Living the Good Life : Going Natural

reworkLike most people I am super conscious of doing my best to care for the environment, and over the years have addressed some of my less Eco friendly habits and made a number of simple changes to my lifestyle. Particularly when it comes to cleaning materials. In themselves these changes aren’t dramatic; just little tweaks here and there but I’ve always felt that if we all make little changes it is far better than a few people going all out. Don’t get me wrong, I am filled with admiration for those who live a completely natural and zero waste lifestyle, but I also realise that ingrained habits and fear of change can make such a huge life adaptation seem insurmountable. Not to mentioned the perceived expense of an Eco lifestyle. I am quite a thrifty person by nature and loathe waste – a habit I learned at the knee of my maternal Grandparents and great Aunt, who were very much of the make do and mend generation.

If like me, ‘speed clean with me’ videos on Youtube are a guilty pleasure, then you will also be aware of the sheer volume of different cleaning products these guys and gals employ to ensure their homes sparkle like a new pin. I watch with a fascinated horror as they mix and match the various chemical laden products; each of them sporting a different synthetic perfume – it makes me cough just thinking about it. The truth of the matter is you don’t need very much to keep your house clean and smelling fresh.

A simple mix of distilled water, bicarbonate of soda and a few drops of essential oils (peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender and lemon are all antibacterial) makes an effective cleaner for kitchens and bathrooms and will leave the room smelling heavenly. Borax added to water can be used to remove mold and mildew, and pure soap flakes dissolved in a little hot water can be used in place of commercially bought washing up liquid

Likewise, My favourite cleaner for the hob and oven is a sprinkle of bicarbonate of soda, the pulp from our home-made lemonade and a spritz of white vinegar or lemon juice. There is something incredibly satisfying about how the bicarb fizzes when the lemons and juice/vinegar are added – mad scientist vibes abound! Once my potion is applied I walk away and let it do it’s thing for while, then just wipe it off with a clean cloth.
Speaking of cloths; I have to admit I have fallen prey to the lure of brightly coloured and patterned microfibre cloths in the past. It is regrettable given that they constantly shed microplastics into the environment when in use but even more so when being laundered. I intend to use them until they get too tatty but rather than replacing them with new ones I’ve earmarked some bath towels that are looking past best that I will cut down to make new cloths. In the meantime I’m going to invest in a ‘Guppy Friend’, which is a wash bag that you place all your synthetics in that prevents the microplastics entering the environment. A guppy friend is a good purchase for washing all your Yoga and fitness wear in too, as these types of garment being made mainly of synthetic fabrics tend to be one of the worst offenders.

When it comes to clothes, know your materials – buy good quality natural fabrics. Firstly they tend to last longer but also wash and wear better. Fabrics to look out for are cotton, linen (sometimes called flax), ramie, viscose, silk and wool/cashmere – I know the last three are a controversial suggestion if you are vegan, however if you are purchasing these materials pre-loved (95% of my clothing is pre-loved) I personally think it is better to buy those than buy synthetics like polyester, acrylic and nylon. Synthetic fabrics should be no go because of the aforementioned release of microplastics. When you consider that a 6kg load of synthetic fabrics releases around 700,000 microplastic fibres into the environment it really gives you pause for thought.

As if our clothes releasing microplastics wasn’t bad enough just scan your laundry detergent many of those also contain them too, in fact many commercial cleaning products do and are terribly damaging to wildlife and the environment. Try soapnuts in your laundry instead. They are completely natural, can be composted and can be used a couple of times before they are depleted of their natural saponins. If you miss your clothes being scented add a couple of drops of essential oil to the fabric softener compartment instead of the aforementioned softener. We’ve tried everything from tried and tested lavender to not so conventional star anise in our laundry and love both. Peppermint and eucalyptus is a lovely combination too.

In coming weeks I will be sharing more of the recipes for our home-made cleaning products and possibly make a Youtube video on the subject too.

Love and Light

Stella

Foraging and Making: My First Attempt at Crab Apple Jelly

autumn_leaves

Last Sunday while out on our walk through the forest my partner and I decided to visit one of our favourite foraging spots. In addition to being incredibly pretty it is also replete with Elder, Blackthorn and most importantly at this time of year, a sizeable crab apple tree.

To our delight the crab apple tree has an abundance of ripe fruit this year. We collected about a kilo of fruit, leaving behind a feast on the tree for wildlife and other foragers to enjoy.

crab_apples

Usually I use crab apples to make blackberry and apple jam. The high level of pectin in them ensures a good set without the need for adding a specialist jam sugar. This year however I decided to give making crab apple jelly a go instead. I could see in my minds eye as we gathered the fruit, jars filled with gorgeous clear jewel toned luciousness.

Unfortunately it hasn’t been a resounding successs. The amount of jelly is far less than I would have hoped and is very cloudy. In my haste to get going I didn’t pay enough attention to the recipe and suspect that I cooked the apples in too little water and for far too long.  After leaving the mixture to strain through a jelly bag there was so little liquid that squeezing the mixture to get every last little bit liquid out was my only option. As a result the liquid was very cloudy and not the jewel like clarity I was dreaming of.

jelly2

Being cloudy already I decided to throw caution to the wind and add a teaspoon of ground ginger, added sugar and heated the mix up until it was at setting point. There being such a small quantity it didn’t seem worth sterilising a jar, so i’ve decanted the jelly into a small bowl and plan to use it up over the next couple of days.

I’m hoping that it will make a nice accompaniment to bread and cheese (or to some ‘Gary’ for my vegan days) or maybe giving my breakfast porridge an extra zing by adding a spoonful.It seems I’m big on options but alas low on jelly. That being said, nothing is wasted. I’ve learnt a new skill and with some tweaks it will be better next time. But for now, i’m going to savour every mouthful of the little I have and enjoy it.

If anyone out there has more experience of jelly making and could give me few pointers it would be great to hear from you!