Wednesday, April 22, 2009


What does doing laundry on my patio with my Urban Washing Machine have to do with Earth Day 2009 ?
For one it's hand powered so very very energy efficient.
Two, this urban homestead washing machine was made with recycled materials.
Three, it uses homemade laundry soap.
Four, unless excessively abused this system will last a lifetime (landfill issues).
Five, this system harnesses the power of Nature's elements to dry the clothing.
Six, it's cost effective ( let's see Madison Ave. sell this for a jacked up price).
Seven, it's lightweight & portable - little to no carbon emissions spent on transporting.
Eight, it has built in security. No washing machine jacking happening here.
Nine, it allows the operator to multi task incorporating both clothes washing and an upper body work out at the same time thus saving $ that would be spent buying a gym membership. Not to mention the gas to drive to one.
Ten, this further enhances a very valuable life's lesson (conservation) that you can pass on to your children which is if you dirty it you plunge it.
K, seriously here's the low down.
My front loader that cost more than my 1st through 4th cars broke a few weeks ago. Well not actually broke but instead of spinning like a Lear jet it now starts knocking like the S.W.A.T. come a calling on a drug house when ever it hits the spin cycle. It has 3 spin cycles.
Got tired of thinking that my local drug task force mistaken my veggie seedlings growing under grow lights for asparagus (code for illegal vegetation).
Now that I'm on sabbatical (unemployed) I'm really not willing to call out a service guy.
DH took a quick look under the hood but due to a hectic work schedule & other more pressing homesteading tasks like building a raised bed he & a daughter haven't really looked under the hood. Plus I'd have to hide my canning stove & a few other activities we engage in that tip toe close to the line of illegal when the Maytag Man comes a knocking.
So in less than five minutes DH drilled me a hole in the lid of a 5 gallon pail then added a screw to keep the head of a plunger on the stick. I cut 4 slits vertically on the top of the rubber portion to increase the agitation effect. Kinda like my own personality huh?
An upgrade would be to snag an old broom or mop handle to replace the handle on the plunger. This would make for a better leverage.
Use: place a bit of laundry soap in bucket along with water followed by clothing. If it's socks & unders then 6 to 10. T-shirts two or three. Secure lid with plunger in the bucket, handle sticking out thru the hole in lid. Plunge like your churning butter for two minutes.
Wring clothing out, place in the next bucket which has water & a few tablespoons of white vinegar in. This is your rinse cycle. Agitate with hands a few times then wring out.
Place clothing on line or the back of a chair to dry.
Better to do outside as then dripping water isn't an issue.
Bath tub works well also.
Optional - add a second bucket with a tablespoon of fabric softener to water for a finally rinse cycle.
Not wringing the clothes out completely only added 6 extra hours of drying time. So until DH can rehab that old antique clothes wringer we bought I'm not gonna stress about it.
This has been a great way to extend the family budget. We are only needing to visit the neighborhood Laundromat once a week doing only 3 loads - jeans, heavy articles like hoodies, blankets, & towels.
~~ pelenaka ~~
5/28/2009 Update - heavy blankets & comforters are the only items that have been laundered @ the laundromat. Seems as time goes by my stamina for plunging increases so washing blue jeans & hoodies aren't an issue. Wool blankets however are a bit over the top for me ... now.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

gimme da dirt

Still chilly and drab in my neighborhood despite a recent warm up these past few days. Day time temps hit a balmy 67 degrees but still dip down to low 30's @ night. We still have another four weeks of this Spring weather. Planting traditionally won't be until after Memorial day our last frost date give or take. In the mean time I have been playing in the dirt ...

This is my trusty cold frame (lid is off for the photo op) in a new location on the back forty feet of our city lot. It occurred to me that the old location was all wrong for optimal sun exposure. Yeah, I'm a real rocket scientist. So since I moved it that also meant that it had to be emptied which spawned a new approach to my gardening - double digging & trench composting combined. Dug down then layered the frame with cheap rabbit feed (alfalfa or green matter) then rabbit manure (nitrogen) followed by a sprinkling of phosphorus & finely ground egg shells (calcium), wood ash, then finally soil. Repeated until I reached the top. Watered with water out of the fish pond (fish poop). I'm trying for supper veggies organically.
The plan is to plant green bell peppers after last frost which should coincide with the salad greens finishing up.
The area between this cold frame & the fence has been calling out to me but I haven't been able to locate any free building materials to make a raised bed. Now that I'm on sabbatical (unemployed) free is the name of the game.
I'm sure that for many of you reading my blog your own salad bed is much farther along if not already producing fresh nutritious salads by the bowl fulls but here in Western New York in my city it's a different song. For a brief time I gave some serious thought to making up a hot bed using fresh horse manure which when it decomposes would give off heat. But then there is the matter of schlepping horse poop from the city's mounted patrol. Can't see me standing @ the bus stop with a couple of five gallon pails waiting on the cross town express. Smell dat?

Notice that plastic umbrella thingy in the top left corner of the pic? I bought it @ Big Lots in the fall three years ago for a few bucks. Wish I had grabbed a few more as they're handy. Fold up nice. I decided to house my 2 Rhubarb plants in hopes that I'll have a bigger harvest. Besides using Rhubarb in jams & pie fillings there is a BBQ sauce in the BBBC (Big Ball Book of Canning) that I really want to can up.

This is hubby's cold frame an A frame design. He planted Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach which is the green you can see. There is also a few other types in there just starting to sprout. What we're not sure as well we forgot & the seed packet has since gone.

This is my latest project my Greenhouse. Originally this started off as a kit from Tractor Supply but after three Winters the plastic cover started to go. Two years ago I tried these corrugated plastic panels which worked out very well. DH was able to use a wooden storm door that was scavenged out of a trash pile. He fashioned a front wall using the panels and placed the door in the center. This time we will also be making a back wall instead of the section of plastic cover. Last Spring we disassembled it until I could work out it's final placement. I am hoping that this is it. Besides replacing the cover I'm painting the frame black, adding that back wall with two vertical windows, & a solar car fan my Mom gifted me. Also hopefully the new fence panel painted white will help with reflecting light back into the green house. As you can see gardening in an urban environment has Sunlight challenges. This pic was taken @ 6:40 in the evening. I've never been able to grow anything in the dead of Winter in it without using an artificial heat source despite housing 5 rabbits in it & two 55 gallon barrels filled with water in a feeble attempt @ passive solar heat gain.

Now that I'm unemployed my new or rather enhanced full time job is creating opportunities to gain or better utilize food. I no longer look @ things in the same way. If it's a spot on my city lot no matter how small I measure the sun light in hours that it receives. If it's a left over I reinvent it adding dinner table vegetable scraps to my bread dough or subbing half the cake flour with home ground whole wheat since that was free. It's hard this providing for our own table. My thoughts are consumed.

  1. 72 San Marzano Tomato seedlings started few have sprouted.
  2. 72 Black Beauty Eggplant seedlings started, majority have sprouted.
  3. 82 Goliath Broccoli seedlings up & running (hey we eat broccoli allot of broccoli!).
  4. 72 Rhubarb Swiss Chard up & stumbling (who know it was this hard to grow?).
  5. 24 Turban Squash sprouted (should be interesting finding space to grow this huh?).
  6. 8 Bloody Butchers Tomato seedlings 7 up & running (awesome heirloom salad tom!).
  7. 8 Cherokee Purple Tomatoes sprouted (The best tom ever !!!).
  8. 6 hanging buckets planted with Nasturtiums seeds (salad fixings & bug control).
  9. 72 Gita green beans planted all developed a fuzz only 2 sprouted.

For the most part I won't be planting carrots, onions, potatoes, or squash since I'm able to glean these items. I didn't glean enough last fall because of my work schedule so our supplies have run either out completely or very low. To tell the truth on the subject of herbs I'm pretty well stocked from last year for the majority of my canning & cooking needs for this year and next. Minus Garlic 'cause you can never have enough garlic.

I do have a few seed packets of carrots that I plan on planting in the front yard in the holes of cinder blocks.

UPC update - I bought 8 five pound bags of white sugar that was a loss leader special before Easter. This is my stash for canning. Opened up the last quart of Pears canned last Summer today for breakfast. Down to 4 quarts of canned Peaches from our two trees. Carrots & potatoes are gone as is the Squash, both fresh & dehydrated. Crushed fruit such as Berries & Cherries over 30 pints canned, are working well for use in yogurt. All pints jam/jelly well stocked except Currant which works great as a sub for cranberry sauce on meats. Salsa which I couldn't keep on the shelf in years past is a slow go this time around. Daughters have also lost their taste for home canned grape juice to the extent that they were drinking in November.

~~ pelenaka ~~