Thursday, May 15


Heartwood USA - a cartoon for politically active kids.


Sunday, May 11

Preserving Garlic: basics

We are garlicphiles (just made that up, phile = lovers of).

Couple of things that are worth keeping in mind.
  • The longer you keep fresh garlic, the more pungent it becomes.
    (you might want to wait a while after harvesting/buying before preserving)
  • Home-grown or locally grown garlic will keep for 3-12 months depending on how healthy it is to begin with.
  • Anything that is preserved is no longer the same as when fresh.
    So don't expect the same flavours, textures, etc.
  • Some varieties do well in winter.
    (an important consideration if you want true garlic taste year-round - fresh is best)

Probably the 3 main ways to preserve garlic are drying, freezing, and pickling (vinegar).


Drying is an excellent option as it means no extra ingredients, is energy efficient if using a solar oven, an aga, any oven already on, or even the sun, and very importantly, it retains most of its characteristics.
Dry until crisp but not going brown. If you do it in something like a solar oven or the sun, it can take anythig from several hours to a couple of days. Drying does lose garlic its crunch. It then keeps for years if correctly stored. Once re-hydrated, you get the chemical reaction happen that gets us the great garlicky taste.


A benefit of pickling garlic is that the eater won't get garlic breath. But hey, if you live on a couple of acres, I bet you don't care, right? :) The vinegar neutralises it, although it takes months to do so completely.
You can keep it up for to 5 years! And it gets better with age. I've never had any that long. Any vinegar works, depending on your personal tastes. It retains its crunch but loses some garlickness (can't think of a better word). Still a great option.


Freezing garlic works fine too. However, if you're interested in the health benefits of gralic, crush the cloves first and wait about 20 minutes before freezing. (it's a chemical thing)

Garlic in oil?

YUUUUUMMMMMM preserving garlic in oil - not the best idea.

Low acidic foods in oil are only good for very short-term preserving (not really preservation at all, just a few weeks in the fridge). These foods have the risk of forming certain bacteria that are very dangerous to your health.
The garlic in oil you buy in shops has been acidified.

One of my favourite ways to use garlic with oil is to make garlic oil. I leave the garlic in the oil for about 1-2 weeks and then remove the cloves. You get lovely flavoured oil but the bacteria won't grow without the food to live off (the cloves).
Dried garlic in oil is okay, but I've never worked out why I'd want to do that so haven't bothered trying.

Growing garlic isn't difficult, so it's worth growing plenty and eating it all year-round. As an excellent natural remedy for colds and flus, it's ideal to use during the winter.

If you grow it yourself, and you harvest healthy strong crops, store it properly, you may never need to preserve it. But the right recipes offer different and delicious ways of eating your garlic.


Tuesday, May 6

Postal Junk Mail

We've all had leaflets, papers, and advertisements delivered into our postbox. Whether it's for the local take-away, insurance, or trying to sell you new windows, it's mostly a nuisance and ends up in the bin or recycling box. Wouldn't it make more sense, be less annoying, and be mindful of how many trees are used for the printing, to simply stop them being delivered at all? Something like 100 million trees are used for this type of paper alone.

There are small businesses now that offer such a service. Some require a payment but there are free things you can do to stop the deliveries.

Easy and Free Options

Get stickers for your mailbox
or simply write a sign - No Commercial Leaflets, or, No Junk Mail.

Register with the Mailing Preference Service
They will remove your name from many direct mail lists. These are companies who have bought your name and address with the intention of targeting you for credit cards, loans, etc. It takes about 4 months to take effect.
This won't stop sveeral types of mail, such as 'To the Occupier' and where you've unknowingly given your permission.
Worth doing as you can register online. Quick and easy.

Opt out of being on the edited register
When you fill in your electoral registration form, you're able to choose whether you want your details included in the edited register. This can be bought by any company or organisation and can be used for any purpose, including sending junk mail. Tick the box to ensure your details are on the ‘full register’ only.

Opt out of Door to Door
For unaddressed (to ‘occupier’ or ‘householder’) junk mail, you can write to the Royal Mail Door to Door Opt out Services, Beaumont House, Sandy Lane West, Oxford, OX4 6ZZ, Tel: 08457 950 950 and ask for your address to be removed from their database. Note that this will result in you no longer receiving unaddressed information from your council, such as civic newsletters.

Tick the box to say ‘no’ to further information
Whenever you order a product or service, make a donate, fill in a survey, or fill out a warranty card, tick the box to say that you don’t want any further information about other products and/or services. If there is no tick box, write in large letters "Do not sell my name or address".Read those tick boxes carefully. Sometimes they say, tick for no information, other times they word it the oppsite way so that a tick is giving them permission!

Return to sender
If the junk mail has a return address on the envelope, write "Unsolicited Mail. Return to Sender" on the envelope and post it the next time you pop into your post office. The sender will have to pay the return postage and will usually remove your details from their mailing lists.

In USA: compiles a list of people who indicate that they don'tt want to receive ads in the mail. Registration for the list is free. The website supplies the list to mass mailers, which can choose to check it with their mailing lists and remove names that appear on both.

It costs only $1 processing fee, and the Direct Marketing Association can add your name to its 'do not mail' list. The DMA requires its more than 3,600 member companies to match their marketing lists with the 'do not mail' list. Junk mail will decrease about three months after your name gets on the list.

To stop credit card and insurance offers, call (888) 5-OPTOUT [(888) 567-8688] or register at, which removes your name from major credit agencies' marketing lists for five years, or permanently if you complete a mail-in form.

Now that we are living up a mountain in relative solitude, we don't have this problem. But having been an urban dweller for almost all my life, I still remember just how annoying and wasteful was junk mail. You have a choice, and it doesn't take much.


Friday, May 2

No Shampoo Hair Washing

Not to shampoo has many advantages.

  • Eco-friendly - less chemicals and substances are produced, manufactured, packaged
  • Eco-friendly - less substances are flushed into our water systems or gardens
  • Economical - less to buy, as well as rarely requiring an added conditioner
  • Hair friendly - less chemical on our hair/bodies
  • Beauty friendly - better conditioned hair, less 'bad hair' days
  • Healthier - less chemicals poured over ourselves
  • Self-sufficientish - you can use many ingredients from your land
  • Fighting consumerist scams - read further, a product we don't really need

    At first, the idea not to use shampoo might be weird or even shocking to some people. We are so conditioned (no pun, honest!) to believe that we need shampoo to have clean hair, that it's always difficult to think differently. In actuality, the more you shampoo with regular shampoo products, the more you need to shampoo. It's a viscious circle.

    Why is this so? Well you see, the chemicals in shampoo, even the suppossedly good-quality moisturising ones, strip your hair of dirt and oil, but also of it's natural oils. Your scalp was designed to produce a certain amount of natural oils that look after your hair. Yes, those hair oils are actually there to help your hair, and to make it look wonderful.

    But when we strip our head of these oils, our scalps over-compensate by producing more oils. Remember, the oils are produced to care for your hair, so when they've been stripped your scalp will oblige by producing more and more. So more shampooing means more of a need to shampoo. Your hair looks great when you've just done it, but you need to keep on doing it. Are you getting it now? It makes total sense doesn't it?

    Really, when fully considered, shampoo is really a scam. It's not only that we don't need it, but it's in the using of it that actually makes us need it!

    Conditioners were invented to replace the lost oils from shampooing! Crazy really. But they only cover up the damage done by the shampoo. Wouldn't it make more sense to not cause the damage in the first place?

    And don't be fooled by expensive salon products. Yes, they can be much, much better in that have some great ingredients that provide temporary benefits to hair. But they still strip the hair at the same time!

    Okay, so we get it, chemical shampoos aren't good for our hair. But nobody wants disgusting dirty, oily hair right? Going without shampoo doesn't mean being a smelly hippie at all. You can have clean natural hair. Often, your hair will be at its best condition ever! Shockingly true.

    The most basic routine uses just warm water and baking soda. But there are many variations according to your hair needs as well as your desired outcome.

    You just need to get past the initital shock, prejudice about being unclean, brainwashing that suds = clean, and realise that your hair will look and feel different. I liken the look and feel to when you give your hair a deep conditioning treatment; a little heavier and smoother, not fluffy or 'squeaky'.

    Basic Routine

    1-2 tbsp Baking Soda
    enough warm water to make a liquidy paste

    Wet hair with warm water (try not to use very hot water on hair), and massage your scalp rigorously with your fingertips and even nails. This gets the blood circulating (excellent to stimulate growth, as well as proper blood supply to hair), as well as basic cleansing for dry skin.
    Rub the soda mixture into your root hair.
    Don't forget under your hair and near the temples if you have long hair. You want to get to the areas nearest the scalp that get the oiliest.
    You can use it all over your hair if it's long, but unless your hair is greasy all over you'll probably just end up drying the ends.
    The baking soda is a mild abrasive and is there to remove oily dirt, not as a general cleanser.
    Rinse with cool water to close your hair cuticles. (especially usful for those with frizzy hair like me).
    Or rinse with diluted ACV (apple cider vinegar) (don't substitute) if your hair is very frizzy, dry or very fine.

    You might want to repeat the process if you've let your hair get very dirty and greasy. You'll also need to experiment with amounts to find what works best for you.

    But that's really all there is to it. I promise you will have clean hair.

    Some people find their hair doesn't look very clean for a week or two as their scalp attempts to adjust to the new regime. I didn't find this myself. I have very long, thick, slightly frizzy/fly-away hair. The soda cleaned my scalp very well.

    WARNING! if your hair is frizzy or very fine, baking soda might be terrible for it. Although my hair does clean up, it breaks too. Baking soda is not a good option for me. I've gone down the lemon juice route.

    Basic Chemistry

    Acids, such as apple cider vinegar (ACV), close your hair cuticles, thereby making frizzy hair lie flat and look shiny. For some people, ACV might make the hair go too flat and sometimes dull. Whilst for those with very frizzy hair, the baking soda might be too rough and just a vinegar rinse will do. Experiment with ingredients as well as amounts. Start with 1tb ACV to 2 cup of water for dry frizzy hair, or 1tsp ACV to 2 cups of water for normal hair.

    If you don't react well to such acids, use it on long hair from midway down, so that the mix doesn't get on your scalp.

    Alkalis open up the cuticles, so can make hair dull and rough. Baking soda is only a mild alkali, but again, you'll need to experiment with what your own hair needs. Because it's alkali is the reason it's best to use it near the scalp or when hair is greasy.

    The opposite chemistry of ACV and soda can be used. For example, vinegar can be used as a rinse to remove all the baking soda. This way, if you find baking soda works great to cleanse but your hair looks dull afterwards, the ACV could fix that.

    To add shine, control frizz, stimulate hair growth, and much more, there are other ingredients we can use. Please see my other posts for specific recipes.

    Note about water:

    The best water with which to wash anything is soft water. Hard water has too many chemicals or minerals and makes cleansing difficult to near impossible sometimes. Softwater is distilled (such as bottled), if you have a water softener fitted, rain water, or river/stream water. Water from a well, coming from low down in the earth, is usually hard water.

    For those living off the land, rain water is a brilliant choice. For those living in urban areas, rainwater might be too polluted, but give it a try.

    Too Lazy?

    Okay, there will always be a handful of you that see the sense, want to make a change, but just can't be bothered. If you really can't be bothered to use one product, baking soda, or miss those soapy suds, then there are at least another three options. It's not a great option, but it's better than chemical shampoos.

    Buy mild soap, such as those based on vegetable oils, non-fragranced, natural, and not tested on animals.
    Find soft water.
    Use the soap as your shampoo.

    What?! Isn't soap harsh!? Nope, that's what the shampoo manufacturers hope we still believe. It's not the soap (if its made from minimal ingredients), it's the use of hard tap water that's always been one of the problems. Check that the soap doesn't contain any sodium sulphates, which are the chief strippers.

    If your hair is really dry and frizzy, use chemical -free conditioner to wash your hair.

    This might sound very odd, but surprisingly, you can wash hair with conditioner. And you use much, much less than shampoo.

    Or, use a shampoo from your health shop. But don't assume it's okay, read the label.
    So if nothing else, give these three options a try.