My Other Passion…

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Besides writing and cats and chemistry, gardening is my favorite thing to do when the weather warms. In the 21 years I’ve had a garden, I can say that I’ve never stopped learning, but one thing I know above all else is that you DO NOT try to control mother nature. Our garden is very wild and wooly. We’ve always been an IPM garden; we are registered as a wildlife habitat with NWF.org; and we do use mostly natives, except for the occasional specimen plants, some of which are pictured here. We have a lot of wildlife and that’s not always pleasant, especially when the raccoons tear up your container pond, annihilate nest boxes, and shit on your roof. Yes, they did all that over the weekend. It’s a struggle, but we persist. I should have bought stock in hot pepper sauce for the amount I use in the garden.

 

We Have a Winner …

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And I even managed to convert the husband to the new laundry soap. I found that the addition of the little bit of enzyme worked wonderfully. We’ll still use the Bronner’s Sal Suds to clean the shop towels because who wants to waste the good stuff on shop towels?

Here’s the final Recipe (Though I do think I will eventually make my own laundry soap bar by modifying my regular soap recipe to use only Coconut oil and a 1 or 2 % lye discount. My current formula is for skin, so it’s way superfatted.)

  1. 2 Cups Borax
  2. 2 Cups Washing Soda
  3. 1 grated bar of soap (castile, zote, fels Naptha, or homemade)
  4. 1/2 Cup of Citric Acid
  5. 1/3 cup of Biokleen Premium Plus (with enzymes) Laundry Powder

Use 2-4 tablespoons per load depending on the size of the load, and vinegar in the rinse. I’ve found that 2-3 tablespoons works the best without over-sudsing. If you are leaving out the biokleen, then 1/3 cup is generally needed to get enough soap in the mix.

Done and Done and onto the new…

Experiment that is: Cat Litter box deodorizer. Now, I scoop 2 to 3 times a day, but you 71YS2fR8JhL._SL1024_know and I know, the stink still happens.

I used to buy Richard’s Organics because it worked and it’s unscented for Moon’s allergies, but it’s often hard to find locally, so I have to get it from Amazon, and for 25 ounces, it’s like $10.00 for Zeolite, baking soda, and enzymes. I’ve used Zeolite, during my fish keeping days. I am very familiar with it, so I went in search of a 100% zeolite product that I could add my own baking soda to in order to make an effective and safe odor control product at a fraction of the cost.

That’s when I found Ecotraction: 7.7 lbs for $12.00. It’s so safe even your kids and pets can accidentally eat it, and it’s good for the garden too, so between the walnut litter and this, my compost pile will love it.

I so hope it works. .25 cents per ounce (including the baking soda) is way cheaper than .40 cents an ounce for the Richard’s. Zeolite works like activated carbon only better, so I am hoping that it will work even without the enzymes. Nature’s Miracle has one that comes to .29 cents an ounce, and I found a Chicken Coop one by PDZ that’s even cheaper  and comes in a 10 lb. bag at 0.11 cents per ounce, so I’ll keep you posted.  If it doesn’t, I can use it in the flower beds for improving the soil. I try not to use things that don’t have a secondary application, just in case Plan A goes tits up. It happens. A lot.

The Look of Love

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If you ask my husband how we came to take in a feral cat (we being ferret people not cat people) he’ll probably tell you that somebody fell in love. I did, of course, but I think the feeling was mutual between me and the Moon kitty.

Moon

It’s been 11 years since he came into our lives, and he still looks at me like that.

Cuppa Cuppa: Chemistry and Kitchen Witchery

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Yeah, there are tons of homemade laundry powder recipes on the internet (a dizzying amount) and some work and some do not, especially in hard water. Back in the day, my first front load washer (new on the market then) did not have a soak cycle, and it didn’t mix the water very well, so hot or warm water wasn’t really all that hot or warm. Powder detergent did not dissolve and caused all sorts of residue issues, especially in my hard water. So I stuck to Tide, Whisk, Woolite, and then when I started having sensitivity issues, I switched to the greener companies like Method, Sun & Earth, Seventh Gen, etc. But to be honest, green detergents suck. They do not get the clothes clean without adding shit like Borax, or Washing Soda, or Bleach, so I’ve wanted to make my own for a long time now, but liquid washing soap is a PITA to get right so that you use enough to clean but not enough to star in one of those sudsy-basement sitcom scenarios, which is why I didn’t even bother, until now.

front-load-washerI got a new Speed Queen front loader last year. I cannot rave enough about these machines, but aside from that, it has a nice long soak cycle, not to mention, better water temperature mixing. I’ve also discovered from my ‘simple is best’ homemade organic cleaner experiments that my cleaners tend to work better, so I thought now might be the time to try a homemade washing soap again. I am also a chemistry geek, understanding how things work is my thing.

 

2 Cups of Borax
2 Cups of Washing Soda (Sodium Carbonate)
1 Bar of finely grated soap
1/2 cup of Citric Acid

1/3 Cup of Enzyme Detergent (biokleen) (optional)

So why do I use this particular combination of ingredients? Well, it’s very similar to the Speed Queen approved DIY from their blog. Voiding a warranty is something I like to avoid.

1. Borax. A mineral salt that comes from the earth. Now, I am not afraid of borax just like I am not afraid of Lye. Used correctly and handled with care, Borax does wondrous things. It makes water very slippery by way of its buffering properties, which keeps soap and dirt suspended so that nothing settles back on your clothes. It also releases hydrogen peroxide, which has antiseptic and whitening properties. Many of us old time soap makers add it to our soap recipes for those same reasons. Also, it’s cheap.

2. Washing Soda. Sodium Carbonate is a water softener in a way different from Borax. It competes with the magnesium and calcium ions in hard water, prevents them from bonding with the detergent being used. Sodium carbonate is also used to remove grease, oil, and wine stains = Bonus. And it’s cheap.

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3. Grated Soap. You need a surfactant to remove dirt, but you do not want a ton of suds. Even synthetic, naturally-derived surfactants can overproduce suds, which is why I prefer a Castile or Coconut/veggie based soap. I use Dr. Bronner’s because it does not have the synthetic ingredients some soaps have. I hear Zote is good too, but I am not familiar with the ingredients. I cannot use my own homemade soap because I superfat for moisturizing and you do not want excess unsaponified oil in the wash for obvious reasons, plus, as a company Dr. Bronner’s just rocks it when it comes to being socially and environmentally conscious.

4. Citric Acid. This is in just about every cleaning product out there and the reason why is that it is a chelating agent. It makes metals soluble, like the iron in hard water that turns your whites yellow. It removes limescale, and it improves the effectiveness of soap. Chelating the metals in hard water lets the surfactant produce foam and work better. This is why Lemi-Shine and most machine cleaners are simply citric acid. Try it in a homemade dishwasher detergent and you will never have film or water spotting again. You won’t need to waste your money on a rinse aid either. Sadly though, this is the one ingredient missing in most DIY laundry detergent recipes and it’s really really important. You typically want a 4-1 ratio of Washing Soda to Citric Acid.

5. An Enzyme Cleaner or a Detergent. This is optional, but some stains like sweaty gardening stains need a bit of extra help. Blood is notoriously difficult. Right now, I add a dime-sized dollop of Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds to the difficult loads, but I am planning to experiment with adding a cup of biokleen to the dry mix to see if it works as well as the Sal-Suds. We’ll see. Sal-Suds has SLS, so some might be averse to using it despite conflicting information. If the biokleen can tackle the sweaty gardening soil, then I’ll replace the Sal-Suds.

6. Lastly, I use vinegar in the rinse cycle, also Speed Queen approved. About ¼ cup just to get rid of any residual soap.

So far, I am very happy with this mix. 1/3 cup of dry per normal load. If it’s whites, I add a cup of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide to the wash cycle as well for extra bleaching. I get it by the gallon for $6.99.

Is DIY cheaper? Maybe. I don’t know. Don’t care. My only reason for doing this, well, two reasons, are that, 1. I want my clothes clean and have been sorely disappointed in the commercial offerings, and 2. I want to stop giving money to companies that test on animals. You do not have to pay Dial and Arm & Hammer. You can order Borax and Soda Ash and Citric Acid in bulk from places like The Chemistry Store and Bulk Apothecary. They are only distributors.

I still like Method and Ecover and all the other green companies, but if I have to use additives to help them clean better, then why continue to use them if I can make something that works just as well on its own or even better with ingredients I already have at home and with the minimal use of an additive like Sal-Suds or biokleen?

Why indeed.

Note: You’ll see most DIY recipes call for 1 to 2 tablespoons per load, but seriously, this IS NOT enough soap or anything to actually clean your clothes. Commercial products are concentrated. DIY is not, so let’s not get ridiculous, otherwise in a few months you will be complaining about dingy grey clothes that smell like crap and probably a gross washing machine to boot.

Also, I do not know anything about cloth diapers, so, can’t help anyone there, but for the cat linens, I do sometimes add some Nature’s Miracle or Bac Out to the wash cycle. Baking Soda does fuck all, so I don’t even bother with it outside of a soft scrub situation.

I Do So Love the Deep Think

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I Do So Love the Deep Think

20126059._SY540_Watched The Arrival recently, and it was so mind-blowingly good that I decided to read the short story it was based on along with the rest of the collection. I want to explore the Perception of Time theme that was so obviously a major plot point in the story. Some might think this is one of those ‘Aliens land and we have to figure out how to talk to them’ movies, but seriously now, that’s kind of trite once you discover what the story is really about on a metaphysical level. Those who are paying attention will discover it pretty quickly. I think I might have shouted, “No Shit!” at the TV.

It’s obvious to anyone who works with words that our linear and mathematical perception of time has influenced not only our language but how we process information and how that information influences our decision making abilities. More importantly, I want to further explore the Free Will thesis being argued in the story because it directly relates to our perception of time. 51fHqVpotuL._SY346_

If you already knew something was going to happen, what would you do? If time is circular and predestined, do we really have Choice? These are pretty serious questions, and true Science Fiction has been exploring those questions and others since Science Fiction was invented. It’s one of my favorite genres for that very reason.

I’ll let you know what I think when I’m done reading it.

Trying a New (To Me) Cat Food

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Trying a New (To Me) Cat Food

CaptureAll 3 people who read this blog know that Moon has allergies and issues with mineral load (he’s a stone mason) and carbs. They also know that we’ve spent years trying different foods for him. I think I’ve fed the raccoons and skunk and opossum more cat food than any human on this planet. Whatever the brand, I can tell you exactly why I won’t buy it or why he can’t eat it. It’s very frustrating.

Right now he eats Young Again Zero Carb Mature LID formula and Rayne Kangaroo Maintenance (wet), which isn’t perfect because it has way more potato than I appreciate, thus the carb load is very high for a wet food. That said, I’ve been, as I always have been, sourcing new foods.

I stumbled on Koha, and I am very impressed with the ingredients. It’s similar to Ziwipeak, Hound and Gatos, and even Instinct. It is made in the USA and has better protein choices for cats with sensitivities. It doesn’t contain the mineral clay and random bones that one will find in Natures Variety Instinct, and isn’t as dry as Ziwipeak or as pasty as Hound and Gatos, which no one would even get near.

Koha offers Venison, Duck, Kangaroo, and Guineafowl along with the standard chicken and turkey. They also have a LID line.

But the best best best thing about them is that they offer sample can purchases. Up to 4 cans at a time with a nominal shipping fee. That is a lifesaver, and shows me that the company has faith in their food. You don’t have to commit to an expensive case only to wind up donating it to the local wildlife because your cat won’t eat it.

This is the profile for the Venison stew:

Ingredients
Venison, Vegetable Broth, Water, Porcine Plasma, Dried Egg Product, Chickpeas, Fenugreek Seeds, Calcium Carbonate, Parsley, Dandelion Greens, Kale, Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Pumpkin, Turmeric, Ginger, Cranberries, New Zealand Green Mussel, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Magnesium Proteinate, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Ethylenediamine Dihydroiodide, Folic Acid

Guaranteed Analysis
Crude Protein (min):
9%
Crude Fat (min):
7%
Crude Fiber (max):
1.50%
Moisture (max):
82.00%
Ash (max):
Crude 3.0%

Calorie Content
Kcal/5.5oz 146, Kcal/kg 938

I tried some of the LID pates to start since both the boys like Rayne’s Kangaroo, but sadly, something put them off and neither would touch it. May have had too much pumpkin since it was a pate.

I’m trying the stews now since they are the same texture as the Rayne, with gravy and chunks of meat. Let me tell you that this food is really meaty. I was afraid that there would be tons of chickpeas after seeing it on the ingredient list, but the carbs are so low that the little plant material that’s used must be infinitesimal. I think according to Catinfo.org’s food chart, the venison was something like 4% carbs, which ain’t too shabby. Venison is a good choice for cats with sensitivities. Jury is till out on the Egg product and the Green-lipped Mussel. We’ll see if Moon starts itching again. If that happens, well, at least the company was kind enough not to make me commit to a case because stores that carry it in my area are limited, and they don’t always have the flavor I need.

I’ll keep you posted as we try different flavors, though I do highly recommend the food since it’s one of the few that is carrageenan, gum, grain, and potato free and doesn’t contain a fuck ton of pea products instead.

Normalizing and Some Royal Fluff

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icm_fullxfull.120198155_arr4tbxr3k00gk4cgw48Activities in the house are starting to normalize after, what, 16 months. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since we brought Rupert in because all the time spent on him just flew by like a warm breeze. I look at his royal fluff now and I can barely remember the stinky, scared thing he was not so long ago.

He’s pretty much done with his ‘running back to the den’ whenever he feels wary of something. Most often, when I get home in the evening, he’s in the dining room on the bed with Moon, catching some sun or just looking at the garden through the patio doors. They eat their kangaroo meals together now, and Rupert will lick both plates clean if Moon doesn’t finish.

This past week was the first week I was able to sleep through the night without disturbance. Moon would come in to eat from his secret bowl (he still needs a food bowl of his own in secret), but he didn’t need to wake me up for reassurance that the bowl was full. He just ate and then went back out into the house to be with his friend.

Rupert is still a little bit skittish when it comes to the hustle and bustle and the loud noises during cooking and cleaning times, so he still retreats to a safe place when he feels the need, but the need is diminishing, and he spends more and more time in closer proximity to us in the evenings. He’s a charmer too. The way he rolls around and shows you his belly when he wants attention and interaction. I noticed this when he was outside. He’d do it to Moon through the patio door. That’s how we knew he was lonely. Timid and Lonely. Moon was the same once upon a time back in 2006 when we first met him and Rupert.

Neither one of them was meant for solitary living nor were they meant for the hardship that comes with solitary living, so both of them, in their own way, asked us for help. It’s been a long and wonderful journey, and even at this point, I can smile at the fact that both of them have the life I imagined they wanted.

They are safe, well fed, healthy, and most of all, they are not lonely. They have us, and they have each other to discuss and do cat things with. Neither of them had that outside. Too much competition for survival, which they don’t have to worry about anymore. Moon is competitive over my attention, but that will work itself out in time.

Anyway, I said I would unveil the Litus Gallery painting I had done for Rupert when it was finished and on it’s way to me, so… ta da! I can’t wait to hang it with the others.

 

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Courtesy of The Litus Gallery

 

It’s too difficult to think about all those years Rupert was alone out there, hungry, in the ice and snow, so I like that this painting gives him confidence and friends and a sunny day to enjoy a game without worry. Thanks again to DD for helping me give Rupert a history to go along with his beautiful and honest soul.

Stories I Can’t Resist…

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I read the book when it came out, and I watched the film version last night, which was very true to the original story and starred Bob the cat himself. If you like ‘people overcoming their struggle’ stories and you like animal friendship and connection stories, then this is a good one to read and to watch.  Bob the cat is nothing short of awesomeness, and the real James Bowen is pretty spectacular himself. Kindness and Perseverance go a long way.

Making Big Changes

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During Moon’s vet visit a few weeks ago, the doctor and I discussed his allergies and how his symptoms have either improved or diminished over the last few months. Less sneezing. His bald spots are filling in, and no more thrown up food. I told her about all the food changes and the housekeeping hygiene changes we had also made over those many months. She just looked at Moon and said, “Wow. Your parents really love you.”

We do, and so we didn’t see the point in baby-stepping the process, which would have only dragged things out and left him uncomfortable for longer while we treated him like a lab animal. That was the logic behind my decision to change as many things as we could all at once versus eliminating one thing for 8 weeks at a time.

The food thing was probably the easiest: we just eliminated the beef, fish, poultry, and by-products. We always used grain free food to begin with, and LID diets are known to work very well. The vomiting stopped immediately. The itchy skin and ears took much longer to resolve and were probably a combination of food intolerances and environmental issues.

We’ve always been a “No Pesticide or Chemical Fertilizer Garden” and a “Buy Cruelty Free” household when we can because companies who practice cruelty-free just tend to be more environmentally responsible anyway, but even those products often contain synthetic ingredients and fragrances. I admit that I love scented laundry products, and I am guilty of using bleach for cleaning the litter boxes and whitening my clothes. Well, was guilty. In trying to deal with Moon’s dermatitis, I decided to go one step further and eliminate as many premade cleaning products as I could. Even the green ones. Noxious floor cleaner was first on my list. I used to use an Enzyme cleaner: Nature’s Miracle, but they seem to have markedly increased the scent in the product, and it’s more than my husband can stand, so I ended up going with Rescue because it is a stabilized Hydrogen Peroxide made for the Veterinary Practice, and it’s unscented and kills even parvo in 30 seconds. Peroxide is awesome stuff. Strong and safe, which is what I need for Rupert’s FIV. I need to be able to kill anything I bring in from the garden without the toxic side effects of bleach. The smell of bleach makes me nauseous anyway. I also use Rescue to disinfect the litter boxes; though, I did have to hack my Swiffer wetjet so that I can use it with the disposable pads for floor cleaning. Washing doesn’t always kill everything, so I need to mop and throw the microbe-loaded pad away. Sometimes you can’t be totally green.

For every other cleaning product except Laundry Detergent, I decided that I would make my own. I have made my own soap and salves for almost 20 years, so, much to my surprise, I already had all the ingredients in the house to make my own cleaning supplies too:

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  1. Washing Soda
  2. Baking Soda
  3. Borax
  4. Coarse Kosher Salt
  5. Castile Soap (Dr. Bronner’s is my favorite.)
  6. Rubbing Alcohol, Witch hazel, and/or Vodka (I do not use vinegar; it’s not surface safe.)
  7. Citric Acid
  8. Veggie Glycerin
  9. Various Essential Oils (I like Now Foods, Majestic Mountain Sage, or Aura Cacia.)
  10. Almond Oil

What I found during the process is that you really don’t need a lot to keep your house clean and sanitized, and there are tons of natural websites out there with tons of free recipes. I decided to buy this book from Clean Mamma because I liked her recipes the best, although, I did alter most of them. Here’s what I made in 1 hour.The-Organically-Clean-Home-Clean-Mama-1-217x300

  1. Disinfecting Surface Cleaner for Kitchen (Basil and Lemongrass)
  2. Disinfecting Surface Cleaner for Bathroom (Mint and Eucalyptus)
  3. Dishwasher Detergent (dry no scent) Also works as Toilet Cleaner and Bathroom Scrub.
  4. Dusting Spray (Lemon, Basil, and Lemongrass. Smells better than Lemon Pledge.)
  5. Glass Cleaner (Basil and Mint)
  6. I’m going to try making a Poo Pourri spray this weekend.

I only use liquid Laundry Detergent because I have a front load machine and oversudsing is bad for the machine. Making liquid laundry detergent is a pain in the ass, so I buy free and clear from Method or Sun & Earth or whatever other eco company is available at my local store. I found that Borax whitens the whites way better and safer than Bleach too, and combined with Citric Acid and Baking Soda (the dishwasher detergent,) it does a fantastic job on the toilet bowl and the shower pan. We’ve also switched to aluminum foil balls in the dryer to eliminate static sling. Seriously, it works. If we want to scent something, like the bath towels that do not have contact with the cats, we use the Wool Dryer balls with a few drops of essential oil. No more dryer sheets.

Now, a word of caution. Natural doesn’t necessarily mean completely safe. You don’t want to inhale or ingest washing soda or borax obviously, or drink Hydrogen Peroxide, and many essential oils are toxic to animals, especially cats, so you want to dilute, dilute, dilute, and never ever diffuse into the air or let essential oils come into contact with the animals, their food, or their bedding unless you are absolutely certain they do not contain Phenols, Ketones, D-Limonene, and or Alpha-Pinene. Spray into a micro-fiber cloth instead of spraying the surface; it reduces overspray into the air. That said, you’ll find that these DIY recipes actually work better than their store-bought counterparts work and are often cheaper. My dishes sparkle even after dried on cat food.

But the real benefit is the reduction and or the elimination of synthetic chemical residues and fragrances around the house thus reducing indoor air pollution. Not only is it good for Moon kitteh as our experiment has proven, but it’s good for us too.

I could kick myself for not doing it sooner.

Note: Yes, you could buy fancy glass bottles for all your new cleaning products, but it’s even more eco friendly to save the sprayers from your old bottles and re-use glass condiment bottles instead. I use an old Worcestershire sauce bottle for my peroxide because it’s brown glass, and I use cooking wine bottles for my other stuff. If you need extra sprayers sans the bottles, you can find them anywhere including Amazon.