What The Hay

Crafty Hayseed Goodness!

Cord Blood Donation March 4, 2008

Filed under: baby,environment,family — clothespin @ 6:22 pm
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Read any current baby book or magazine these days and you’re sure to find adds and articles about the concept of cord blood donation.

What is it?  Blood from the umbilical cord and placenta is taken, after it is detached from mother and baby (so no pain), and then put into a publicly accessible storage bank for future use in people who need it.  Rich in stem cells, this is an ethical way of harvesting these cells with no harm to anyone and it is nearly always discarded as medical waste.  They are accessible to patients looking for donors to treat critical illnesses, like leukemia, brain cancer and a host of other diseases and is very similar to donated bone marrow cells.  Research is on-going so more applications for these cells may be available in the future.

Of course, you can save this blood for your child’s potential future use – at a substantial cost.  However, at least for hubby and I, finances and family history do not collude in this area.

There is a great amount of information at the website charity guide and has links to the  National Marrow Donor Program.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my hospital listed on the list served for public donations and intend to donate Rose’s cord blood after her delivery.

The only catch with doing this is – You have to plan ahead.  Just like with donating blood, the cord blood bank wants to know that the mother is healthy and won’t take it from people with diseases like HIV.  That said, their website states that if you don’t qualify for the bank, you can have the blood used for research – which is just as needed.

Another benefit of donating?  Some programs provide free screening for some infant diseases like PKU, CAH and others.

I’ll keep you posted on how the process goes…

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Super Solar Clothes Dryer August 17, 2007

Filed under: environment,house stuf — clothespin @ 11:59 am

I love our bigger house.  More room to spread out and the house quite as full – more breathing space.  But, with more breathing space comes more space to cool and heat, more light-bulbs to power (even when using the CFLs) and more space to clean and a much bigger carbon footprint.

One of the great things about this place is that it has laundry  hookups in the back porch.  After visiting a very nice laundromat for years, it is so nice to be able to throw a load of wash in without having to drive anywhere or turn it into a massive expedition.  However, with the joys of at home laundry comes the pain of energy costs…

 g-and-clothesline.jpg

According to Consumer Reports, 90% of the energy used in washing clothes is in heating the wash water – not in running the machine itself.  That’s a lot of energy just to get warm water!  Happily, washing clothes in cold water works just as well and will save a ton on the energy costs.

While there is some concern out there that laundry soaps were made for warm water wash only, and while there are commercial detergents being made now for cold water wash, there is a problem with all of that.  They all generally use petroleum (yup, the same black stuff that we’re fighting for in the Middle East) to make the detergent.  Happily, there are laundry soaps being made that use vegetable oils instead of petroleum. Hubby and I have happily been using Seventh Generation for several years and haven’t noticed anything negative with their use – and have a slightly smaller carbon footprint because of it.

However, if you want to give a try at a far cheaper and environmentally friendly method of cleaning clothes… try making your own laundry soap.  It’s not hard and according to everyone I’ve ever known who have used it – works great.  And, for those of you lucky enough to have a High Efficiency laundry machine, this stuff doesn’t suds  and works fine in those fancy machines.

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There are two versions out there- the powdered version (which I am planning on making) and the liquid version (and another version of liquid).  Both use the same ingredients, so go with whichever works better for you.  The other thing – nearly all recipes call for Fels Naptha soap.  This is still a petroleum based product, which in my mind, defeats the purpose of making my own soap in the first place.  I am using Dr. Bronners bar soap which is organic and vegetable oil based and should work just fine.

Seventh Generation does make fabric softener, too.  However, I’ve found that it is really not needed.  Instead, I use 1/2 cup of vinegar in the softener part of my washing machine.  Vinegar helps by getting rid of the last little bit of soap in the clothes during the rinse cycle and keeps static cling to a minimum.  Don’t worry about the vinegar smell, it isn’t present after the clothes have dried (hubby still hasn’t noticed if that means anything).  I’ve even heard of folks putting the vinegar into a Downy Ball and using it like normal softner.  Plus, vinegar will help keep your towels super adsorbent.

The last little bit in my laundry efforts was a project that involved hubby and his tools.  We put up a clothesline.  I grew up with one and never thought anything bad about it, but apparently some folks find this a symbol of the “lower class”… whatever.  Who cares what other people think?  It’s laundry – not the scarlet letter for pete’s sake.

 clothesline-2.jpg

Clothes dryers are huge energy hogs, add heat to homes in the summer and help your clothes wear out faster.  Clotheslines use no energy, the sun kills the little germs that are still on your clothes and make your laundry smell great.

Russ and I built this one by putting the posts into concrete in holes… and then using eye screws to string the clothesline through – provided a self tightening system that is working well.  The posts are set 30 feet apart and I’ve hung 3 loads of laundry out at one time on my line.

The best part about the clothesline?  It’s fun.  It reminds me of when I was a kid on the farm and it helps lessen my impact on the planet just a little bit.  I mean, why pay to dry clothes in a dryer when I can let the sun do it for free?

 

Rag Sponge May 20, 2007

Filed under: environment,free pattern,projects — clothespin @ 4:55 pm

I hate dishes. Well, I actually hate doing dishes. The dishes themselves are fine, and even pretty on occasion.

done.jpg

Part of my reluctance is the icky dishrag. (Or dishcloth for those of you too good to use a rag.) I grew up with dishrags and never liked them. They flopped and dripped and were just icky. But, they were washable and lasted a long time. Still, didn’t counter the ick part.. SO – when I grew up, I became a kitchen sponge girl.

Couple of negatives with sponges. First, you have to buy them. Not good on a student budget. They also tend to stink after a while, which can mean nothing good as far as bacteria in the kitchen go. Recent brianiac scientific news reports educated the masses with the stunning information that heating a wet sponge in the microwave for 2 minutes will kill all of the nasties… Some people obviously think that this is too laborious, and just throw out the sponges and start over. Having issues with throwing out things that are otherwise fine, this wasn’t working for me.

In an effort to combine washability with cheap with environmentally friendly with sponge… I came up with the following idea. It’s easy to make and takes only pennies of supplies – so cheap in fact, I plan on having lots of these so that I can use several in a week. Then, when laundry day hits – throw them all in the wash with some borax powder and laundry soap! The result will be clean, bacteria free kitchen sponge rags! (Though, due to their thickness, I would suggest drying them in the dryer unless you live where hanging them out to dry goes really quickly…)

Materials:

old washcloth or towel, terry cloth type

heavy weight sew in interfacing, 1/8 inch thick

afghan fabric, or other open weave heavy type fabric***

*** I got this for about $3/yard at Hobby Lobby on a bolt in the fabric section. It is nylon and has about 6 holes to the linear inch. They told me it was afghan fabric, but I have not been able to find anything like it on line. If you know what this is really called, please let me know!

*** You could also use the net plastic bags from around oranges and onions or thin rug hooking canvas. I also found this needlepoint canvas which would probably work, though you might need to sew down the middle each way to stabilize it.

Directions:

1) Cut towel into a 9×10 inch size. If your wash cloth is that size already, perfect. Zig-zag the edges if using a towel (or serge the edges if you are lucky enough to have a machine!)

rag.jpg

 

2) Cut a 3×4 1/4 inch piece of the heavy interfacing. Center this in the middle, on the lower edge of the 10 inch wide part, of the washcloth, placing about 1/4 inch above the edge. Pin.

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3) Zig-zag around the edge of the interfacing.

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4) Fold the washcloth over the interfacing as shown in the picture.

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5) Fold one side over the top of the interfacing section, the other under the bottom, creating an “s” around the interfacing.

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6) Cut a 3 1/2 x 5 inch piece of the mesh. Place over one side of the cloth. Pin.

7) Slowly zig-zag around the edge of the mesh, making sure to catch all of the edges of the cloth as you go. It will be very thick, so take it slow. If you don’t get all of the edges, sew another line down to catch them all.

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8) Go do your dishes!


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Skirt Bag and Ties May 10, 2007

Filed under: environment,projects — clothespin @ 5:36 pm

A little over a month ago, I lost my mind. I, who takes forever to make a single item, joined a craft swap at Craft Daisies. It sounded like fun in the beginning, but I quickly realized that I had no clue what to include in the swap! Luckily, I was paired with a quirky crafter Elizabeth over at Crafts of Destiny who, like me, is also environmentally minded.

So, I made a list over the course of weeks, gaining ideas from other craft blogs that I read to add to my surprisingly large list of things that I COULD make. The list includes the Altoids box needle holder that I posted about previously, felted potholders, shopping bag, knit dishrag, towel topper (I swear, a tutorial is coming on this!), neck cooler… Well, my crafting ability did reach a little further than my time allowed, but I think that I managed to put together a respectable box. Check out the Crafts of Destiny blog to see all of the things that I included…

skirt-bag.jpg skirt-bag-pocket.jpg

But, the real main project was the recycled skirt tote/shopping bag! I found the skirt at a local thrift store for $1.50 knowing that Elizabeth loves green and recycled things…

So, I matched up the two existing button holes on the skirt, sewed down either side of the holes to make a tube. Then, after undoing the hem of the skirt, sewed along the old hem line to make the bottom. I cut out a lining of estate sale fabric in green, and sewed that together. After placing it inside of the skirt, I marked where the new button hole needed to be and put on on the lining along with a pocket adorned with a bit of an old hanky. I stitched the top of the bag, lining and neckties together, then made a flap with a button on it to keep the two sides together… tucked up the corners on the outside of the bag to give it a bottom, and it’s easy peasy new bag!

OK, not technically hard, but it was time consuming…

I also put in the pocket a couple of reusable produce bags for the grocery store. Elizabeth now has no excuse for using plastic on her loose veggies! These are really fun and easy to make and can be made out of any really light weight material. I just happened to find a bunch of tulle and organza at the estate sale… so made her a couple (in green!) and some for me with some funky fabric that I had in the stash.

produce-bag.jpg

I weighed them on my fancy digital scale and compared the weight to that of a plastic produce bag from the grocery store – was twice as much as the plastic, which is still virtually nothing. It adds a few pennies to my bill, but not having to deal with plastic bags is worth it. Plus, my bags are pretty!

Basically, I made a rectangle and then french seamed the edges to keep them from fraying, added a bit up top to run some ribbon through to make a draw string bag and it was done!

monster-blue-tie.jpg monster-red-tie2.jpg

Finally, I am in the midst of writing a tutorial on how to make a bag out of another reclaimed fabric source. More info to come later. But, I was so impressed with my tie handles on the skirt bag, that I went to the thrift store and found a few more. Above are two of my favorites, modeled by my favorite hairy guy!

 

Blipin Beautiful April 24, 2007

Filed under: environment — clothespin @ 1:46 pm

Ads. How much can I personally hate them? I mean, holy hayflowers, they seem to be everywhere these days, in free patterns, recipes and even some blogs. One site that I visit frequently for the free crochet patterns (ya have to visit every day as the pattern is different each day) has so many ads as to be annoying. AND, they print with the pattern! They take up paper, use ink and get in the way of the actual pattern itself. As I print most of my patterns as PDFs (Primo PDF is great and free) and save them to my computer (I mean, how many of these patterns am I really going to make in this lifetime?) the ads get to stay on my computer until it crashes. I think that there are ways of cleaning up PDFs, but that’s beyond me at the moment.

Now, however, there is a FREE extension for Firefox browsers where you can zap the offending portions (be they ads, text, photos… whatever) off of the page before you print it! It’s just a beautiful thing really. The link above will take you to a blog for a guy that knows a bit about web stuff and can walk you through it a bit. Go directly to the extension here….

It’s wonderful, it’s environmentally happy, it is just… Enjoy!

 

Bitches 4 the Environment April 11, 2007

Filed under: environment — clothespin @ 12:01 am

 

stop global warming

 

Laurie David and Sheryl Crow were at the Texas A&M University campus Tuesday spreading the love about Global Warming. Part of the Stop Global Warming College Tour, Laurie talked about the reality of global warming, showing excerpts from An Inconvenient Truth, and spouted stats and importance of making small changes like a seasoned tree hugging granola eating hippie (but probably without the hairy legs and lacking the tie-dyed clothes).

 

Sheryl Crow

 

 

Sheryl Crow followed Laurie with a few songs… OK, by a few, I really mean four songs. Starting with A Change would do you Good, then Winding Road, and then a Beatles song. It was just her and her buddy on the guitar and some really fun graphics up on the dual screen behind them. The picture above was of an animated George Washington with wind turbines in front of the White House. Just a suble political message – do you think the current resident of that house will figure it out?

Sheryl Crow and Misty Pascual

 

During the Beatles song, Sheryl asked an innocent enough question – “Is there a music major out in the audience?” At any other campus, this question would not have garnered much in response, but here at TAMU, there was a bit of a guffaw. Why? We are one of the few (I’m guessing here, I hope that there aren’t many like this) major universities without an art or music department! Of course, we do have a truly amazing marching band… but apparently, none of the band members were sitting close enough to the front for Sheryl to see them. So, a brave student by the name of Misty Pascual (Misty, I’m sorry if I butchered your name, if you by chance read this, please send me the correction.) stepped up to the stage and bravely tried to play the tambourine. It was fun and I’m very glad that there is at least one extrovert out there willing to get on stage (that definitely wouldn’t be me).

Sheryl Crow and Laurie David

 

After the songs, Sheryl and Laurie returned to the stage to answer a few questions from the students in the audience. Before taking any questions, Laurie called both of the “Bitches for the Environment” – which really isn’t a bad thing to be called. I kinda like it really…

One question from a student was, “How, as a student on a limited budget, am I supposed to make environmentally responsible choices when so many items, (like the hybrid car that Sheryl drives) are priced so much higher than regular items?” A valid question for students and anyone on a budget, it does seem to me that many manufacturers are taking advantage of a “green” status and jacking the rates. But, as pointed out in the answers, there are compromises all the way around. Compact Fluorescent Light-bulbs (CFLs) cost more initially, but in the end, use up to 2/3 less energy (saving many times the cost of the cfl bulb) and last 10 times longer, which saves even more by not having to replace them nearly as often. Philips Light Bulbs donated bulbs to the tour and every person who attended received a CFL bulb after the concert! Because, every little change, if done by a great number of people, can make a significant change. Pretty cool (and bright).

Lots of the simple things that everyone can do that Laurie mentioned were really great ideas. However, there was one really obvious thing missing on all of the lists and all of the easy ways that normal folks can make a change. Bikes. What gives with dissing the bike? Not only does it have a minimal carbon footprint, but it is healthy, non-polluting, quieter and on a college campus, has much easier parking and no parking fees! OK, with the exception of tonight, it is easier to park – tonight, we had to stand our bikes without a bike rack and hope no one would carry our locked together bikes off…

The other great hazard with biking, at least at TAMU, is the occasional misappropriation of biking lanes for emergency parking.

tour bus in bike lane

 

You might not be able to tell it from this view, but these are the tour buses (using bio-diesel) of the event parked – wait for it now – in a BIKE LANE!

As a person who biked to the event and actually uses the space between the white line on the right and the curb for actual transportational activities, I have to say that it is incredibly difficult to bike through a bus. But, to give Sheryl and Laurie credit – theirs was not the only vehicle parked in the bike lane that we encountered in our 1 mile ride to campus. However, they were the only ones promoting environmental awareness… Oh, the irony. Ok, to give them even more credit – there probably isn’t any other space available close to the stage that wasn’t in a parking lot – and anyone who is or ever has been on the TAMU campus can only guess at what the ticket writing parking employees would do to a “liberal” bus like this that doesn’t have a parking permit. =)

 

And, for other bike riding wierdos out there on the TAMU campus, let us not forget the great bike supporter – Freebirds! “Bike to Work and School Day is April 27th and the City of College Station is teaming up with Freebirds World Burrito to make this event great. On that day, between 11am and 2pm, Freebirds (Northgate location) will be giving anyone that arrives on bike a free burrito.” This is excerpted from the email I received forwarded from a city official – though I couldn’t find the info either on the Freebirds site or the city site… That said, I’ve gotten a free burrito in years past, so know that this is the real deal… so make sure to start biking to work. At the very least, if you bike to campus, it is much harder to get a parking ticket. And,Freebirds is interested in your opinion – so if you care, take their survey and tell them what you think about the tour (I think that this is mainly for folks who were actually there).

The other major thing that they left out of the “easy” things that one can do to save the world is to… BUY LESS! Less stuff purchased means less stuff made which means lower polution levels and less stuff in the landfill. Buying used is a great option, as is repurposing items for a different use than originally intended. There’s a growing number of folks out there who are doing this all on their own. The Compact people vow to not buy anything new for one year (though there are exceptions for medical things…). And then, there is a guy in New York City, the No Impact Man, who is trying to see how low he and his family can go on the ol’ carbon footprint while still living in a small apartment. Interesting stuff and it definitly motivates a person into reconsidering the need for the cute little bag that they fell in love with at the store.

 

Finally, after all of this, Sheryl closed with the song, Circle the Sun… an appropriate song to be sure. It was a great event with a good number of folks in attendance (maybe 600?) which is all of about 1% of the student population. Giving the fact that a good number of us were post-docs, staff, grad students and faculty, the actual number of “real” students was probably a bit lower. But, there is change in the wind and the students who organized the “Clean Energy Now” group even managed to give Sheryl and Laurie t-shirts (organic cotton I’m sure)…  The campus newspaper wrote a story about it, though I havn’t found it referenced on the city paper or TV news site yet…   And, the tour website also mentions a recent victory on the TAMU campus in regards to using bio-diesel with oil from the dining facilities.

Of course, this IS TAMU, and with the emerging environmental awareness, comes the backlash to the caveman era and a protest next to the MSC (the TAMU version of a student union) by folks who think that this global warming stuff is all crazy hippie dippie stuff.

stupid stupid

 

 

I took pictures of this just so that I could prove to my environmental buddies out there that there are actually people on a university campus, where one is supposed to open the mind and learn things that they have not ever even considered prior to stepping onto such sacred hallowed grounds… And yet, they are practising their right to free speech… Eh, maybe they’ll move to the beach and the rising sea levels from the global warming that they don’t believe in will impart a bit of Darwinian education upon them?

In the end, it was a fun filled night with good music and even a few friends. Many thanks to Sheryl and Laurie for making the trek to our hard to get to town and trying to stir the environmental pot… and hay, I for one am glad that you were here, even if you did park in my bike lane.