Green All-Purpose Spray Cleaner

I take great pride in the fact that K and I haven’t used commercially prepared cleaners and detergents in over a year, with the exception of dishwasher detergent.  I’ve yet to find a homemade version that works well, and so we usually buy 7th Generation or Ecover for that. (We do use a vinegar rinse instead of Jet Dry).

One of the best green “recipes” I have found for an all-purpose spray is also one of the easiest.

Into a clean spray bottle:

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1/2 tsp of washing soda
  • dab of liquid soap.

Combine and shake.

So easy!  It does a really great job of cleaning up every day messes, and as I use washing soda in my laundry detergent, I always have everything on hand.

But I recently decided to look for an even better all purpose spray to cut grease as well as germs.  I found this.

Gorgeously Green All-Purpose Spray

from Sophie Uliano, author of Gorgeously Green: 8 Simple Steps to an Earth-Friendly Life

Into a 32-ounce spray bottle:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pure castile soap
  • 3/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 20 drops tea tree oil
  • 20 drops of lavender
Combine and shake.
Amazingly, I had all the ingredients on hand for this spray. I guess I’ve gone more green than I thought! The combination of tea tree, lavender and peppermint oils create a really “clean” smelling spray, I was pleasantly surprised.
Even though buying the ingredients initially might add up a bit, over the long haul, this spray is better for the environment and your wallet.  Although a bottle of essential oil runs ~$5, the number of bottles of spray (plus numerous other uses for the oils) will definitely pay you back.
Try it!

Coopers Ark Farm

Saturday morning I was puttering around the house when the hubby suggested checking out Coopers Ark Farm.  Coopers Ark is where we buy our eggs and chicken from most weeks at the Greenmarket, and it’s been a goal of ours this summer to go to the actual farms where our food comes from to see how the animals are treated.

Some of you may remember this post about an email K and I received from Phil upon finding out some of his chickens had Green Muscle Disease.  Our trust with Phil has come a ways since then, all of it good, as he has tried to be extremely forthright in all of our dealings.

Still, we had made a pact to visit at some point, and Saturday was finally supposed to be the ideal summer day, beautiful sun, low humidity, not too hot.  We jumped in the car and headed out to Schoharie, following Google Maps directions.  Turned on one road, then another, then found ourselves heading straight into someone’s farm!  Two farm dogs came charging at the car, protective of their master’s domain.  We brought the car to a screeching halt, balancing precariously on the gravel road (if it could be called such) before we hit a dog.

Have you ever driven through farm country on the east coast, on public “highways” that separate a house and its barns?  The barns are so close to the side of the heavily paved road, and the farmhouse sits on the other side, separate by the length of concrete?  It seems weird to see a parcel of land divided like that.  Well, drive to Coopers Ark sometime, and you’ll see how those roads became ROADS.  The private road we ended up on (because there was no other choice) was full of holes, gravel, rocks and we could barely get our car down it.  When the dogs brought our car to a stop (soon after I saw a Farm for Environmental Conservation sign on the side of THEIR barn), of course, the owner poked his head out to find out who the heck was driving through his land.  Sheepishly, we apologized for the intrusion and asked how to get to Coopers Ark.  He was very nice about it, telling us we could either continue on that road the rest of the way, or go back out to the paved road.  We decided to go back to the paved one, but when we found another turn off for Ark Hill, it was no better than the previous one.  Straight down a huge hill, ditches and rocks leering at us the whole way.  But we got down it.

The first thing I noticed was the house.  A nice ranch, but certainly nothing like the other farm we’d just passed through.


We actually almost drove past it because it didn’t look like a farm to me.  Little did I know that the farm buildings were in the distance.  Luckily, we happened upon Phil outside, just about to jump on his ATV and head to the barns.  After greeting us like old friends, we took a tractor ride out to the rest of the farm where we met many of the critters.


Outbuildings with small grain elevator


“Momma”, digging in the dirt for some corn


Guinea fowl, 3 weeks old


“Heidi” and “Willie”


Two calves sucking down water like there’s no tomorrow


Goats fighting over who gets the bottle


The lambs are much better behaved.


The piglets have freedom to roam almost anywhere. Look at their muddy legs!


One of the emus chows down

After we had fun with those animals, we headed down to the chicken “houses” to see how they’re kept.


I’m not sure why this picture is through the gate.  Phil let us in and I actually walked the whole length of the house.  Out back and to the sides the chickens have the freedom to come and go as they choose into the grass. I saw many of them taking dust baths, running around playing games, and several perched in the nesting boxes.  It really made me smile. They looked so happy.

Afterwards, we went back into the other barn because several ducks were sitting on eggs, waiting for them to hatch.


Look at the baby duck! He was born just the day before!  The mom had gotten off her nest to chase several other naughty babies who had decided to leave the nest and go on an adventure into the scary world.


What a good mom! She dutifully chastises them and they follow her back to the nest.  “This way!” she quacks.

There were other good moms.  Behind one of the walls of the barn, we found these.


How would they ever climb the 3 feet to the other side of the wall, we wondered.  But Phil pointed out this lovely lady.


There she is, standing on top of the wall.  Phil told us she goes down, picks up the chicks and drops them on the other side once they hatch.

After the duckies, we took Angelo the donkey for a walk.


I wanted a hug, but he wasn’t so interested.


Nope, all he was interested in was eating as much greenery as possible!


After we were done, we walked back toward the house, and Phil lent us one of his ATVs to head over to the turkey barn.  At this point, I put the camera away, afraid I’d drop it off a moving ATV.  The turkeys were a brilliant white, half indoors, half outdoors.  Whatever they wanted.  I was satisfied, especially because we had one of these turkeys last year for Thanksgiving.

After we were done with all the animals, Phil let us use the ATV to go touring around his property, so we could see the beautiful views he is surrounded by each day.  We took it to the edge of his farthest field and took it all in.


So gorgeous.  We spent about 4-5 hours at Coopers Ark, nearly all of that time with Phil Metzger personally, who took all that time to show us his farm, answer all our questions, and treated us like good friends by allowing us to tour around on the ATV.  Everyone should know their farmers so well.  🙂

P.S. – I could totally live on a farm.

Goings On at the Little House


Lots going on at the Little House this weekend!  It’s so busy, I don’t really have time to write a full post.  To keep you going, here’s a pictorial post to show what’s happening.


Jam being processed



Enjoying the “fruits” of Cynthia’s canning lesson



My first quilt is finished!



Hot kitty on the deck



Apricots and gooseberries



Apricot-gooseberry and blueberry jams



Full shopping bags after the Farmers’ Market



Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes in varying stages of ripeness



Blueberries drying in the dehydrator



Some of the produce brought home from the garden: tomatoes and green beans



4 cups packed basil, ready to make pesto.



Whew! As you can see, there’s never a dull moment!










Saying Goodbye to Thacher Park

I grew up in this state, the State of New York, and felt really proud for it much of my life. But the latest antics of our unelected governor (brought to us in the wake of the Spitzer scandal) and the state legislature, who is now more than a month and a half late in putting together a budget, has really made me disappointed in it.

There are a lot of hardships being felt due to the late budget.  Postponed tax returns, school payments being pushed out, possible furloughs for state workers; all of this is really shameful and due to the ineptitude of a few people to work together to get a budget done.  But one of the worst things, in my opinion, is the shuttering of dozens of state parks.

I mean, summer is coming up, the height of the season to get out of the “city,” away from the fumes and noise, and a cheap excursion for some people.  This year, there will be no barbecues, no hikes along the escarpment, no Indian Ladder Trail.

Look at some of these photos I look last year in the fall.  How gorgeous is this place?

Absolutely gorgeous.

Today was the final day of the park being open.  It was sunny and blue and breezy, and K and I had to take one final walk in it.  The escarpment was PACKED, a protest and state troopers on one side, and people visiting for the same reasons as my husband and I on the other. If I’d had my choice, I’d have done the Indian Ladder trail, but it’s closed until Memorial Day normally (so in this instance, it will not open again) and I couldn’t.

I really thought we’d be seeing people every few feet on the trails, so K and I headed to the inland trails and hit up the red one, a 1.5 mile easy loop with some additions to it, to make it a bit more than 2 miles total. I’d never done this trail, but it hit the spot for a beautiful, easy day.

A pictorial of our hike today:


K on his way down the waterfall

K down in the ravine

Note to my state representatives:  I’m really mad at you, and I plan to take it out on you in November.

Farmer’s Market Sunday

Late on the market recap, but this weekend was pretty lowkey.  Lately they have been. We’ve had so many meals of leftovers and the veggies have lasted for lots longer than planned as well.

So this week:

  • 1 pint and 1 half-gallon of reduced-fat milk from Battenkill Creamery
  • 1lb beef short ribs from Sweet Tree Farm
  • .85lb Goat rib chops from ???
  • 1 oz. of poached pear tea from Divinitea

We’re out of meat until next week because once again, even eating it only 1x per week (most weeks) we’ve burned through our 5lbs from 8 o’clock farm.  We’ve also decided to not sign up for the next CSA cycle which starts June 1st.  We thought if there was trouble with the meat defrosting in April, imagine what it would be like in June, July and August!

So, though we were planning to buy another kind of meat this week, Sweet Tree had a special of $3/lb for beef short ribs.  Oh yum!  And $3/lb is just something we couldn’t pass up! So we bought a pound and ate them for dinner that night.

Then, K had heard from a coworker that one of the vendors was selling goat meat.  So we found that vendor (and I can’t remember who it was! Oops) and checked out the meat as best we could. It’s USDA certified, goats are supposedly pastured yadda yadda yadda.  We made a goat curry with it (but it was honestly not what we should have done with that tough meat, oh well).  I guess it’s good I can’t remember their name, but I didn’t get the best feeling from them, and I don’t think I would buy again. The guy also told us they weren’t meat goats, so all I can think about is that those goats were faithful milk givers who finally got too old or stopped producing milk and were otherwise useless, so their thanks was getting sent to the butcher. 😦 (I know, I’m making up stories to myself).  But, though the meat was pretty tasty, it was also tough, and full of gristle. I don’t want to buy again from them.

We heard from someone at Divinitea (talking to someone else, so I guess we were technically eavesdropping) that they’re getting a storefront?  I hope it’s true, and think it’s great that they’re doing enough business that they think a storefront is needed! Yay for local business!

Not a Warm and Fuzzy Earth Day Post

My husband called me today to say he was depressed.   Now, there’s a lot in our house to be depressed about this week, for personal reasons which I just don’t get into much on this blog, so I was surprised when he said he wasn’t depressed about any of that stuff, but about Earth Day.  About how Earth Day just doesn’t seem important to people.

Now in my neck of the woods (the people I surround myself with anyway), Earth Day is actually getting bigger in their lives.  My friends are recycling more, paying more attention to the food they buy, not buying as many petroleum products – it’s not taking a “holiday” called Earth Day to spur them into making some changes in their lives.

But then I read this blog post, and it made me think. It was entitled WHY I HATE EARTH DAY, and yes, it was written by a self-avowed environmentalist. It was a good read, though a long one, discussing the truths about environmental justice, something long shoved under the rug. Depending on where you live, things may look like they’re getting much better, but for much of the world, and honestly, even in the poorer sections of the U.S., it’s getting worse.

As Sharon wrote:

If you live with the heavy smog of newly industrialized cities in the Global South, pollution isn’t something that is far away. If electronic waste leaks mercury and heavy metals into your groundwater, pollution isn’t magically invisible – you can see the vast piles of e-waste from the rich world, who have made their troubles better, largely by shifting things out of sight,.

In the net, quantities of nearly every major pollutant have risen, not fallen over the last forty years. Air traffic has risen by a factor of six, with all associated pollutants. We recycle 38% of our paper, but we’re turning trees into paper at double the rate of 1970. We have doubled the number of fish we extract from the ocean and tripled our fossil fuel consumption.

It’s not a happy thought, and it’s not the traditional warm and fuzzy message that Earth Day usually brings, but it’s something to acknowledge. In the U.S. we may be doing better than we once were, but a lot of our pollution gets passed off onto the other countries that make our cheap goods – and those people and animals also matter. No matter what little sacrifices we make, and face it, we make them because they’re easy, and we’re lazy, and because we’re not forced to live with the consequences of our actions – YET, it’s not enough.  It might not matter to us today, but it matters to someone on this Earth today – and it will matter to our children, or grandchildren someday soon.

I have to leave you with the same poem that the author of that post left her readers.


by Wendell Berry

1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

Llama Beans

Blackboard in Teri's barn

I sometimes post comments on Farm Life, a TU blog written by Teri Conroy of Wunsapana Farm in Guilderland Center, NY.  I enjoy her heartfelt blog posts on items related to her farm, the farming life, and even some personal rants at times.  On a blog post about a month ago, she was discussing dropping off llama manure to use as compost at the Guilderland Community Garden.  We were still at the end of winter so I asked if she might be willing to share some with me too, at some later point.

The weather this weekend has been absolutely gorgeous – 70-80 degrees (!!!), and I sent her an email asking whether her offer was still good, and if K and I could pick up some llama manure sometime soon.  She was so nice.  She emailed me back telling me sure, and we set up a time for last night.

We got there just after dark (even though we started out before the sun had set and only live about 20 minutes away).  We apparently can’t follow Google Maps directions.

This is what we came for: llama beans.

The excrement from llamas look a lot like larger rabbit droppings.  But it’s not nearly as smelly as horse or cow manure.  That’s because it has lower organic matter than those animals.  This makes it possible to spread the manure directly onto plants – it won’t burn them.  Plus, the llama beans have a higher nitrogen and potassium content than other manures, which is great for our garden.  Teri had a pile of manure outside her barn waiting for us (and other would-be manure-shovelers) so we got to work filling several large, heavy duty black garbage bags while the llamas watched us, very interested.

Even though it was almost 8pm, when I asked if I could take pictures, Teri graciously allowed us in her barn to meet some of the llamas. She has 16 of them on the farm, and she was doing feedings for the night (though she was down at a different barn when we came in).  So after we finished putting the bags of manure in our car, I opened those big red doors and we went inside.

First of all, I loved that barn.  It looked brand new and so nice and clean, like out of the pages of a magazine.  I doubt it is brand new, but that’s how well-taken care of everything is.  Those rubber floors seemed like a great idea too.

Teri told us to greet the llama, we should put our heads in slowly so they could touch their nose to ours.  I did it, and was greeted with a lovely wet nose kiss on the other side.  It was great! The llamas didn’t seem to really want to kiss K as much though. 🙂

We hung out in the barns a little while and then met Teri as we walked back to the car.  She was a great host, and even though we really were only there to quickly pick up some manure, she stood talking with us for over 1/2 an hour answering questions and telling us about about upcoming events.  And since we were there at dusk, we got to see some llama playtime – which they love to do at dusk and which most of the public doesn’t get to see – neck wrestling!  So fun.

So a big thank you to Teri.  Doing some research on llama beans on the internet, I saw how much money she saved us.  I found 1 gallon ziplock bags of llama beans sold for $7.95+ shipping and handling! Another website had 10lbs for $60 bucks! She gave us as much as we wanted, and we took about 30 gallons worth.  That’s almost $240 worth!  I guess she really should be selling it, but I’m grateful to get free compost for our garden.