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Eliminate mosquitoes naturally

Along the same lines of my last post, here are some tips from Natural Home on getting rid of mosquitoes without using sprays with chemicals. Tip No. 5 suggests growing plants that naturally repel mosquitoes. Aaron and I do grow citronella in our backyard hangout area already, but this article suggests even more plants to help with the problem: “geranium, lemon balm, catnip, basil, lemon thyme, and lemongrass.”

Here’s another oh-so-simple solution that I’ve never thought about:
“Blow them away. Set a fan on your deck, patio, or porch. Mosquitoes don’t fly well through wind.”

This may make the area even nicer, considering the hot summers we experience in Austin. Imagine this: A cool breeze blows the scents of citronella and lemon balm by as you sit under the canopy in the backyard sipping a cool cocktail. Sigh!

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Homemade solutions for eliminating house flies

Natural Home has a feature today about homemade, non-chemical solutions to insect pests that proliferate in the Summer. Aaron and I have definitely had problems with some of the pests–fleas and flies, specifically. The article does suggest some natural remedies for fleas, but I’m ignoring it because my dog Binx is really allergic to fleas. I have to use chemicals to control fleas or Binx has bad health effects.

But I’d definitely try this solution for flies in the house:

House flies

Place sachets of crushed mint, bay leaf, clove or eucalyptus around the house to repel flies. You can also make your own flypaper. Mix 1⁄4 cup corn syrup, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon brown sugar in a small bowl. Cut strips of brown kraft paper and soak in the sugar mixture. Let dry overnight. To hang, poke a small hole at the top of each strip and hang with string.

Read more.

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My homemade cleaner recipes

Homemade cleaners

Mix together effective, nontoxic homemade cleaners using ordinary ingredients you probably already have around the house.

I’ve been using homemade household cleaners for about a year now. I’ve found several benefits to making my own cleaners: my family saves money, we avoid exposure to chemicals, and my recipes work just as well as store-bought cleaners. Mixing up these formulas only takes a couple of minutes and you probably already have the ingredients laying around the house. I developed these three recipes after getting inspiration from Natural Home magazine, one of my subscriptions.

Laundry whitener

  • Recycled jug of some kind
  • 1 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 12 cups water

This one is simple. Mix all the ingredients together in your jug. I use a recycled white-vinegar jug. You can use this laundry whitener just like bleach when you’re washing your whites. I add about 1 cup for a full load of laundry.

Counter cleaner

  • Recycled spray bottle
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Dish soap
  • Essential oils

Fill your spray bottle halfway with water. Top if off with vinegar. Squirt a small amount of dish soap in the bottle (about 1 teaspoon). Add 20 drops of your essential oil. I enjoy mine with 10 drops lavender and 10 drops orange. Give it a good shake and use it just like store-bought cleaners to shine up your kitchen and bathroom counters.

Tub scrub

  • Large mason jar
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • Essential oils

Fill the mason jar half way with the baking soda. Top it off with water. Squirt about 1 tablespoon of dish soap in the mixture. Add 20 drops of essential oil. Again, I like mine with lavender and orange. Stir the mixture with a spoon until the baking soda is suspended in the water (you need to stir before each use, since the baking soda separates at the bottom). Use this cleaner to scrub your kitchen and bathroom sinks, the bathtubs and the toilets.

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Green reading

The EPA’s Greenversations blog suggests ways to get your hands on books without having to buy new ones. Each new book takes a lot of trees and resources to produce, so recycling books is the best option. The posts suggests renting books from the library (my favorite option), swapping books with friends, and also joining online book-swapping websites.


Photo by Phil Moore on Flickr (

In a quick Google search, I found Paper Back Swap. In the sign-up process, I learned more about the service.

Each member lists books he or she is willing to send out upon request. After listing your first 10 books, you get two ‘startup’ Book Credits good toward the selection of any other club member’s books (limit two startup Book Credits per household). For each book you send out that is received, you earn another Book Credit (two Book Credits for each audio book).

When someone wants one of your books you listed, you must pay for the shipping (the site says it costs about $2.38). You get your credits for that, and you can use them to get books from other members (they will ship them to you for free). So, in essence, you get each book for $2.38. That’s a pretty good deal!

My search also turned up BookMooch, which seems to offer the same service. Also check out this comparison of even more book-swapping sites.

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Green tip: Become an “ecovore”

Photo by jules:stonesoup on Flickr

Today’s green tip comes from Cooking Green: Reducing your carbon footprint in the kitchen by Kate Heyhoe, who happens to be a fellow Austinite. Heyhoe writes that 12 percent of greenhouse gas emissions comes from growing, shipping and cooking our food. That comes out to 14,160 pounds of emissions annually. She coined a few cute terms to describe ways individuals can choose food options that impact the environment less. An “ecovore” is someone who chooses food with the environment in mind to reduce her “cookprint,” the carbon footprint in the kitchen.

Here’s today’s tip from the book:

Without succumbing to eco-anxiety, we can start fixing what’s broken by setting greener goals–person by person, aisle by aisle, and kitchen by kitchen. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants–And I would add, in this order: mostly local, mostly organic, and mostly fuel- and water-conserving. In a lifestyle of climate change, it’s the new green basics of cooking.

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Green tip of the day: line drying

Today’s green tip comes from my loving fiance, Aaron. Earlier this week, he needed to wash and dry his cycling shorts and jersey so he could re-use them today. Instead of powering up the dryer for such a meager task, he decided to set his bike gear out to dry on a string of lights we have illuminating the outdoors patio. Thank you, 90-degree Texas day! Even small things like this can make a difference if enough people stop and think to do them.

Now if I could only get him to pick up tortillas from the grocery store after his 40-mile ride today, to save myself a car trip!

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Green tip of the day: Capture wasted water for plants

My green tip for today comes from the book Wake Up and Smell the Planet by Grist Magazine. The book says:

If you want to feel squeeky clean of conscious, collect the cold water that runs while your bath or shower is approaching a toasty temperature and use it to quench your plants’ thirst.

I think it’s an easy, workable solution to save water because it doesn’t take much work at all, and it’s accomplishing something you need to do anyways. I could use my watering can to collect the cold water, or I could fill up Aaron’s rain buckets that he uses to water the outdoors garden.

However, since I live in sunny and humid Austin, I have another solution for this problem: Just get in the cold water! It’s refreshing.

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