Little House… in the Village

I was always a SERIOUS fan of Little House on the Prairie.  I watched the show when I was growing up, and then of course I read the book series authored by Laura Ingalls Wilder countless times.

I was always intrigued by the little girl who lived in a time when Trains were an amazing “newfangled” mode of transportation, where Christmas gifts were few, simple & homemade, where having windowpanes in a house was a sign of affluence.  Where sharing textbooks was a necessity and nobody cried about it because people remembered HOW to share.

I’ve related before that one of my favorite stories in the Little House series was The Long Winter.  Living in the Dakota territory in the 1880’s, the family faced blizzards with snow reaching to the 2nd story windows, low food supplies, and more difficult times.  But they survived.  And they didn’t just survive – they thrived.  Almanzo Wilder, Laura’s future husband, and Cap Garland, his friend, braved their way in life-threatening conditions to find food for the town.  (They didn’t even demand repayment!)

One of the ways the Ingalls’ family survived was with the use of their coffee grinder.  And this is the part that I LOVE. There were bags of hard, winter wheat available to the town – but no way to process the wheat to make it usable.  Using a hand-crank coffee grinder to spend hours (!!!) grinding wheat, the family was able to sustain themselves.

Necessity is the mother of Invention…  Plato

These were simple times.  Money was scarce.  People used the resources at hand.  They bartered for goods.  They worked for food.  If they didn’t have it, they just did without.  They were creative & inventive out of their needs.  They recycled fabrics from dresses to make clothes for children or pieces for quilting.  They raised chickens for eggs (to both eat and barter with), and for food.  They took care of what they had because it was hard to come by, and therefore PRECIOUS to them.  Books were a rarity (can you imagine???) and communication was slower than most of us would probably tolerate.  Lawsuits were rare…

While we have come SO far with medical advances and other technological breakthroughs, our current economy makes me wonder if “the old days” was such a bad time.  And I completely understand why people have chosen to live a more simple life.

On some levels – I’m inexplicably drawn back to that.

Back to a time when your work was making what you needed to survive.  It wasn’t to earn a paycheck to afford $4 x-large awesome capuccinos…  It wasn’t to earn iPods, iPhones or anything else.  It wasn’t about paying for satellite TV or unlimited Texting.

I’m not knocking those things at all.  Technology has made them possible.  But along with technology, LIFE has become more complicated and noisy, hasn’t it?

The idea of raising chickens (goats, honeybees, even alpacas) in my back yard is very appealing (and one of Roy’s ultimate hobbies) but illegal in our village so we’ll have to wait.  The notion of making my own soaps, lotions, clothes – all of it – is something I think about, almost wistfully, more often.  So of course, I’ve been doing some research on these things…

Homemade Laundry detergent.  Nope – not in fancy packaging, not with the “Spring Breeze” scent you might be familiar with.  But clean.  Fresh.  Efficient.  Why do you buy detergent?  This is something I am going to make this year.  If you visit the link for this recipe, you will note that the web owner calculated the cost of a 2 gallon batch (64 loads) to be $.71.  About $.01 PER LOAD.  Now if you add an essential oil for scent, you might have to pay a little more…  Like maybe $.015/load…  And you get an ALL-NATURAL, ECO-FRIENDLY product.  Hmmmm…

Deodorant.  The stuff we buy at the store probably contains aluminum ingredients, which may be linked to breast cancer in women, and possibly contributes to Alzheimer’s.  According to this, aluminum is not being extensively researched because it is “Generally Regarded as Safe…”  Just an assumption of it’s safety???  So the hints & rumors may not be true.  Still – to ensure that you are using something safer – where you know every ingredient used – that’s also eco-friendly – maybe this recipe would work for you.

Dishwasher Detergent.  (scroll down on that link page). Now this is one recipe I will gladly use when my kitchen has a dishwasher.  The BIGGEST danger associated with Dishwasher Detergent (dd) is poisoning / severe injury to children.  Many detergents contain chemicals.  Remember chem lab?  Eye protection & skin protection was used, along with supervision, to prevent injury.

NOTE: The FDA does NOT test detergents.  There are NO regulatory bodies that govern the production of or ingredients in the household cleaners we use every day.  Many of the parent companies that produce the household cleaners for our homes are CHEMICAL companies.  Does that tell you anything???

Simpler times meant simpler ingredients.  While we are all about “antimicrobial” ingredients these days, even this says that GOOD hand washing (with or without antibacterial soap) is the key.  So maybe just GOOD, thorough cleaning is the key to reducing the presence of germs & microbes that would make us sick.  Maybe removing chemicals from our homes (from under our kitchen sinks or inside closets) will reduce the indoor air pollution that is so commonplace and contribes to disease and illness.  Using the A/C less (gulp!) and opening the windows to air things out more often.

If you are NOT inclined to make your own cleaning products, or using ingredients on hand to clean with, there are MANY companies that make eco-friendly, naturally-derived detergents & cleaners that do NOT harm you, your family, or the environment (I shop with Melaleuca myself – love their products and haven’t found any ready made products cheaper).  Some of them are more expensive than the name brands or off-brands you will find in your grocery store.  But what are you willing to pay for?

You can shop at Herbtrader and find MANY brands & products for natural cleaning, natural hygiene, natural wellness, and more.  To find Essential Oils to “flavor” your homemade concoctions – you might shop at Mountain Rose Herbs.

Please Note: “Naturally derived” does not necessarily mean that you or someone in your family cannot have allergic reactions, or that some concoctions don’t require “use with care.”  There are poisonous substances in nature – so be sure to thoroughly understand the ingredients you choose to use.

In the process of trying to Simplify, I have found tons of options.  Some of them I’m a fervant fan of. Others I’m still researching & considering.  Some I am just not willing to consider (yeccch!)  I still use disposable diapers.  So I’m not a totally Crunchy mama (okay – so definitely NOT definition 1, and only somewhat definition 2 of “crunchy.”)

But we are taking steps to simplify our home environment and reduce our “carbon footprint” where we can.  One step at a time.


4 Responses to “Little House… in the Village”

  1. bethany Says:

    Thanks for sharing these great homemade cleaning recipes. I admit that I am not typically the type to make things myself….but do not like how many chemicals are in detergents. I plan to try the laundry detergent especially since my family has sensitive skin

  2. Hope Says:

    I was such a Little House fan growing up! Thanks for sharing all of your insight. It left me pondering why I was so attracted to the story. Hmm good to ponder….

  3. Cheryl Malandrinos Says:

    I was and am a huge Little House fan. “The Long Winter” is also my favorite book of the series and I reviewed it at my blog quite a while ago, when I re-read it, so that I could compare it to Rose Wilder Lane’s writing.

    A few of my friends make their own products, like soap, but I haven’t ventured into that realm yet…though it is something that I would do if life would ever slow down.

    Thanks for the great post.


  4. Diane Says:

    Funny you should mention chickens. We are working on getting our backyard prepared so we can buy some chickens. I don’t know that I could kill them so we are going to use them for the eggs. My parents raised rabbits when I was in junior high but the guy always picked them up alive because my mom didn’t want to deal with killing cute little bunny rabbits. The old fashioned life as always appealed to me and I would love to live on some land as I did as a child. I guess that is why I love to sew the girls dresses with pinafores it reminds me of the good ole days.

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