Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Housekeeping Secrets

My landlords need an estimate for the size of the garden I want to build. I have yet to give them an answer. I can't tell if I should make raised beds or rows. I have only ever gardened in beds, but I just don't know if I can commit to the upfront effort of raised beds this year - especially when I'm not sure if I'll be here next year. The size of my garden (as well as how neatly weeded I'm willing to keep it) will be a deciding factor on whether or not my garden will be within the confines of their large garden or somewhere else on the property. It would be very nice to have a pre-tilled, already worked and improved garden spot, but I don't want to impose. Also, he's willing to till up a plot for me, which makes things much easier, though as any seasoned gardener knows, the 10-year garden's soil grows a healthier and happier crop than freshly-turned soil that is sadly low on nutrients and love (though, hopefully, also low on pests and diseases).

I've been pretty low-key on the projects front. I haven't even cooked for myself (besides eggs and canned refried beans) for the past two days. Monday I blame on a migraine, Tuesday I blame on my excitement to see Avatar in 3D (SO much fun!) Also...I've been plotting and planning and scheming books and writing and publicity and roommates.

I hope, therefore, that you will humbly accept these two incredibly smart housekeeping secrets I learned from one of my friends who truly knows most of what there is to know about keeping a frugal house and home. I had the pleasure of living with her and learning from her, and I hope she doesn't mind that I share these two little tidbits with you. She is second only to the women who raised me in people I have learned household secrets from.

A corn straw broom with a wooden handle, while more expensive upfront than those horrifically ugly and ineffective plastic ones with square heads will last you years longer actually work (without forcing you to resort to contraptions such as "Swiffers" which strikes me as a sponge attached to a stick and taken to the more disposable level) given that you know one simple principle and that is - hang you your broom from a hook or nail or simply stand it up upside-down. This prevents the broom from morphing under its own weight and becoming useless. Also, in case you haven't noticed, wooden tool handles are easily interchangeable and useful for a variety of things from limbo sticks to pinata sticks to stick horses.

As your knives get dull, there is something to do before dishing out for a sharpening stone. Flip over a ceramic cup. If it has one of those unfinished ceramic circles on the base as a footing, you can use this as a makeshift sharpener (Most 60's, 70's and even modern mugs should - the heftier and more unfinished the ceramic circle at the bottom, the better). Kitchen knives are sharpened at a 15 degree angel with a sweeping motion from the bottom of the blade to the top, pulled towards you. One hand should hold the hilt and pulling the knife across the surface and the other should be on the flat of the blade holding the blade at the right angle and giving it some pressure. repeat on both sides.

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