Archive for the ‘July and August’ Category

Breezy laundry

The following is a piece I wrote for July issue of Messenger magazine.

Ah, summer. The days are warm and getting longer. The breeze rustles through the big green tree leaves, and I’m doing laundry like there’s no tomorrow.

Not that I love doing laundry, but I’ll admit that hanging freshly cleaned sheets on the line is one of my favorite little things about summer. There’s something deeply satisfying about harnessing all that free, natural energy to dry my linens. And of course, nothing beats inhaling fresh air off a pillow case as your drifting off to sleep to the hum of a fan in the open window.

These are just a few simple pleasures that I try to remember to stop and savor, and a small part of how I’m learning to live a little more simply in the midst of a far-too-often complicated life.

I used to think that “simple living” meant traveling by horse and buggy, sewing my own clothes, or reading by candlelight (all things that I’d be happy to do, by the way). But all that seemed like such an intimidating jump to make from my car-driven, store-bought, lamp-lit life. Simplicity just seemed too out of reach.

But a few years ago a good friend reminded me that taking a turn in a new direction doesn’t have to be u-turn—it can be a gentle fork in the road. The nice thing about forks is that they don’t seem drastic at first, but over time they take you to a very different place than you were originally headed.

In addition to what I save by line-drying, I’ve taken to reducing the cost of laundry by making my own detergent. The ingredients cost about seven dollars and can be purchased at any hardware store. The recipe I use makes approximately three gallons, and a little diluted vinegar works like a charm for fabric softener.

Maybe one of these days I’ll get myself a sewing machine, but in the meantime, at least my sheets are drying in the breeze. 

Laundry Detergent

1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax (optional)

1 bar soap (I use Fel’s Naptha)
3+ gallons water

Bring four cups of water to a very gentle boil in a large pot.
While it’s heating, shred the entire bar of soap using a box grater.
When the water is hot, add the soap in small handfuls, stirring to dissolve.
When all the soap flakes are dissolved, remove the pot from the heat.

In a separate large container (I use a 5-gallon bucket) add three gallons of warm water, the washing soda, borax (if using) and the soap solution.

Stir, cover, and let set for 24 hours. 

After 24 hours your detergent is ready to use. Its texture will vary depending on the type of soap you use (mine is usually rather slimy and glob-y). When you’re ready to wash, use the same amount that you would with a store-bought detergent. Diluted vinegar makes for great fabric softener.  


Fast forward…

July and August have come and gone without so much as a wave from this blog. That is because we were giving them all sorts of attention in other areas–the garden, for example,
and the kitchen.

Quite demanding, those two months. Lots of weeding, harvesting, preserving, dinner-party-ing, hookah-ing, harvest-marketing, and eating. To prove it in a very, very abbreviated fashion, here is a “fast forward” through the last 60 days.

On July 1, our garden looked like this:

Look at those neat little rows go. Our pole beans looked like this…

So little, cute, and unsuspecting.

Then I attended a conference for work, we took a vacation in Michigan, and the garden kept growing. Three weeks into July we were up to our ears in squash and bush beans. So when the family came over to celebrate my brother’s and mother-in-law’s birthdays, I naturally served fresh pasta with zucchini and summer squash, and a chilled green bean salad with those pickled radishes from June.

My mom really, really liked it…

And the garden kept growing. So, on August 1, we harvested all this…

And this…

Did I mention that in addition to the heirloom squash and Italian zucchini, we had some volunteer zucchini sprout from last year? I was relieved. Just when I thought we might not have enough squash.  So nice, those guys…

Two weeks into August, we harvested our first tomato.

Better late than never. It was delicious.

I talked some friends who were vacationing in Michigan to bring me back 24 pounds of peaches, and 20 pounds of blueberries. As I was dealing with those (freezing the berries and canning the peaches in a lavender-infused honey syrup – yum!), the beans, squash, and new
tomatoes kept coming.

Oh yeah, and we discovered these weirdos growing out of our compost bin and trying to sneak-attack the garden.

Turns out they get bigger, oranger, and taste delicious when steamed and salted. Hooray for edible surprises.

Now it’s September 1 and the pole beans look like this:

Not so cute any more, eh? We may be slightly over our heads…

Amazing how so much can happen in 60 days. I didn’t even tell you about the onions, cucumbers, peppers, and our first baby cabbage. (I know I’m probably biased, but I swear it is the most adorable, most perfect, most beautiful red cabbage ever grown on this green earth. It’s also deliciously tender when steamed, buttered, salted, and served alongside weirdo pumpkin-compost-squash. Just sayin’.)

September, bring it on.