, No Sugar Added
Apple Cider Vinegar
Boxed Red Wine, and a Cube of White Wine, both for Cooking
Dried Split Peas, Green or Yellow
Coffee Creamer (not Coffee-Mate, which contains aluminum–check ingredients)
Non-Fat Dry Milk
Powdered Eggs for Emergencies
Bottled Lemon Juice
Herbes de Provence (a combination of marjoram, thyme, rosemary and savory, available at Costco)
To Be Continued….
Compiled by M-J de Mesterton, 2008