Thursday, 29 March 2012

Homemade Washing Powder - The Beginning

This year I am all about homemade and money saving. So after reading an article on making your own laundry detergent, so I decided to give it a go.

You only need three ingredients:
2 cups of borax
2 cups of washing soda
2 bars of soap

So I went about it, we had washing soda and soap but no borax. I discovered that borax is no longer sold in the UK for health reasons but we can get a borax substitute so that was all I needed to obtain.

It is just a case of grating the soap and mixing it well with the borax and soda, then away you go.

I was a bit sceptical as apparently you only need one tablespoon per load but I gave it a try on my whites wash.

I took a photo of a farm baby dirty sock ( no one dirties socks like a farm baby!) for a before comparison. And the one for the after! Which you will see below. I was amazingly surprised! I also did our bed linen which is all white and it turned out fabulous.

I washed on 40o on my machines Eco wash and used no softener, which I usually do but I wanted to see what the powder alone did. I used the recommended 1 tablespoon amount, which looked quite silly in the drawer compared to the usual heap I seem to add.

I did some maths for costing purposes.

Usual powder -
Surf at £14 for 90 washes = 15.6p per wash

Homemade Powder -
Borax Substitute at £3.94
Soda Crystals at £0.90 for 1 kg. I used 600g so that is a cost of £0.54.
Soap Bars at £0.85. I used Imperial Leather soap as it is what we had.
Total = £5.33 for 55 washes = 0.10p per wash

So a definite saving there. I think next time I would use a cheaper soap, by using a supermarket own brand I could bring that cost down to £0.20 (ish) so that could make a cost of £0.09 per wash. I didn't factor in the fact that it appears that fabric softener doesn't seem to be needed, as I haven't tried this on clothes yet ( other than my test socks!) so I may find I still need it but I do have another recipe for homemade softener too! Another time I think.

I am also happier with the space saving too, my homemade stuff fits into a tiny space compared to the huge washing powder box.

 The before sock.

 The after sock

Monday, 26 March 2012

Tiny Gardening

I haven't been doing as much as I should in preparation for the 'grow your own' season. But I have been planting a few seeds and this is where I stand at the moment. Cucumbers and tomatoes. I don't have the greenhouse (still) so it is still all being done on the windowsill.

They aren't looking too bad, thought I wasn't getting any cucumbers but they eventually appeared and are looking very healthy. I have never tried growing cucumber before so this should be good. I am also going to be a better mum to my tomatoes this year and hopefully I'll get a better crop to do some exciting recipes!

I have potatoes waiting to go in, so I should probably get off my bum soon and do that. We are also adding some more fruit trees to our collection this year as well. They should arrive soon and will need to be in the ground as soon as possible.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Smurf Loaf

My mum had sad news yesterday. After fifteen years she had to say goodbye to her last cat, Smurf. He had suddenly collapsed a few days ago and was rushed to the vet. After being diagnosed with bad kidney failure he seemed to respond to treatment and the vet was hopeful. But his condition suddenly deteriorated and mum was called in to make that choice that is no choice.

He was a lovely big lad and we got him from neighbours when I still lived at home. (I must have been 14! Good grief!) We also ended up with his mum who sadly passed away a couple of years ago, again from kidney trouble. He was a happy cat who liked the good things; eating, sleeping and love but was also a great little hunter too. Called Smurf because he was blue... no, not really. Can't remember where they name came from but it certainly suited him.

Mum and I live at some distance from each other now so phone support is all I can offer. However my dad is stoping in tomorrow on his way home after a trip away, so I decided to send some comfort food back. I scoured the net for something nice to make and found a Banana and Chocolate bread recipe. I made a few adjustments to it, to fit to my tastes and I thought I would share the result with you all, so you can make Smurf loaf and remember a lovely cat.

It comes out black and white - just like him.


100g plain chocolate
150g butter
175g granulated sugar
3 eggs
175g self-raising flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
25g cocoa
2 large bananas , peeled and mashed
50g plain or milk chocolate chopped into chunks (or use choc chips)


25g butter
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp demerara sugar
Chopped walnuts, around 3 tbsp

Oven 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.


Grease two 1lb loaf tins.

Make the crunch topping by rubbing the butter into the flour and sugar. Stir in the chopped walnuts.

Melt the chocolate and stir till smooth. Allow to cool slightly.

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add one egg at a time, beating well between each addition.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa and fold into butter mixture.

Add the mashed banana, melted chocolate and chocolate chunks and mix well.

Divide the mixture between the 2 tins and sprinkle on the topping.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool on a rack, then enjoy!

Friday, 23 March 2012

A Tropical Experiment

Not sure how this will turn out as it is a post from my new iPad. I have entered the technological age!!

I am attempting something that I have been wanting to do for a while now, grow a pineapple from its top. So after extensive research on the interweb I have made my first attempt.

Apparently it should take about two weeks or so to be able to see whether it has worked or not. But I will keep people up to date on the progress of our pineapple.

It should grow actual pineapples too if it works but that's somewhat jumping the gun!

The first step was removing the fruit, just leaving the leaf section. Then removing the lower leaves to leave a small stub. Then popping it in the soil. Some people suggest using a rooting hormone but as I don't have any I haven't used that. That is likely to be something I try differently if this experiment doesn't work!

I need to keep it warm, but not hot and not too light. Not in the first few weeks, this is to encourage the roots to grow and not to try and grow new leaves without the root base to support it.

I should expect to see the existing leaves dying at the tips and then new growth from the centre.

We shall see!!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


Thought I would introduce to you a couple of the adaptions both successful and experimental that I have been adding to chicken-knox. The first was the addition of a water butt.  My dad added a roofed section to the inner run to help protect the house and also make my life more plesant when cleaning out in the rain!  So I decided to utilise the roofing further by getting free water for my girls (and guy).  I added some guttering and a water butt and after frozen hands, shouting at it a couple of times cos no matter what it kept draining out in the middle!  Even with a proper connector, then gettting Farm Guy to come take a look we had a functioning system.  It isn't the most attractive and guttering experts are clawing their eyes out right now but it works and it makes life easier and a little better for the environment!

I am always trying to make life more natural for the hens, I believe that animals should (and are happier) when they are living as much as they would in the wild as is possible when in captivity.  Even my university studies reflected this as I did my final year project working with keepers at a Safari Park to enrich the lives of their three elephants.  So I intend to make my chicken habitat as natural as I can.

We now have 12 chickens and the little shop bought drinker we have gets a bit crowded at high drinking times, is not really in keeping with the 'would you find it in the wild' approach and is broken!  Also, I always strive to get the chicken chores done as quick and efficient as possible.  So the drinking pond idea was born.  Dig out a small pond which is attached to the water butt by a hose, then I can just turn the nozzle and fill the pond fast when I see it needs it.  No more getting wet feet flipping over the full drinker.  No more fighting with the broken leg on the drinker.  No more chicken queues and punch ups waiting for a turn to quench thirst!  And more .... yep .... natural!!

This is a small pond, I may decide to move/enlarge it at a later date.  I was experimenting with the ease of the system and whether the chickens liked a more au naturale way of drinking. (It's not as wonky as it looks, honest, the ground is on a hill!).  So far they seem to like it, more chickens can get in at one time as they can get all the way round and they seem to like being able to put their whole beak in the water.  The filling system works well.  

On the cons side, I think it could be slightly deeper to counteract the affect of the hill and if we ever got chicks it would need to be filled with stones to prevent any drowning issues.  But apart from that it appears that it is working well so far. 

The testing continues.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Pond Watch

Okay. I looked out of the window today at the front garden. Mortified. It looks like the garden of an abandoned house.  No wonder everyone goes to our back gate instead of the front door!  The beds are a mess of weeds with a strangled looking plant every so often.  The path is more moss than gravel and the gate is so dodgy that the postman has wedged it open with a brick so he doesn't have to compete!  No amount of bulbs is going to save this lot, this needs an overhaul!!

Right in the middle of this garden come field is our pond, which was a solid mass of slime - although beneath the slime I discovered pretty clear water!  I determined that even if I did nothing else I would clear out the slime so I set to it it.  Eugh...

But I was surprised to discover that amongst the No No slime there was some Very Much Hurray slime in the form of some Frog Spawn.  I am very pleased with this, I have been wanting the pond to be more wildlife friendly and in particular attracting some frogs so this was a great sight for me.  

I am going to keep an eye on this little group and hopefully bring you updates on how the little wrigglers are getting along!I don't know whether there is anything I can do to help them - protection wise so at present I am just leaving them alone!