Nov 29, 2008

Interview: Spinning yarn as art (Rachel)

This is a historical moment! It is time for The Living Naturally in Louisiana blog's first interview. In this interview series we will talk to people who live in Louisiana and who attempt to live a more natural life, who make things themselves or who teach others to do things more naturally. The first person we are going to interview is Rachel, 24, from Quitman, Louisiana. She is not just any woman. She spins yarn. By hand.


Photo: Crystal Garcia

Sirpa: Where did you get the idea of spinning yarn? How did it all start?
Rachel: I saw a spinning demonstration years ago and thought it looked fun. After I learned how to knit, I wanted unique yarn to work with, so I decided to learn how to spin.
Sirpa: Wasn't it difficult to learn to spin? Did someone teach you?
Rachel: It took patience, but it wasn't too hard. I learned on a handspindle first. I looked it up on books and online to figure it out, and the ladies that I bought fiber from gave me advice when I got stuck. I didn't know anyone in the area who knew how to spin though, so a lot of it was trial and error.


Photo: Crystal Garcia

Sirpa: Where did you get the spinning wheel from?
Rachel: I got the wheel last Christmas from my mom. It's an antique, probably handmade in Europe. Many wheels of this style were made in Lithuania and Russia.
Sirpa: It looks a lot like the old spinning wheels in Finland too. I think my great grandmother used to spin yarn. Where do you get the wool from?
Rachel: I think it is very cool that your great grandmother spun! I spin fiber from farms where the animals are treated well. They aren't overcrowded, they have plenty of food and fresh water, and the farmers raise animals because they love them, and not just to make money. Most of my fiber comes from a farm where they don't breed their sheep. They adopt sheep that need homes. For more info, go to www.homesteadwoolandgiftfarm.com
Sirpa: I think that is great that you use wool from animal-friendly farms. The wool business can be quite harsh for the sheep. What kind of wool or other materials do you use for your yarn?
Rachel: Most of my yarn is a blend of fiber, depending on what I have on hand. I've spun wool, alpaca, llama, camel, mohair, angora, recycled sari silk, bamboo and soy silk.
Sirpa: I like that recycled material aspect a lot. What do you like about spinning yarn?
Rachel: Everything! I like the process of turning a pile of fiber into yarn. I like how the colors and textures blend, making each skein unique. Before I learned how to spin, I thought yarn was simply a material one uses to make things. Now that I spin, I know that yarn is art. Handspun yarn is limited only by your creativity.



Sirpa: Please describe the process of spinning yarn briefly!
Rachel: First the fiber has to be prepared for spinning. If you're started with raw fiber this means it will have to be washed, dyed (if desired) and carded. The carding process basically combs the tangles out of the fiber so that it will spin more easily. When you have fiber ready to spin you attach it to the "leader yarn" on the bobbin and start turning the wheel. As the wheel spins, the fiber is twisted and the spun yarn is collected on the bobbin.
Sirpa: That is amazing. Sounds like a lot of work! How long does it take for you to spin a skein of yarn?
Rachel: Not very long. My wheel has small bobbins and they won't hold very big amounts of yarn, so it probably takes me 30 minutes or less if I'm using prepared fiber. If I'm carding the fiber as I go it takes longer since I have to stop to card fiber as I need it.
Sirpa: Do you make something out of your yarn or the wool?
Rachel: I use my yarn for most everything that I knit, I've made purses, scarves, etc. I spin a lot more than I knit though.
Sirpa: I think it is great that you have learnt this old skill that not many people master anymore! It is important that we preserve this kind of valuable folklore and art. Thank you, Rachel.

Anyone wanting to ask Rachel more questions, please feel free to comment on this post or e-mail directly to her to woolgypsy @ gmail.com

Also, if you know someone who you think should be interviewed for this series (or if you think YOU should be!), send e-mail to livingnaturallyinla @ gmail.com

Nov 28, 2008

FDA finds lead in vitamins


Photo: SXC

The Food and Drug Administration tested vitamins for women and children. The tests revealed that almost all of them contain trace amounts of lead.

Lead is a poisonous metal that can damage nervous connections (especially in young children) and cause blood and brain disorders. It is also known to cause permanent brain damage, limiting IQ, causing behavioral and learning problems and affecting other aspects of development. So it is especially harmful for pregnant women and children.

The FDA vitamin research covered 324 vitamin products. There wasn't lead in four of them. FDA does not consider any of these vitamins unsafe, based on lead content being so small. Me and my husband looked for info how much lead there is in other food just to compare and calculated that in one daily dose of vitamins (depending which one) there could be the same amount of lead than in 1-10 kilograms (about 2-20 pounds) canned vegetables (we just found info easily on canned vegetables for some reason and I guess it depends in how polluted area the vegetables were grown for instance, how much lead they contain).

The test results at FDA website

Nov 26, 2008

Healthy Home Tips

I get the Environmental Working Group newsletter. It has updates about the bispenol A (BPA), the toxic plastics chemical among other things. In the latest newsletter they had a link to their site where they have collected tips for healthier homes for parents, but I think it applies to homes without children too.

They present 11 important steps that are not very hard to do. I picked a few of them here, shortened, read the whole list from the link below.

+ Choose better body care products. Just because a label says "gentle" or "natural" doesn't mean it's safe. Look up your products on CosmeticsDatabase.com. Read the ingredients and avoid triclosan, BHA, fragrance, and oxybenzone.

+ Go organic & eat fresh foods. Opt for organic fruits and veggies, or use FoodNews.org to find conventionally grown produce with the least pesticides. Limit canned food and infant formula, as can linings contain bisphenol A (BPA).

+ Pick plastics carefully. Some plastics contain BPA, which is linked to cancer. Avoid clear, hard plastic bottles marked with a "7" or "PC". Don't microwave plastic containers. Stay away from toys marked with a "3" or "PVC." Give your baby a frozen washcloth instead of vinyl teethers.

+ Skip non-stick. When overheated non-stick cookware can emit toxic fumes. Cook with cast iron or stainless steel instead.

+ Use greener cleaners & avoid pesticides. Household cleaners, bug killers, pet treatments, and air fresheners can irritate kids' lungs. Investigate less toxic alternatives. Use vinegar in place of bleach, baking soda to scrub your tiles, and hydrogen peroxide to remove stains.

Check out & download Healthy Home Tips for Parents at Enviroblog.

Nov 25, 2008

Other blogs and websites

Check out the link list on the right side (scroll down). I just added today a new one, our member's blog, Living in Louisiana and another area blog Dig, Compost, Grow.

If you have any suggestions of good websites (Louisiana or elsewhere), let me know for instance by commenting this posting.

Green living tips in a newsletter

I subscribed to this free Green living tips newsletter recently and have to recommend it to you too. They sponsor a tree for each new subscriber!
In the newest newsletter:


Sustainable Building 101
Thinking about going green in your building? Why should you build green anyway and how do you do it?

For peat's sake
Peat is still used extensively around the world in the garden and as a fuel. Peat moss is also a gardener's favorite, but our peat and peat moss consumption is wreaking havoc on wetlands where these materials form - read more about the issues and alternatives.

Buying green electricity
While not all of us can afford solar panels on our roof, many electricity providers now offer green power products that are quite economical and allow us to do a bit more to help lessen our impact on the environment.

Uses for salt
Common salt can be be used for many applications around the home as a more environmentally friendly alternative to harsher synthetic chemicals. Salt has over 14,000 known uses - here's just a few.

Greener car washing
A clean, glowing car is a pleasant sight, but it can often come at a cost to the environment through excessive water use and the effect of chemicals in detergents. Pick up some tips for lessening your car washing impact.

How to prevent the colds (and sugar's role in lowering the immunity)

We are having a cold so I am studying online what can be done to prevent the colds apart from washing your hands. (I know it is a bit late for this one, but there is still plenty of the cold season left!)We don't take the flu shots either so it is important to keep our immunity good. Recently on the Living Naturally discussion list (Yahoo group) there was some talk about sugar lowering the immunity. Everyone knows that sugar is not good for you anyway, it ruins your teeth among other things, but what about this cold thing? I talked about it to friends who seemed suspicious so I decided to find out so I have something to back up my claims in the future.

I did a brief Google research and found this from an article "How To Stay Healthy This Winter - Natural Tips to Prevent Colds & Flu" by Kristin Colangelo:
"During the holidays, many of us eat way too much sugar. Studies show that sugar depresses the immune system, so it is no wonder that most of us are sick by the end of the year! Between Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or other holidays), this time of year is full of sweets for many of us. Limit sugar consumption during this time of year and it will be easy to notice a positive difference in your health."

I checked the link to the studies Colangelo refer to above, you find the references here.

The page with the references is interesting in itself too, it is about the dangers of sugar. It presents 76 ways sugar can ruin your health, for instance:

Sugar can suppress your immune system and impair your defenses against infectious disease.

Sugar can cause can cause a rapid rise of adrenaline, hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.

Sugar can produce a significant rise in total cholesterol, triglycerides and bad cholesterol and a decrease in good cholesterol.

Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, biliary tract, lung, gallbladder and stomach.

Sugar can cause premature aging.

Sugar greatly assists the uncontrolled growth of Candida Albicans (yeast infections)

Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.

Sugar causes food allergies.

Sugar can cause toxemia during pregnancy.

Sugar can contribute to eczema in children.

Sugar can cause headaches, including migraines.

Sugar can reduce the learning capacity, adversely affect school children's grades and cause learning disorders.

Sugar can cause depression.

Sugar dehydrates newborns.

Source: Nancy Appleton, Ph.D, Author of the book Lick The Sugar Habit

So what about other tips for staying healthy? Colangelo mentions adequate rest and vitamins. We don't take that much vitamins but try to get them from nutrition. I guess we will have to pay extra attention to eat oranges with vitamin C and eat healthy otherwise too. I just bought a bagful of beautiful satsumas from Ruston Farmers market's Fall festival so I am set for a few days.

I just had my blood checked lately for the vitamin levels and my iron was low so I am now exceptionally supplementing with iron. I use Floradix liquid iron that I found good in the past too. Iron and B12 are something I have had to pay extra attention to get from my low-dairy vegetarian diet. This reminds me that I HAVE TO make a posting about the lead in the vitamins FDA found.

I also read that according to one study going to sauna frequently can prevent you from getting sick! Maybe that is why we started getting colds more often when we moved to US from Finland, the land of saunas :)

What are YOUR tips for not catching the colds and flus?

Nov 23, 2008

I am not a dirty hippie -party: homemade deodorant and lip balm

 
Tonight some people from the Living Naturally in Louisiana group and some people who are not in the Living Naturally in Louisiana group got together to make natural deodorants and lip balms. We got the idea and recipes from The Angry Chicken -blog and The Artful Parent -blog. The first two first recipes are originally from Angry Chicken's blog (with maybe a tiny little adjustments). Ingredients are from Mountain Rose Herbs.

I have to mention that I made a test deodorant already two weeks ago and it works GREAT! It works much better than any other natural deodorant I have tried before. And it it cheaper. And I know what is in it.

NATURAL HOME-MADE DEODORANT (4 oz)

3 Tablespoons of shea butter
3 Tablespoons of baking soda
2 Tablespoons of corn starch
2 Tablespoons of cocoa butter
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of vitamin E oil
A few drops of essential oil

Smell the essential oils first and choose one(s) you like. You can also combine several. Use with care, essential oils are strong. Good essential oils for deodorants are for instance
Eucalyptus – gentle and soothing, refreshing, antiseptic (mix for instance with lavender and rosemary)
Lavender – soothing, antiseptic, deodorizing, cleansing and drying to the skin, an aphrodisiac (good to mix with patchouli and rosemary), not in big quantities for people with low blood pressure or in early pregnancy
Patchouli – deodorizing, antiseptic, moisturizing (good to mix for instance with lavender)
Rosemary – fights bacteria, not for people with high blood pressure
Sweet Orange – fresh and uplifting (mix with lavender)
Or any other you like! Get creative!

1. Melt all the ingredients (except the vitamin E and essential oils) in the microwave (60 seconds or so) or in a pot on the stove until melted. Stir well.
2. Add the vitamin E oil and essential oil, stir again.
3. Pour it in a jar.
4. Place it in the fridge for a while to solidify.

NATURAL HOMEMADE LIP BALM (1 oz)

2 teaspoons of cocoa butter
2 teaspoons of shea butter
2 teaspoon of jojoba oil / olive oil / almond oil / some other cosmetic grade oil or a mixture of them
A drop of vitamin E oil
A drop or two of peppermint essential oil

Melt everything together except the essential oil and vitamin E oil (30-60 seconds in the microwave or in a pot on stovetop until everyhting has melted). Add a couple of drops of essential oil and vitamin E oil and stir. Pour it in the tin. Put it in the fridge to solidify it.

LIP BALM 2 (about 1 oz)

1 tsp of beeswax
1,5 tsp shea butter
3/4 tsp cocoa butter
2 tsp olive oil or jojoba oil
(a couple of drops of peppermint essential oil)


We made lavender and sweet orange deodorants (sweet orange and eucalyptus mix was nice too!) and peppermint lip balms. We ate good vegetarian food. Pita bread with salad, tomatoes and lettuce, hummus, potato salad, tapenade...

Hummus

about 2 cups of chick peas, soaked overnight and boiled until soft (you can also use canned chick peas)
juice of half a lemon
2-4 tablespoons of Tahini sauce
3-4 gloves of garlic
1-2 tbsp olive oil
water as much as needed for good consistence
cummin, pepper, salt to taste

Mix boiled soft chick peas with other ingredients in a food processor or with an electric blender. Add water little by little to get a nice creamy spread/sauce. Serve for instance in pita bread with veggies and feta cheese.

Tapenade olive paste

A jar / can of black olives (pitted)
A jar can of green olives (pitted)
1 tbsp capers
4 pieces of sundried tomatoes
2-3 cloves of garlic
seaweed, optional (soak first)

Mix everything together in a food processor or with an electric blender. Serve with good bread.

"I feel like I would have been cooking", one of the attendants said when she was leaving. That is the fun part about making your own stuff! You know what is in it and nothing beats the feeling of using stuff you made yourself! We plan to have other parties like this too and make maybe other cosmetics or cleaning products. Does anyone have good recipes for cleaning products, face cream or body butter?

Nov 13, 2008

Toys that contain banned plastics are still on market


Plastic toys that contain harmful toxins (banned by lawmakers in US in June) are still on the market, writes Wall Street Journal (The article, WSJ, Oct 23rd 2008).

Restrictions on phthalates take effect in February 2009 and rubber ducks and many other toys will be illegal to sell. Problem is they are still sold (and they might be even on sale) so take care what you buy for your child (or someone else's child) this Christmas! And get rid of those rubber ducks (sorry, vinyl ducks.)

Even though the law is an improvement to the current situation, there are other problems too. The law doesn't cover vinyl products that are not play things. The Greenpeace writes:

"The legislation will cover products made for children up to 12 years of age, ranging from baby teethers to Barbie dolls. Unfortunately, the new law will not cover vinyl products that aren’t playthings, although every parent knows that everything in the home has the potential to be sucked on or put in a child’s mouth. Vinyl products not covered by the legislation include car safety seats, clothing, children’s furniture or other vinyl household products ranging from shower curtains to floor and wall coverings. The law will also not cover other chemicals such as bisphenol-a (BPA) which has been found in polycarbonate plastic baby bottles." Read more.

Photo: Stock Photo

Nov 10, 2008

Plastic bags and one month on No 'poo

I went to Ruston Super1Foods store to buy some groceries the other day and they said they have started to give discount for using your own bags! The discount is five sents per bag. I usually use my own bags anyway but I was so happy that instead of looking at you weird (or even acting in an angry way) when you have your own canvas bags (this often happens to me in Wal Mart), they actually encourage you to do so. That is great.

In other than grocery stores, if I buy something little, I usually just say that I don't need a bag but I will just either use my own or put it in my purse or back bag or pocket.

Do you use your own bags in stores and what kind of experience do you have about it, good or bad?

I have been now one month on no poo and I couldn´t be happier. My hair looks and feels GREAT. My scalp is almost itch free.