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The Permacultivator - Journal of Cool Climate Permaculture
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How to Come Clean in Easy Steps

by Jill Cockram

At last we have made the move from the Big Smoke ( or should I say "Big Smog") to our dream home in the Southern Highlands and imagine my joy when I discovered that here is a thriving Permaculture group in the area! As I had been involved with Permaculture North in Sydney and had made some good friends and learnt a lot, I was looking forward to being involved with the local group to further my education in the wonderful ways of nature. At the same time I would like to contribute in my own small way to living and encouraging others to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle.

ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT THE ONGOING POLLUTION OF THE EARTH?

Did I hear you ask: "But what can I do as a mere individual?"

Well, you can:

These are real changes that we can make to show that we are taking responsibility for our actions and setting an example for others to follow. Be a leader in an area where, as individuals, we can make an impact locally, and ultimately the effect will show globally.

To quote Dr Ted Trainer: "Live simply so that others can simply live."

DID YOU KNOW?

........ that a western city of 1.5 million residents sends 50 tonnes of toilet bowl cleaner and 200 tonnes of liquid household cleaners down the sewage system each month. (The Green Lifestyle Handbook)

The following is a collection of recipes/procedures you may like to try next time you are about to reach for a proprietary brand of cleaner/fertilizer. They are cheap and safe to the environment.

Zone 0 Inside the house

There are six basic ingredients that you can use as alternatives to the chemical cleaners you may currently buy off the shelf.

Bicarbonate of Soda, Vinegar, Pure Soap, Lemon Juice, Ammonia, Washing Soda

These form the basis of the following alternative cleaners:

WARNING: Never mix ammonia and bleach - toxic gas is produced!

1. ALL PURPOSE CLEANER

4 litres hot water, 1/4 cup cloudy ammonia, 1 tbspn bicarb soda

Use gloves to mix in a bucket. This mild mixture is safe for all surfaces and can be rinsed with water. For a stronger mixture, double all ingredients except water. Don’t use with bleach.

2a. CLOTHES WASHING SOAP

1 cake pure soap, 1 cup washing soda, water, 3 buckets

Cut/grate the cake of soap into an old saucepan with 1 litre of water and bring to the boil. Puree mixture with a hand beater until smooth. Dissolve 1 cup of washing soda in 1 litre hot water. Strain the soap solution and divide between three buckets with the washing soda solution. Gradually fill each bucket with cold water, mixing with a wooden spoon as you go. It will set into a soft gel. Use 2-3 cups of solution to each wash. You can even use it as a hair shampoo if you wish!

2b. CLOTHES WASHING SOAP

Add 1/3 cup of washing soda ( sodium carbonate) to the machine as it is filling, then add clothes and 1/2 cup of soap flakes ( I use Lux and I always melt the soap flakes in hot water first). To remove residue of detergents left in your washing machine which can cause yellowing, run a wash through your machine with only washing soda.

3. TOILET CLEANER

Pour one cup of white vinegar into toilet and let soak overnight. Scrub clean with brush next morning. Safe for septic system.

For stubborn stains make a paste of borax and lemon juice and rub with cloth or brush. Safe for septic systems.

For most bathroom cleaning needs you can use white vinegar on a cloth/brush or bicarb soda made into a paste with water - useful on tiles, ceramic basins, baths, etc.

4a. OVEN CLEANER

Combine strong mixture of ALL PURPOSE CLEANER with bicarb soda and using gloves and a scourer or brush, scrub off grime.

4b. OVEN CLEANER

A stronger solution: Preheat the oven for 20 minutes. Put 1/4 cup of special ammonia (CAUTION: this is a very powerful ammonia only available from chemists) in an old non-aluminium shallow dish and add enough hot water to cover the bottom of the dish. Turn off the oven and place the dish in the oven overnight. Next morning, scrub off grime with bicarb soda.

NOTE: TAKE CARE NOT TO INHALE FUMES OR HAVE ANY SKIN CONTACT WITH THIS AMMONIA.

5. DRAINS

Preventative: Once a week mix 1 cup bicarb soda, 1 cup salt, 1/4 cup cream of tartar and pour down the drain followed by a large pot of boiling water. This should keep your drains odour free and clear running.

Blocked drain:

Pour 1/4 cup of bicarb soda followed by 1/2 cup vinegar down the drain.

NOTE: YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE TO USE THE ABOVE TWO PROCEDURES IF YOU ARE CAREFUL WHAT YOU PUT DOWN THE SINK.

Zone 1 - Around the yard

1. GROW YOUR OWN FERTILIZERS

2. FERTILIZER SOUP

Brew - Couch, dandelion, dock and kitchen peelings. Has more N,P,K that proprietary lines and kills slugs.

3. HOME BREW LIQUID FERTILIZER

1x44 gal drum or old rubbish bin, manure or kelp, loosely woven bag or pantyhose or onion bags, water

Fill the bag/pantyhose with as much manure/kelp as it can take and lower it into the drum/bin. Suspend the bag from a stick going across the top and gradually fill the drum with cold water. Dunk the bag of manure up and down a few times and leave to brew for a month or so (dunking daily if possible). This can be then diluted down to 10:1 water/brew and fed to your plants (the kelp mixture can also be used as a foliar spray).

4. ORGANIC PESTICIDE

2 onions (roughly chopped), 2 red chillies - chopped, 1 clove garlic - halved, 1/2 cup soap flakes, 3 cups water, icecream container

Tip the chopped vegies into an icecream container. Mix the soap flakes and water together (use warm water for quicker result) and when dissolved add to the vegies in the icecream container. Put the lid on container and allow to steep for 24 hours. Strain through pantyhose into a jar with a sealing lid. Discard vegies, label jar "Organic Pesticide" and put in a safe place away from children. This will store for several weeks. When you want to use it, dilute the mixture with

2 1/2 litres of water before spraying on your plants.

5. ANTI-FUNGAL SPRAY

Dissolve 500gms dried milk in 4 litres of water and spray directly onto the leaves of plants showing signs of virus diseases.

6. LEAF CURL CONTROL

A net of mothballs hung in the branches of a peach tree is purported to protect against leaf curl, which seems to be quite prevalent in this area. Growing the herbs tansy and chives around the base of the tree is another suggestion.

7. MUSH POTS

How to recycle that old newspaper left over from sheet mulching the garden!

You will need: Newspaper (torn into bits), Bucket warm water, Plastic plant pots (moulds), 2 tbspns flour.

Add shredded paper to the bucket of warm water and stir a little. Allow to absorb for a few minutes, then take a handful and coat the inside of a plastic pot until it is totally covered to a thickness of 1-2cms. Squeeze out as much water as possible as you work, then place the pot in a warm, windy place to dry for a day. Tip the paper pot out of the plastic moulding pot and allow to dry one more day.

Mix up your flour and water into a paste and paint over outside of the paper pot to seal against weather. Leave a couple more days before using to plant into.

TIP: Use them for plants that will need transplanting, you can plant the whole lot - paper pot and all!

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Get the Cleaning Bug

Some ideas on natural cleaning from Martyn Robinson
Martyn Robinson, a naturalist at the Australian Museum has experimented quite extensively in his home with natural cleaners, and not the bicarb and vinegar type. He uses living creatures to do his housework wherever possible. This notion sits very comfortably with the Permaculture principle that challenges us to find natural solutions.
To keep down the mould in the bathroom try a few slugs. Martyn has taken out the guesswork but feel free to experiment and report back. Limax flava the introduced garden grey slug is his favourite species and with a dark damp natural hiding place provided for them they disappear during the day and clean voraciously at night. So you don’t have a mould problem in the bathroom you have a slug deficiency.
Other solutions that Martyn recommends include a colony of leaf tailed geckos for keeping out cockroaches, little black ants to control termites and spiders for insect control.

New Scientist 2000