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Easy Kale Chips – Putting the Crunch in Crunchy

We know that lots of dark green leafies are good for us. But eating enough of them was always a challenge for me. I like Swiss Chard in a lot of dishes, but I could never really enjoy Kale. Until I found a recipe for making Kale Chips.

Kale, Olive Oil, Popcorn Salt

As with most things, there are simple and complex recipes. This is a simple kale chip recipe. One bunch of Kale. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tad wilted, like mine was, since you’re going to dry the kale to a crisp anyway.

Kale - tough stems trimmed

Trim out thick stems, wash the kale. Tear into pieces (I leave mine pretty large because they shrink a lot in drying.) Coat with kale chips with olive oil. On this, you do have to get in there with your hands to make sure all the curly leaves have a nice sheen of oil on them. I then sprinkle with some fine popcorn salt. Go easy, though, they have an assertive taste on their own and don’t need much salt.

Kale coated with oil and salt

Put the oil-coated kale leaves into the dehydrator. It’s a damp day today and mine took 3.5 hours to dry. The last time I did them, they were very crisp at 3 hours. I also had some parsley drying today, so that could have effected the time as well.

Kale on dehydrator tray

Take out your kale chips and munch away. I like them a lot and my 13 year old daughter thought they were “pretty good.” I have also mixed some kale chips in with freshly popped popcorn. Yum!

Kale Chips

Footnote: A Facebook friend commented: “If you don’t have a dehydrator you can bake them in a 275 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. I like mine Spicy-cayenne pepper, red chili flakes, garlic powder and kosher salt – yum!”

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My “no poo” adventures

No, it’s not potty talk. “No Poo” is a catch-phrase used to describe hair-care without Shampoo. I learned about it a while ago while surfing around some crunchy blogs.

The basic recipe for going completely no ‘poo is; about a tablespoon of Baking Soda in 8oz of water, shaken well, scrubbed into hair and scalp and rinsed. If you need conditioning, the recommendation is for a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in 8oz of water for a conditioning rinse.

No Poo

I was totally intrigued and decided to try it. I had recently jumped on the Wen bandwagon, an absurdly expensive “cleansing conditioner” that I had used years ago with great results. However, this time around, it made my hair very heavy and greasy, so I was looking for an alternative.

Being that I have oily hair to begin with, I was leery of trying the baking soda alone, but I gave it a try. Unfortunately, there can be a transition time (up to a couple of weeks) as your scalp gets used to the fact that all the natural oils are not being stripped away by shampoo. I have to confess, I couldn’t take the transition time, my hair was too greasy with just the baking soda wash. That first day it was as if I hadn’t washed my hair at all. I might try again this summer…

I did a little more research and found that there are both simple and complex recipes out there for a homemade shampoo. What I ended up with was a sorta ‘poo method using 1 part liquid castile soap to 3-4 parts water. I added essential oils to make my own scented blend. This seems to be the perfect recipe for me. The castile soap and water combination foams up great, washes my hair completely clean and costs SOOO much less than commercial shampoo. Not to mention that it avoids all the chemicals in shampoo.

I do occasionally use the vinegar and water rinse (again with a little essential oil added for scent.) I know it seems hard to believe, but the vinegar water is a great conditioner. I need it only rarely because my scalp and hair are now very “balanced” and my hair is neither oily or dry. I also no longer need gel or mousse or anything else to style my hair. It’s is soft, has body and, mostly, behaves.

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What’s it like Keeping Chickens?

“Chicken” by © used under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Occasionally, I get to feeling really farm-girl and decide that we should get some chickens for our backyard… ah, fresh eggs, free fertilizer. It seems like such a good idea from the safety of my couch.
What wakes me up from my dream state is the fear of what keeping chickens would be like in the “real world” vs. the world of my mind.

I did do some research around the idea and found these resources online:

The article that scared me off was the last one… what you should know before getting chickens.

Some of the things the author mentions are:

The biggest annoyance is the noise. We don’t have a rooster (we are not allowed to by zoning laws, nor would we want one) but still the noise that these creatures make is impressive.

Chickens eat a lot of food, requiring re-stocking of their feeder about every three days. Of course this food turns into chicken poop. Chicken poop is high in nitrogen so it is an excellent fertilizer but it also releases a lot of smelly nitrous oxide.

Yikes, it sounds like having a bunch of noisy, smelly beasts invading our property. I’m not sure “home-grown” eggs and free-fertilizer are worth it.

However, I would love to hear from people who are actually keeping chickens. Particularly anybody in the New England area, who have to cope with cold winters and very changeable temperatures.

The last bit of info for today… I found this great infographic on Visually on how to build a backyard chicken coop. Which is what got me thinking about keeping chickens again.

How to Build A Chicken Coop
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Why and How to Make Homemade Deodorant

Deodorant by © Clean Wal-Mart used under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Before our children were born, I was seeing a Homeopath for fertility issues (the regular medical docs said nothing was wrong, but at the time we had been married 8 years and had 2 miscarriages and no babies.) One of her suggestions was that I stop using an antiperspirant with aluminum in it and switch to just a plain deodorant instead. So that’s what I did.

In the last 10 years or so, there has been more flurry of information about antiperspirants and deodorants containing ingredients that cause breast cancer or contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. And it’s not just the aluminum, it’s also things like parabens that are under investigation. From my research it appears that there is not a clearly documented link between these ingredients and disease. However, as the Wikipedia article on deodorant site quotes:

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence of a harmful effect” and “these chemicals are being directly applied daily, by very large numbers of people, and the long-term health effects of exposure are essentially unknown,” toxicologist Philip W. Harvey tells WebMD in an interview.

Here’s a list of some commercial deodorants that do not contain aluminum:

  • Berts Bees Deodorant
  • Aubrey Organics Calendula Blossom
  • Weleda Citrus Deodorant
  • Lavanila The Healthy Deodorant
  • The Body Shop DeoDry

Reference: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/19/natural-deodorant-review_n_1684296.html

Mennen Speed Stick is also aluminum-free (as long as you get the deodorant vs. antiperspirant.) The deodorants listed above cost between $5 and $11 per container (I think you can the Mennen Speed Stick for about $3).

Homemade Deodorant Fail
Homemade Deodorant Fail

So, recently I decided to make my own deodorant at home. I found some great recipes online (see resources below). I first tried making a balm with coconut oil, fragrance, cornstarch and baking soda. But the first warm day we had the whole thing melted into a mess, the coconut oil turned liquid and the baking soda/cornstarch clumped up on the sides of the jar. Bleh!

Next, I tried just a powder based deodorant, which would not only not melt (a plus) but also would actually act a bit like an antiperspirant by absorbing perspiration.

The ingredients are simple: cornstarch, baking soda and essential oil for scent. The proportion is about 5 parts cornstarch to 1 part baking soda and as much essential oil as you like. Take care with essential oils, some can be skin irritants. Use sparingly.

Whisk it all together (breaking up any oil lumps with your fingers). Put it into a jar and either use a powder puff or make a “shaker” top. I decided on the shaker top for easy of use.

For the shaker top, I cut out a piece of craft plastic mesh to fit the top of my mason jar, then put the ring top on to hold it in place. Done!

I’m sure you’re wondering how it works…. It’s great, very effective, no chemicals, super inexpensive and easy to make. I love it. No stinky pits for me.



How to stop Invasive Species – Fight back with Native Plants

Years ago, we were going for a hike at Saugatuck Falls in Redding, CT and I saw a woman covering parts of the forest floor with black plastic and pulling up plants. I must have given her a very quizzical look because she quickly informed me that she was removing an invasive species of plant. I recognized the plant and commented that it was also growing all over our neighborhood. This was my first exposure to knowledge of invasive species of plants.

Some of the prevalent invasive plants in my neighborhood are:

Invasive Plant: Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard, hedge garlic)
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard, hedge garlic)


Invasive Plant Cardamine hirsuta (Hairy Bittercress)
Invasive Plant Cardamine hirsuta (Hairy Bittercress)
Invasive Japanese Knotweed
Japanese Knotweed by Muffet used under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Multiflora-Rose-2 © homeredwardprice used under a Creative Commons Attribution license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

The Nature Conservancy Site has some suggestions for how each of us can help stop the spread of invasive plants in our neighborhoods.

  • Verify that the plants you are buying for your yard or garden are not invasive.
  • Replace invasive plants in your garden with non-invasive alternatives.
  • Ask your local nursery staff for help in identifying invasive plants!
  • Clean your boots before you hike in a new area to get rid of hitchhiking weed seeds and pathogens.
  • Volunteer at your local park, refuge or other wildlife area to help remove invasive species. Help educate others about the threat.

Why Grow Native Plants?

There are many advantages to growing native plants
in your yard. Since they’re adapted to the natural
ecosystem, they’re better able to withstand climate
changes and invasions from insects and diseases.
Natives require little care once established in your yard.
Native plants also are not invasive. They have evolved a
delicate balance with other plants, pests, and diseases
so they don’t overwhelm an ecosystem, but remain an
essential part of it. Because they’re so well adapted to
a specific region, they provide reliable food and shelter
to local wildlife, such as birds, mammals, and bees.


Sometimes I get a little freaked out by the sheer volume of invasive plants I see taking over. They tend to go places where people are not carefully watching… the roadsides, places where the soil has been disturbed (like construction sites). But then I remember the story of the Indian man who single-handedly planted a forest: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/indian-man-single-handedly-plants-a-1360-acre-forest and I feel that the steps I take month after month and year after year to replace invasive plant species with native plants will actually make a difference.


Great Resources for Containers for Homemade Stuff

Where do you find: glass bottles for fermenting water kefir, bottles for shampoo or body oil, containers for body balm or powder or even cloth grocery bags that are not imprinted with a store logo?

Today’s post is my Go To List for containers. My container of choice for most things is the ubiquitous mason jar.

I use mason jars for salads, oatmeal, snacks and fruit. Also for sprouting beans and for the first ferment of water kefir. Lastly, I use mason jars for my body balm and body powder too.

The other kind of bottle I use are flip-top bottles for the second ferment of water kefir or homemade flavored vinegars, oils or liqueurs.

Specialty Bottle

I got these bottles from Specialty Bottle: http://www.specialtybottle.com/ I was very happy with their pricing, delivery was efficient and everything arrived in good condition.

I recently ordered a bunch of other bottles & jars for homemade body wash, shampoo, lip gloss (my daughter’s specialty), we also got a few spray bottles, some foaming hand-wash bottles (remind me to share my hand soap revelation) and bottles and reeds for DIY reed diffusers. Got the whole bunch from Container and Packaging Supply: http://www.containerandpackaging.com/. Great prices, no minimums, lots of variety, speedy shipment, great online chat; a couple of bottles broke en route, used the chat to report the trouble, replacements were on the way within a day.

ScreenShot965 (1)

The last thing wanted to mention, while it’s not related to bottles or jars, is a great place to get cloth grocery bags. I have been using cloth bags since before the grocery stores were selling their own “brand” of bag. These bags are sturdy, machine washable, perfectly sized and reasonably priced (they were less $ when I bought mine back in the 90’s). Added bonus: The Cloth Bag Company bags are USA made. http://www.clothbag.com/The_Cloth_Bag_Co./Home.html

What are your favorite resources for containers for homemade stuff?

Great Resources for Living Crunchier

As I began doing research into a variety of my “living crunchier” projects, I found that there are a few websites I seem to return to again and again, here are some of my current favorite sites.

Resources for Living Crunchy

  • Crunchy Betty
    • Lots of great information here on homemade beauty products, “you have food on your face.” Leslie also has an Etsy shop where she sells her creations (and even gives you the recipes so you can make your own at home.) Lastly, I love her wit and sense of humor. Check out this post on Bathroom Cleaning.
  • Harmonious Belly
    • Found a lot of great information and recipes on this site for water kefir and other fermented foods.
  • One Good Thing by Jillee
    • Found some terrific recipes for homemade cleaning products here. Today there’s a great post reprising information about oil cleansing… LOVE IT!
  • Wellness Mama
    • Another site with lots of great DIY recipes and ideas. Stumbled upon one today on 21 Uses for Epsom Salt, definitely worth reading more about that.
  • Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity
    • Found this site while researching water kefir. Again, lots of great recipes and ideas, but what I really love is Sarah’s “voice” and sense of humor. Anyone who can describe exactly what a bad batch of water kefir smells like, and make me laugh out loud while doing it, is worth following!

I am sure as I continue to write and research I’ll find more great sites. But today I just want to say THANK YOU to these bloggers. I have found such wonderful information on your sites and each new learning leads me on to follow another thread and learn even more.

Homemade Laundry Detergent Update: The BLOB!

A little while ago I wrote about the great recipe I was using for laundry detergent. Well, I discovered something odd about it. The first batch I made, I put into an old Downy fabric softener bottle (opaque). Toward the end of the bottle I noticed the consistency had changed a bit. But this time, I put it in an old juice container and I actually saw what was happening.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

It looked like the blob was growing in my detergent bottle. It breaks up a bit when you shake it, but you still get pretty big blobs when you pour:

Lumpy Liquid Laundry Detergent

Very strange! I actually need to do some more research to find out what happened. Did I do something wrong? Or is that just what borax does with castile soap, washing soda and water?

In the meantime, I decided to try a dry laundry detergent. I had read about it on this site: http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-laundry-detergent-soap/2/ and the author makes a good point that dry detergent takes up a lot less space than liquid detergent for washing the same amount of clothes.

The ingredients listed are: borax, grated fels naptha laundry soap and washing soda. I had read other recipes that said you could use ivory soap in place of fels naptha. Which might be a good option since it’s more readily available. I also saw some recipes with oxy-clean added. Which also seemed like a good idea (esp. if you’re using ivory) for a little extra stain-removing boost.

So, I’m starting with borax, fels naptha and washing soda. I hand-grated the fels naptha soap, next time I’m using the food processor!

I mixed up a batch. You only have to use a 1 Tbs, 2 for really dirty loads.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I’m going to start using it this weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes.

29 August 2013 Update: I love this stuff! It works great and is very easy and inexpensive to make.


Weeds that Split Seeds! Hairy Bittercress

Last year I discovered a few of these in my garden… as I started to pull them up, and disturbed the plant, the seeds flew upward as if the plant were spitting in my face.

Hairy BittercressI looked it up and found that it’s called Hairy Bittercress. It’s scientific name is:  Cardamine hirsuta L.. and here’s the USDA website about these plants: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=cahi3

I didn’t have too  much of it last year, but found I have soooo much now, it’s everywhere. And with a propogation mechanism of spitting it’s pointy seeds high into the air and around itself, it’s no wonder!

Right now, the plants are young and the seeds are not yet spitting. I recommend pulling them up now, once they start spitting their seeds, they will spread everywhere.

Hairy Bittercress

I found a site about foraging these “weeds” which I found really intriguing.

To gather the hairy bittercress, we just lift up the cluster of leaf stalks and cut them with a knife near the ground. Then we wash the greens and pick through them, discarding the yellow leaves and pinching off some of the larger stems and flower stalks. They add a peppery bite to raw salads, and can be cooked with soups or in a recipe like other greens. We did eat a big salad with a yogurt and bittercress dressing for dinner one night, and may try some potatoes cooked with bittercress and field onions into a breakfast hash this week.

Ref: http://the3foragers.blogspot.com/2012/03/hairy-bittercress.html

I also learned something new about how to get great images from Flickr and use the proper copyright attributions.

Cardamine hirsuta (Hairy Bittercress) by born1945, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  born1945 
And here’s one with a close up of those ultra-efficient seeds:
Hairy Bittercress by born1945, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

  by  born1945 

References & Resources:

Replace your Dryer Sheets: How to make Wool Dryer Balls

In my investigations into non-toxic, low cost solutions to things like laundry, I came upon the phenomenon of wool dryer balls.

Wool Dryer Balls

Now, you may be wondering, what the heck are wool dryer balls and why should I care? Well, I did a little searching around and found that word is that felted wool dryer balls can not only help you eliminate the use of dryer sheets, but also can cut the drying time of clothes. The balls bounce around in the dryer, fluffing the clothes as they bounce, which helps the airflow, which dries the clothes faster.

Of course, the REAL way to be environmentally conscious would be to HANG the clothes to dry, and I did do that for a while, but found I didn’t have the persistence to stick with it.

Anyway I decided to give these a try. I used the method at this website: http://www.diynatural.com/how-to-make-wool-dryer-balls/ BTW, she’s got some great pictures of the process.

I bought 2 skeins of 100% wool yarn at the craft store. They have to be 100% wool or they won’t felt properly.

I rolled them into balls, about tennis ball sized. Then I threaded the loose end back into the ball so it wouldn’t unravel. The next step is to get the wool threads to “felt” together into a solid ball of wool.

Put the balls of yarn into an old stocking and tie knots between them. Do not use yarn for your knots, you don’t want the ties to felt, just the dryer balls.

Tie them into an old stocking
Tie them into an old stocking

Then run them through with a few loads of clothes for wash and dry cycles (the hotter the water the better) and eventually, they get “felted” and turn into solid balls of wool.

Felted Wool Dryer Balls
Felted Wool Dryer Balls

Just toss a few wool dryer balls in the dryer with the wet clothes and you’ve freed yourself from dryer sheets forever.

I ran the numbers on this:

2 skeins of yarn cost $19.95 and created 7 dryer balls (6 regular size and one a little runty). That’s $2.85 per ball for virtually unlimited use, but let’s say it would cover 1000 loads of laundry. So, that’s .002 cents per load, versus $6.99 for 80 sheets of Bounce Unscented which comes out to .08 cents per load. Yes, we’re still talking pennies, but they add up. And besides, making the dryer balls was fun.

If you’re not in the mood to make your own, you can buy wool dryer balls from lots of different places online.