Monday, July 16, 2012

My Latest Frugal Flops & Failures

Blogs can be deceiving -- and a little depressing. I can't tell you how many times I've read other people's blogs and thought, "She has things so figured out."  These people don't have messy floors or ever-growing piles of laundry that need to be put away. They give birth and then wear their pre-pregnancy clothes a couple weeks later. They homeschool, they travel, sew all their children's clothes, make ugly stuff from yard sales look like it came from Pottery Barn, they have a year's worth of meals planned out, and they give bars of homemade soap as gifts. Some days, I feel accomplished that I got a shower into my schedule before 3:00 PM. That's when I start comparing myself to them and this is never a good thing. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Comparison is the thief of joy."  

But here's the funny thing:  I had someone tell me fairly recently that I seemed to have everything figured out, that I seemed like I was organized. I wanted to laugh and hug the person at the same time.

Thing is, we bloggers, for the most part, put our best faces forward. We write of the things that are going well in our lives, the things that we're proud of. For example, I'm happy to put a photo of my garden on here, but you won't see any wide-angle photos my lawn (it's patchy and has a bunch of weeds in it). I'm more than happy to write a post about canning salsa or cloth diapering, but I'm probably not going to give much advice on organization or time management. I usually only show the things that work out, the things that I'm proud to show to anyone who will look.

That said, I thought it would be kind of fun to lift the curtain and show you some of my latest frugal flops. I love to experiment around my house and in the yard (it keeps things interesting!) -- sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.  Oh well. Incidentally, if you've tried any of these things and had success, I'd love to hear about it!

Flop #1 - Homemade Seed Tape

I read about homemade seed tape on Pinterest first and then in a book. I figured if two people could attest to it, then it had to work, right?  I spent some time one afternoon (during valuable baby naptime, no less) making carrot seed tape. I hate planting carrot seeds because they're so tiny -- I don't like just scattering a bunch (what a waste!), but it's sort of a pain to crouch over the dirt and plant each speck of a seed one by one. So when I read that you could glue the seeds onto strips of toilet paper and then plant them all at once (and evenly spaced), I was excited. I got all the supplies together -- seeds, toilet paper, and homemade paste (flour and water) -- and got to work. I took so many pictures of the process, thinking, "I can't wait to share this on the blog!"

Once I'd finished sticking those seeds on the toilet paper strips, I planted the tape, patting myself on the back. This was the way to plant carrots!  I covered them with dirt, watered them, and waited. And waited. And waited. I'm not sure what happened. Maybe I didn't water them enough, I can't be sure. All I know is that over a month later, I finally gave up and turned the bed over to plant something else. You can bet that there was a bunch of dried toilet paper that came up with the rake. Incidentally, I just replanted carrots not too long ago and discovered today that they're all sprouting, so it wasn't the seeds that were bad. I don't know where it went wrong -- the idea is great, but I just don't know if I want to spend the time to try it ever again.

Flop #2 -- Homemade Dish Soap
I found a recipe for homemade dish soap on a blog and quickly pinned it. Homemade dish soap for pennies? Could it be true? The recipe called for castile soap, water, and vinegar. As you may know if you've read this blog for a while, I love castile soap. Don't even get me started on my love for vinegar. So, once we were finished with our store-bought soap, I mixed the soap, water, and vinegar together and filled the dish-filled sink with water. I added the dish soap. It didn't work at all. I might as well have just used water. I just didn't understand -- how did castile soap and vinegar let me down?  I did a little research and found out that vinegar and castile soap sort of cancel  each other out when they're mixed and stored together (here's the link where I learned about that). Thankfully, I only made a little, so there wasn't much waste. Plus, I can always use the extra castile soap for something else.

Flop #3 -- Soap Nuts

I so wanted these to work. Have you ever heard of soap nuts? They're basically this dried fruit that people have used for centuries to clean clothes. The soap nuts contain saponin -- an all natural soap. I did lots of reading and research before buying them. There were so many testimonials from people completely happy with them. I even read great reviews about washing cloth diapers with soap nuts. I figured hundreds of years of use says a lot. Plus, I could compost them when they were used up! I was sold. I told my husband about them and he was pretty skeptical, but, being the awesome and patient guy he is, he was open-minded about the experiment. 

It's tricky with these things -- you can't really tell if they're working while they're in the wash because you don't get the suds in the water like you do from regular laundry detergent.  I washed a few loads with them. The clothes seemed clean but I worried about it in the back of mind. I even washed a batch of cloth diapers with them. The clothes and diapers smelled like, well, nothing after I washed them (which is a good sign).  However, it didn't seem to take long for the nuts to lose their oomph. To test if they're still good to use, you squeeze them when they're wet -- if a sticky substance oozes from them, they can be used again. After a few washes, I was mostly squeezing water out of them. I got nervous about my laundry. The diapers started getting a strong ammonia smell for the first time ever (which was weird because I'd read that the soap nuts actually stripped diapers and prevented ammonia build-up). So I stopped using them. Looking back, I think the problem is our really hard water (a byproduct of living next to mountains).  I still have the soap nuts. I want to use them. Any suggestions or help would be much appreciated.

Flop #4 -- Healing Clay Poultice

Well, it finally happened: I got my first sting since becoming a beekeeper. It's my own fault -- I got lazy and decided to not wear boots. Sure enough, one of our little bees (at the very end of the inspection, I might add) decided to land on the top of my foot and sting me. I've been stung by bees before with hardly any sort of reaction, but this time my whole foot and ankle swelled up like a balloon (that explains why my foot and toes look so big in this picture)! I should have just taken a Benadryll and been done with it, but since we didn't have any on hand (we do now), I thought I would try out a different remedy first.

My mom is the one who introduced me to "healing clay". She had visited a health store and gotten a free sample. Apparently, this stuff is supposed to heal all sorts of things (according to the informative pamphlet that came with the sample), including bee stings. In fact, one of the testimonials actually said that the clay poultice had pulled out the stinger from the sting site. One man said that his hand had been stung by wasps twelve times -- he put the clay on it and his hand was better an hour later.  The pamphlet had all sorts before and after pictures, so it seemed like a viable option. I mixed up some clay with some water, slathered it on my foot, wrapped it in some plastic wrap (so it wouldn't dry out too quickly -- this was also in some of the testimonials I read), and let it sit for a good while. I felt pretty silly walking around the house with my foot in plastic wrap. The clay helped a little with the pain and the itching, but it did absolutely nothing for the swelling. Once the clay dried out and I rinsed it off, my foot hurt just as it had before and it still looked terrible. Thankfully, the swelling subsided as time went by and after a couple days or so, I was back to normal. But why was my experience with clay so different than the ones I read about? Why didn't it affect my bee sting?

I'll give the clay another try, but it didn't work in this instance. Maybe I'll just use it for a facial. And I'll always wear my boots during inspections.


Angie said...

Thank you for posting this! It's amazing how many people "have it all together" from the outside, but those are the people who feel like they need to get it together. I recently had someone tell me they wish they were as organized as me. I just about fell over laughing, I have *terrible* time management skills, so I feel so unorganized all the time.

Oh, and I had to laugh at the healing dad got *really* in to that stuff for a while. He was even eating it when his stomach was upset. Bleck! Anyway, my mom always put a baking soda and water paste on our stings. Maybe try that one next time? Good luck!

Heather Dixon said...

Hahaha. Sometimes I think Pinterest crafts are too good to be true :)

My youngest sis stalks Pinterest and tries all the crafts from it. She made lemonade with colored lemons and lime slices floating on top...they turned the lemonade a muddy green. She also wanted to try marbled nail polish (you dip your fingers in a bowl of nail polish mixed with water) and the polish melted the styrofoam bowl and nail polish and water were everywhere...ya...I love pinterest :D

Were soap nuts expensive? I'd have a hard time believing my clothes were actually clean.

Heather said...

The soap nuts didn't cost too much -- I got the introductory package. I'm probably out about $10. I've still got some left if you want to try them out... ;)

Mrs T-W said...

With the soap nuts I make a 'tea' out of them for liquid laundry soap. All the amounts are approximate and you can adjust to fit your needs.

I pour about a quart boiling water over a handful of soap nuts and let them steep overnight. Then strain out the nuts. I use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of laundry liquid per wash.

However, don't use on whites as they get off color after a few washes. Use the tea up in a week or so and store in a cool area. You know when it starts to go off, as it gets cloudy and smells almost like vomit. Gross, but a clear indication that it has gone off! (Next time mine goes off- rare!- before I can use it all, I might try it as a bug busting tea. Worth a try.) LOL Someone said she stores it in her fridge in the summer so that it will last longer.

I also saw somewhere that you can make shampoo out of them, but I've never tried it. Good luck.

Btw, thanks for your honesty of imperfection. Only seeing the 'perfect' posts, sure can be hard on a person's self-esteem. We can be too hard on ourselves. Long as we are doing the best we can do, with happy hearts, that is a blessing to all around us and ourselves.

Anonymous said...

To save a lot of work and seeds, try mixing them with a fine sand and spread this on the piece of land you want your vegetables to grow.

Heather said...

That makes a lot of sense since those tiny little seeds (like carrots) only need to be planted 1/4" deep. I love it -- I'm definitely going to try that with my fall planting (which is coming up soon). Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

you're welcome! thank you too for the lots of tips I got from your blog :)

Annie said...

I'm one of the people who loves soapnuts. If after a few washes there's no more white stuff coming out, then maybe that's the number of washes you're going to get from your nuts with your hard water. I usually get four or so loads per bag of nuts, and we don't have very hard water. I often wash with cold, although that's not optimal. Warm is best. Hot will use up the nuts faster.

Heather said...

Warm is best? I thought I read that hot water activates them the best. I guess I'm all mixed up! :)

And I think you may be right -- that maybe I'll only get a couple washes worth. That makes me wonder if using soap nuts is that cost effective, then. Something to think about...

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