Ahh, I love Sundays when there’s not much else to do, the sun is shining and Spring is trying its darndest to break out of its Winter hibernation.  This past Sunday, hubby and I went food shopping quickly (this involves 3 stores, oy) and then decided to take a bike ride by the canal later on.  That, however, will be a different post 🙂  K got a bike from his parents for Christmas so we’ve been looking to bike together later this year.  But while he put the bike together in the driveway, I took myself to the library to check out some books for the next month.

I think in the future we’ll be able to bike to the library (and the farmer’s market) together, but I was unsure if I could make it by the close, so I drove instead.  I did look for a bike rack at the library though and didn’t see one.  K thinks it may be on the other side, but who knows?  We have tons of bike paths around here, and not nearly as many racks.

Flagship library

Flagship library

I’m not sure when it was built, but it sure looks like a bunch of 1970s-ish concrete.  Not the most beautiful thing by far, but it’s pretty large and holds many book, including one that is out right now but I’ve called dibs on next 🙂

Alright, in reality, it’s the only book that came up when I looked up “urban homesteading” on the library catalog.  But it looks pretty interesting, even if it’s stuff I’ve read about before.

I also took out a bunch of other books that looked pretty interesting.

Library books

From left to right:

  • The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing
    My MIL gave me an old Kenmore sewing machine in perfect condition that was sitting in her attic for years sometime before Christmas.  It belonged to K’s aunt who passed away from breast cancer 2002 😦  I’ve been meaning to get into sewing for quite a long time, I’ve been cross-stitching for years, and it was a great gift.  However, I still don’t know how to use it.  I meant to sign up for a Joann’s basic sewing machine class but have been too busy thus far.  Hopefully, this will be a lot of help!
  • Cleaning Plain & Simple by Donna Smallin
    I’m always looking for new green cleaning tips. I’m not actually sure how much green cleaning is in here but I saw lots of mentions of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, so it looked good enough to bring home.
  • Farewell My Subaru by Doug Fine
    I’ve been meaning to pick this book up for awhile as it’s on a lot of locavorism book lists.  It’s about a guy who moves to New Mexico to live without fossil fuel for a year.  It’s about the contradictions and challenges of going green when you’ve never really tried it before.  It sounds hilarious!
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
    My mom actually had this book the last time I visited my parents, and since I can’t be without a book for more than 2 hours (it’s a compulsion, really) I picked it up and started reading it. I only got to p. 88 before I left, so I’ve been meaning to get it and finish it because it really was fascinating.  So far, it seems to be about an Indian (as in Calcutta, India) in the 60s/70s who are trying to fit in America without losing their Indian heritage.  From the back of the book, it looks like it’s more about their son, but I haven’t gotten that far yet.  Very good so far.
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
    My friends still can’t believe I haven’t read this book yet.  It’s at the TOP of locavorism book lists and I’ve been meaning to get to it for well over a year.  But I’ve been trying to finish several other books before I got to this one.  For those who don’t know, this is about a family who decided to live on local food for one year, food that was either grown by themselves or raised within 100 miles of where they lived.

And that’s my library sojourn for the day! They’re due back April 13th, so I’ll have to get to reading.

The Chemical Revolution

Last year I took an Animal Law class at my local community college, and there I learned that before 50 years ago there were no such things as “factory farms” – farmers were small operations that couldn’t possibly take care of tens of thousands of cattle and bring them to market. Back then, farming was more humane to animals and the environment wasn’t as badly affected because tons of fertilizer and pesticides and antibiotics were not needed to keep thousands of animals relatively healthy enough to get to market. Here’s a great link on the environmental effects of factory farming: Farm Sanctuary’s “Environmental Impact of Factory Farming.”

After World War II, it seems everything changed. Industrial farming became more and more the norm and something I’ve recently learned about, The Chemical Revolution, occurred. Take a look, 50 years ago, DuPont’s slogan was Better Things for Better Living…Through Chemistry.”

“The dawn of the chemical age followed quickly on the heels of World War II, instigated by war-related research and a host of ‘new and improved’ products like chemical cleaners, plastics, and disposable goods that quickly became symbols of American prosperity and modern luxury . . . Vinegar and soap were out, chlorine and synthetic, petroleum-based detergents were in. The modern marvel of petro-chemical wonders made domestic chores a breeze. Who needs elbow grease when chemicals will do the work for you?” — Easy Green Living by Renee Loux, p. 50

Now I’m not saying chemistry is bad, or rather, that all chemistry is bad. Hell no, I still use a lot of plastic, take medication everyday and live the life of a 21st century woman (despite my desire not to at times).

But the fact of the matter is that before the chemical revolution, household cleaners included ingredients like white vinegar, good old-fashioned plain baking soda, and the love of my life lately, pure castile soap. They couldn’t even have imagined things like Triethanolamine (TEA), Phenols, or tongue twisters like Alkyl dimethylbenzyl ammonium chloride (also known as quatenary ammonium compoound).

Don’t get me wrong, these chemicals are “modern miracles” – they clean and disinfect really well and leave being a scent that to us just screams “clean” – but almost all of them are absolutely toxic to both you and the environment. There’s a reason why many cleaners don’t list ingredients on their containers – who likes to read a huge list of multi-syllable names of things they’re putting on their kitchen counters or table?

The problem is, this stuff has only been around for the last 50 or so years. Vinegar and baking soda have been around for millenia. While we may think that we’ve been cleaning with these things for years and have never been affected, keep in mind, we don’t have more than one generation (really starting with the baby boomers) that has been in contact with these chemicals their entire lives. Who knows what this stuff is doing to us?

Have you ever been overcome by cleaning fumes, gotten a rash by coming into contact with some cleaning supply, or a bad headache from inhaling some chemical? All of that shows that that stuff is just not good for us.

So I set forth this challenge for you, to look for cleaning supplies at the store that contain ALL their ingredients ON the bottle. In the future I plan on posting my favorite green cleaning “recipes” – and all of them contain items we all know and can say in one breath:

  • soap
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • vinegar
  • washing soda
  • alcohol (yay vodka!)
  • and cornstarch.

You’ll be amazed at what you can clean.