Homemade Drain Cleaner – Green and Non-Toxic


You can make your own drain cleaner using ingredients you probably already have in your pantry, with no worries about the toxic and even fatal chemicals found in drain cleaners. You just need vinegar, baking soda, and citrus fruit peels.

Drain cleaners are one of the most toxic chemicals there are, in fact, they are on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Hall of Shame because they  can cause blindness, burns, and be fatal if swallowed. I got rid of our drain cleaner about a year ago so the children could never get a hold of it – way too risky for me. I used to work in Internal Communications for a large company and a lady in our office nearly died after accidentally drinking Drano that a janitor had left at the soda machine. She mistook the janitor’s cup for her’s, and had such severe burns in her esophagus that it required many surgeries and several months in the hospital before she could even function normally. YIKES!

Garbage Disposal and Drain Cleaning – Baking Soda and Vinegar

A few weeks ago, I cooked a yummy dinner with fresh shrimp, and loaded up the garbage disposal with stinky shrimp shells. They did get all chopped up, but there was a nasty stank smell, like rotten shrimp, coming out of the pipes. Every morning we’d wake up and think there was a dead mouse somewhere, until we finally figured out it was probably the lovely shrimp shells stuck in the pipes. So, I tried the tip I learned about in the book, “Clean House, Clean Planet” for cleaning pipes – baking soda and vinegar. And as much of a believer as I am in the effectiveness of green, homemade alternatives, I was not expecting it to work – but it did!

I literally dumped about a handful of baking soda into the disposal, then poured in about as much vinegar. I didn’t measure either of them, but if you’re the type who needs a measurement, I’d do a cup of each. You’ll feel like you’re back at your third-grade science fair as it sizzles and bubbles up like a volcano, but it won’t harm anything. Then, I ran the disposal and washed it all down with hot water, and the stanky stank is gone!

Also Works With Front Loading Washers

This tried and true formula also works when the washer drum stinks sump-em (that’s Southern for something) awful and it looks like it’s trying to run away during the spin cycle. When I used to use bleach (have sworn that off forever now), I would run the cleaning cycle with bleach every month like the washer manual suggests, and I didn’t have any problems. Once I started using my own homemade laundry detergent, the stink got progressively worse, in part due to the fact that the door is supposed to be left open and the rubber drum wiped clean after every wash.

Then, I learned at Country Mama Cooks that HE washers get off-balance when the pipes get clogged up and it also causes the smell. The crooked wheels in my head started turning and it was then I realized there was no stink when I used to do the cleaning cycle with bleach every month. So, I decided to try my homemade drain cleaner in the washer instead – I dumped a cup of baking soda, a cup of vinegar, and a cup of hydrogen peroxide (read about all it’s magic here) straight onto the bottom of the drum and ran the cleaning cycle.

The smell was considerably less, especially after I also scrubbed the rubber seal around the perimeter of the drum where the door closes. Then, after another round, the smell was gone! Now I will use this method on a regular basis to keep the mildew at bay. I love using cheap things straight from the pantry to clean and get results!

Also Works for Clogged Pipes

I have used just baking soda, vinegar and boiling water to literally unclog pipes – it really works! We had a clogged sink in the bathroom and I poured in the baking soda, then some vinegar, watched the fizzing (which is really fun!) and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Then, I poured a tea kettle of boiling water down the drain to rinse it all out and the clog was gone!

Garbage Disposal Cleaning – Dried or Pickled Citrus Peels

After writing about Citrus-Infused Vinegar for green cleaning, my mom and I have been using not just the pickled citrus peels (they sit in vinegar for a week to two weeks and really soften up) in the garbage disposal, but dried citrus peels as well. My mom found if left out, the peels dry in just a few days and become brittle, so they are then safe to put in the garbage disposal. Once you add the peels to the disposal, run it for a minute or so while running hot water down the drain and it will clear up stinkies as well!




Watch “The surprisingly dramatic role of nutrition in mental health | Julia Rucklidge | TEDxChristchurch” on YouTube

Clinical psychologist, Julia Rucklidge, delivers an enlightening TED talk on the importance of nutrition and it’s role in mental health. Julia reminds us of a time when Dr. Semmelweis was ridiculed and dismissed for suggesting that doctors wash their hands before touching pregnant women. She compares the radical reaction that doctors had then, to the reaction some doctors have now, about the idea of nutrition being more effective than medication, when treating patients with mental illnesses, such as ADHD, depression, schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorder.

Dr. Rucklidge advises us that despite the array of medications on the market, mental illness continues to rise, and she asks, “If current medications are effective, shouldn’t mental illness be decreasing rather than increasing?”

Medical doctors from around the world have admitted that they learned little to nothing about nutrition during medical school. Dr. Rucklidge herself, was hesitant to believe that nutrition alone could benefit patients because she was taught that nutrition was trivial when it came to the treatment of mental illness. However, she has been conducting research over the past decade and has found that “nutrition is a safe and viable way to avoid, treat and lessen mental illness.”

One of the studies she conducted consisted of a placebo trial, where adult participants were given vitamins and minerals, also known as micro-nutrients, to treat ADHD. In just 8 weeks, twice as many people responded who were in the micro-nutrient group, than those in the placebo group. Those who continued with the micro-nutrients continued to see positive results, and those who went back to medication showed worsening of symptoms.

According to the findings revealed in her research, current prescriptions are only effective on a short term basis, however on a long term basis, medications are ineffective, and in some cases detrimental.

Micro-nutrients were also tested on patients suffering from depression, schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorder; results for participants showed steady and long term improvement. She also mentions that micro-nutrients are not only effective, but also much less expensive than current medications on the market today.

Dr. Rucklidge stresses that nutrition matters, and that poor nutrition is a significant risk factor for the development of mental illness.

“We need to get serious about the critical role played by nutrition.”-Julia Rucklidge, Clinical Psychologist


Aquaponics: Growing Fish And Plants Without Soil . News | OPB



Jason Garvey, owner of the rainwater harvesting company Portland Purple Water, is growing lettuce in an aquaponics demonstration behind his storefront in Beaverton. He’s hoping to sell the blueprints for similar systems to other people who want to grow a lot of food in small spaces.

The greenhouse, invented by German physicist Franz Schreier, adds solar power to the super- efficient plant- and fish-growing system called aquaponics.

And while his invention is quite advanced, the basics of aquaponics isn’t. Aquaponics combines aquaculture and hydroponic techniques to create way of growing large quantities of organic food year-round in small urban spaces – without soil and with 90 percent less water than conventional growing. (Here’s a helpful explanatory video.)

How much food are we talking? Will Allen of Growing Power in Milwaukee, Wisc., has turned heads by using aquaponics to produce 1 million pounds of food a year on a mere 3 acres as cars whiz by on  city streets and frigid Midwest winter temperatures drop to below zero.

Ann Forthoefel, a former director of the Portland Farmers Market, said Allen’s success in Wisconsin means Portland’s urban farmers could easily be using aquaponics to produce more local food. She’s been promoting the idea to city officials as a way to make Portland’s ecodistricts self-sufficient in food production.

“My goal is to make aquaponics part of our  new vocabulary,” she said. “A lot of the ecodistricts own’t have land available. With aquaponics, you can grow in a warehouse. You can grow vertically.”

One of the aquaponics systems Portland Purple Water is testing at its storefront in Beaverton.

The basic genius of aquaponics is tapping the natural synergy between fish, water and plants. Fish excrete ammonia, and naturally occurring bacteria turn that ammonia into nitrites and nitrates that fertilize plants.

Aquaponics create a contained growing system that circulates “dirty” fish water into a clay and/or rock-lined planting bed. The plants clean the water and gather nutrients for growth before the water is circulated back into the fish tank.

Getting started

It’s not a system you can start up overnight, said James Ragsdale of North Portland Farm.

His farm has spent a year and a half building an aquaponics system that will grow herbs and tilapia in a 10-square-foot insulated room outside. And the system isn’t up and running yet.

“It’s not something you can just put in in a weekend and expect to run as a turnkey system,” he said. “You can’t just put water in it and expect it to be running. People are obviously getting interested in it, but it really takes a lot of energy and resources to get it started.”

His farm was built on abandoned and contaminated land – not exactly prime growing turf. One of the benefits of aquaponics is it allows for farming in marginal urban spaces such as abandoned warehouses, Superfund sites or just the extra bits of space in and around people’s homes.

“People are obviously getting interested in it, but it really takes a lot of energy and resources to get it started.” —James Ragsdale, North Portland Farm

 But Ragsdale said one of the main reasons he’s gotten into aquaponics is for the promise of protein.

“Fish just sound really cool,” he said. “We just kind of got excited about it. It seemed like a fun machine to build. We’re always looking at ways we can create our own protein source.”

Ragsdale said he’s found out the hard way – through lots of homework and fund-raising – that aquaponics isn’t easily accessible to everyone.

Demystifying the process

Jason Garvey, owner of the rainwater harvesting company Portland Purple Water in Beaverton, is out to change that.

Portland Purple Water sells rainwater harvesting equipment and specializes in water conservation. Garvey said he likes the fact that aquaponics is more water efficient than growing plants in soil. And doesn’t require herbicides or pesticides.

“It’s not the same as growing in mother earth in 1830, but it’s probably much better than growing in mother earth in 2012.”   — Jason Garvey, Portland Purple Water

 The energy required to keep the water pumps and growing lights going is nothing compared with the energy inputs for traditional food production and transportation, he said.

“We’re trying to push as many people as possible to use it because the best environmental act any person can do right now is to grow their own food in their backyard, Garvey said. “The resources involved in the food production process otherwise are so exhaustive and so significant.”

His company is working to “demystify” the process “so people don’t need a PhD or an aquaculture background” to set up their own systems.

In the back rooms of his storefront in Beaverton, Garvey is growing tomatoes, cucumber, basil, radishes, carrots and lettuce to demonstrate how various systems can work. He said most systems cost $400 to $1,200 to get started.

“Aquaponics isn’t everything,” he said. “It’s not the same as growing in mother earth in 1830, but it’s probably much better than growing in mother earth in 2012.”

“It feels like it’s too easy. And it is.”

Forthoefel said she’s found aquaponics can be a tough sell because people don’t want to detach their food from the soil and let go of traditional farming ideals.

“We’re so emotionally attached to the romance behind food, tilling the soil and hardworking people with depth of character,” she said. “Not only does aquaponics not feel natural, it feels like its too easy. And it is.”

But after studying aquaponics for nine months with a commercial grower in Denver, she said, “I was totally convinced this is the way of food production for so many of us.”

[module align=”right” width=”half” type=”pull-quote”]”We have a lot of concepts around food. What we don’t have going forward is the luxury to keep on holding those concepts.”   — Ann Forthoefel 

You can do it in an unheated hoop house or in heated greenhouse. You can do it in old, abandoned warehouses. You can buy your fish food or grow your own in the aquaponics system. For some, the hardest part may be getting over their preconceived notions of how food should be grown.

“We think of it as very laborious,” Forthoefel said. “We always believed agriculture was something we wanted to get away from. It was for more the peasants. People out in the field. We have a lot of concepts around food. What we don’t have going forward is the luxury to keep on holding those concepts.”

Forthoefel points to the aquaponics systems in the United Kingdom to illustrate the potential to fill entire city blocks with food systems – and to combine food and energy production. What’s happening so far in Portland is “very small,” she said. But there’s plenty of room to grow.

For examples of just how far Aquaponics UK is taking their systems, check out this TED talk by aquaponics enthusiast Charlie Price:


Polk Teacher’s Resignation Letter Hits a Nerve | WUSF News



A Polk County public school teacher’s letter of resignation has apparently hit a nerve with frustrated teachers and parents nationwide.

Special education teacher Wendy Bradshaw submitted her letter to her Lakeland elementary school on Friday morning, then posted it to her Facebook page. It started to go viral within hours, and as of Tuesday had been shared nearly 40 thousand times. It was also posted on the Washington Post education blog.

“I had no idea that  this many people identified with the way I felt,” Bradshaw said, ” and that really disappoints me and makes me sad at the direction that our school system has gone.”

Bradshaw’s letter said schools put  too much pressure on children now, and teachers aren’t able to teach them in ways that are appropriate to their age and developmental stage.

“It just hurt to see the frustration on all the children’s faces,” she said. ” Five-year-olds are not allowed to play, they’re not allowed to talk. They don’t know the names of other kids in their classroom because they’re not allowed to talk to them.”

The administration for Polk County schools issued a statement saying it understands Bradshaw’s frustration in trying to balance mandates with childrens’ particular needs.

Bradshaw says she was prompted to quit when she realized that she wouldn’t want her infant daughter to attend public school when she gets old enough. She then made the decision not to return from maternity leave.

Her full resignation is printed below:

To: The School Board of Polk County, Florida
I love teaching. I love seeing my students’ eyes light up when they grasp a new concept and their bodies straighten with pride and satisfaction when they persevere and accomplish a personal goal. I love watching them practice being good citizens by working with their peers to puzzle out problems, negotiate roles, and share their experiences and understandings of the world. I wanted nothing more than to serve the students of this county, my home, by teaching students and preparing new teachers to teach students well. To this end, I obtained my undergraduate, masters, and doctoral degrees in the field of education. I spent countless hours after school and on weekends poring over research so that I would know and be able to implement the most appropriate and effective methods with my students and encourage their learning and positive attitudes towards learning. I spent countless hours in my classroom conferencing with families and other teachers, reviewing data I collected, and reflecting on my practice so that I could design and differentiate instruction that would best meet the needs of my students each year. I not only love teaching, I am excellent at it, even by the flawed metrics used up until this point. Every evaluation I received rated me as highly effective.

Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process. I am absolutely willing to back up these statements with literature from the research base, but I doubt it will be asked for. However, I must be honest. This letter is also deeply personal. I just cannot justify making students cry anymore. They cry with frustration as they are asked to attempt tasks well out of their zone of proximal development. They cry as their hands shake trying to use an antiquated computer mouse on a ten year old desktop computer which they have little experience with, as the computer lab is always closed for testing. Their shoulders slump with defeat as they are put in front of poorly written tests that they cannot read, but must attempt. Their eyes fill with tears as they hunt for letters they have only recently learned so that they can type in responses with little hands which are too small to span the keyboard.

The children don’t only cry. Some misbehave so that they will be the ‘bad kid’ not the ‘stupid kid’, or because their little bodies just can’t sit quietly anymore, or because they don’t know the social rules of school and there is no time to teach them. My master’s degree work focused on behavior disorders, so I can say with confidence that it is not the children who are disordered. The disorder is in the system which requires them to attempt curriculum and demonstrate behaviors far beyond what is appropriate for their age. The disorder is in the system which bars teachers from differentiating instruction meaningfully, which threatens disciplinary action if they decide their students need a five minute break from a difficult concept, or to extend a lesson which is exceptionally engaging. The disorder is in a system which has decided that students and teachers must be regimented to the minute and punished if they deviate. The disorder is in the system which values the scores on wildly inappropriate assessments more than teaching students in a meaningful and research based manner.

On June 8, 2015 my life changed when I gave birth to my daughter. I remember cradling her in the hospital bed on our first night together and thinking, “In five years you will be in kindergarten and will go to school with me.” That thought should have brought me joy, but instead it brought dread. I will not subject my child to this disordered system, and I can no longer in good conscience be a part of it myself. Please accept my resignation from Polk County Public Schools.

Wendy Bradshaw, Ph.D.



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