Sunday, 28 December 2014

A Green-Er Future

It's that time, between Christmas and New Year's... a Sunday - My house is a mess with kids' presents everywhere.  My fridge is full of leftovers, and not much else.  I'm running out of staples - like milk, and dishwasher detergent - I live far off from the nearest grocery store, and must make do. 

This year's New Year Resolution is to go Green-er...  Becoming less dependent on mass produced goods and foods, and not hopping in a vehicle spending gas money to drive a long way for a few tidbits - If I can make it myself, I will...

So, this morning, I get up to the massive pile of dishes waiting to be washed, and a freshly made coffee with no milk (at this point, I still can't drink coffee without some type of creamy liquid in it).  Instead of slumping on the couch with a good book, to ignore it - I did some research, to solve my current, basically unimportant-in-the-whole-scheme-of-things, dilemma - No Milk, and No Dishwasher Detergent.

Luckily, because we live way out in the boonies, I've already discovered staples that are required in order to be able to deal with the inability to immediately go to the store if we run out of something.

I Buy Bulk.  Baking soda, rice, oats, natural salts, natural sugars, etc...

First up.  What the heck am I going to put in my coffee?  Brown Rice Milk.

I have brown rice. I have water. I have sea salt, vanilla, and honey... 
Boil up some rice in double the amount of water til soft (about 1 hr.) - add some more water to cover by a couple inches, add a bit of vanilla, sea salt, honey, and let sit.  Blend that up and strain through a sieve... That's it.  Creamy Coffee!  I can also now make a smoothie for the kids, when they wake up - berries, brown rice milk, bananas, and honey.

Now, what to do about dishwasher detergent.  I found a very simple recipe for cheap n' easy detergent for your dish-washing machine (because we are more than people who spend hours doing the dishes by hand).  The recipe:  2 parts washing soda, 2 parts borax, 1 part coarse salt and 1 part citric acid.  And I have a big plastic container leftover from cashews, to keep the mix under my sink. 
Mmmmm Caasheews...  

Anyway, I had everything except washing soda.... Hmm... I just found out that the difference between baking soda and washing soda is a simple change in chemistry.  By heating baking soda spread on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for a half hour or so, extra water and carbon dioxide are released, creating Washing Soda!  How cool is that?

Shake all that up in a large container (whatever large container you have, but, really, you should treat yourself to some cashews!)  Use 1 tablespoon per load.  And, for rinse agent, pour some white vinegar in the little hole meant for that weird blue stuff.

Let the New Year begin!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Time for a Life Change

Mid-November 2013, our family home burned to the ground on a peaceful Sunday afternoon.  My oldest daughter and I were watching a Lord of the Rings installment in the living room.  My middle son and youngest daughter were playing quietly in the backroom... a little too quietly, in hindsight.

I had homemade pizza in the oven, and Chris was on his way back home from picking up a canoe an hours drive away.  At around 5pm, the younger kids ran in, with bizarre looks on their faces.  "what's the matter?" I asked.  "nothing" they said in unison.  A few minutes later, I got up to check the pizza and smelled something acrid.  As I opened the oven door to see what was wrong, I realized that the smell was coming from down the hall, towards the backroom.  I looked down the hall to see orange flickering and black smoke through the glass french door - and heard my 2 dogs, whimpering.  Bolting to the door, I swung it open to an explosion of flames - they were so fast and furious - the smoke so thick and strangling that I could not see or breathe while trying to get my dogs out.  I ran back to the doorway, screaming at the animals to get out - but the only sound was now violent crackles in a deafening roar.  I yelled to the dogs to forgive me for leaving them, but the kids were screaming in the kitchen and the fire was rushing to get us if we did not move fast.  I pushed the kids out the kitchen door and told them to start running to my neighbour's house.  Realizing I hadn't called 911, I went back into the house, hearing "911, what's your emergency?"... the phone went dead.
The fire was now all around and there was nothing to do but run. 

Once outside, with no shoes or coat, I watched the house go up with the raging wind, a massive version of the many bonfires we have at the beach in summertime.  The kids were running and screaming as I drove toward them.  Stopping for a few seconds - I pulled each one in through the driver side door with one hand, throwing them over me into the passenger seat.  "Hold on!" I screamed, and gunned it to safety.  The firetrucks arrived a few minutes later, and Chris came home to a horrible scene - Being a volunteer firefighter, he tried to help, but was held back - his emotions were running too high from  not knowing where we were.  Once the family had reunited, the kids were taken to a friend's place, Chris went down to try to save the vehicles and garage, and I stood hundreds of feet down the driveway watching my home incinerate.

Our neighbours, friends and community came quickly to our aid with warm clothing, food, toys and emergency funds - We are so grateful.  We are planning our future here with more attentiveness and efficiency than ever possible.  A blessing in disguise.

Since then, I've gone through some very tough psychological and emotional states.  However, what has come from this is a strength I didn't know I had.  I feel different - in a good way.  I no longer smoke, guzzle alcohol or sugary drinks, consume anything without thinking about it first, nor do I allow others to negatively encroach upon my mindfulness.  That may not seem like much, but for me, after a couple decades of mild debauchery in the pretense of being an 'artist', it is huge.

Sometimes we need a wake-up call - it's too bad mine had to come at such a cost.

A charred remnant in the snowy ruins - photo: C. Fisher