Saturday, July 19, 2014

Crunchy Confessions -- Not Everything Works

I have a confession about my move to crunchy.

Well, a few actually.

The big thing is that not everything works, at least initially.

1 - I haven't put away my detergent completely.

The natural alternative doesn't get my super dirty, I've worked in the yard and garden or manhandled things in the kennel shorts clean. And for whatever reason I wasn't sure about using it to clean kennel towels and blankets, used for grooming, bedding and sometimes doggy accidents. But I'm using much less and I may eventually get around to making something more natural, but a bit stronger than the soap nuts. Oh, and I've found that regular detergent tends to not get my kennel clothes clean either -- maybe I need to get less dirty, or just buy new shorts.

I had my husband buy bleach for my laundry from the dog kennel as well because I wanted to be sure it was santitized and didn't smell like doggy business any more. Bleach is bad stuff to add to your water and I know that. Funny thing is, while I was out, I used white vinegar, and the towels smelled amazing. I'm pretty sure I'll be going back to white vinegar for the less nasty loads and, once the bleach is gone, for everything.

2 - My first crunchy deodorant got thrown away.

It was one of the first things I made because I was convinced that antiperspirant wasn't good. I had a problem in that every time I used it, I broke out. I thought it was shaving. Turned out to be the Shea butter. My daughter has been buying natural deodorant off Etsy (an option if you don't want to take the time to make your own) and her newest purchase had Shea butter in it and guess what, she broke out.

I tossed my old stuff and found a recipe without Shea butter, which is apparently wonderful for skin everywhere else.

This one calls for 6-7 Tbsp coconut oil, 25 drops tea tree oil, 2 Tbsp Vitamin E oil, 2 Tbsp baking soda, 2 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder. I added 2 Tbsp of beeswax because I wanted to make sure my deodorant wasn't a lotion in hot weather. Start out by melting the beeswax. Once it is completely liquified, add the coconut oil and melt it, then add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

This recipe made enough for two deodorant sticks. Unfortunately, I only had one, so back to the the jar, but either way I've got enough to do me for a while and it's working great.

3 - Fleas are tough.

My dogs had made it great with their garlic supplements until about two weeks ago. Then I gave them all baths, which is part of the natural flea control method. Unfortunately, I let them dry in my grooming parlor.

I'm sorry to admit that I occasionally groom dogs with fleas. Many of the fleas fall off with the hair and the rest die in a good bath, but those that fall off with the hair are just waiting for another dog to come along with no protection. Without any spot-on drops, my dogs became those dogs and we've been fighting the flea battle with everything but chemical weaponry since.

The Jack Russells were shaved to improve flea visibility and saturation (it also helps with shedding so it's not their first time). Then they were bathed again and sprayed liberally with the flea repelling lavender spray made by combining 1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar, 3-4 drops lavendar essential oil and the water needed to fill a small spray bottle. I also add about 3-4 drops of tea tree oil to help with healing. It makes the dogs smell fresh, instead of perfumed or chemically, but they still run and hide when they see the bottle.

That wasn't quite doing the trick, so I started looking for something to kill them. I found a natural product on Amazon from Buck Mountain, but it was prohibitively expensive. Then I found a recipe for one on Primally Inspired that was based on the Buck Mountain formula and ordered the ingredients for it from Amazon instead.


1 cup food grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

1/2 cup neem powder

1/2 cup yarrow powder

20 Drops Eucalyptus essential oil (Leave out the essential oil if using for cats.)

I found a 10-lb bag of DE with free shipping for about the same price as a 1-lb bag with prime shipping. I had to wait on it, but DE is also good for dusting garden parasites and dealing with other bugs.

Diatomaceous Earth is a very soft powder made up of fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms. While it feels soft to us, to insects it is anything but. Under a microscope, DE is very sharp, causing it to puncture the exterior of insects so that they die of dehydration or buggy infections. Food grade DE is harmless to humans and pets and can be taken internally for parasites (if you need to deal with that). I don't have to worry about the babies or dogs eating it.

At the same time, it means it doesn't instantly kill fleas. If I want instant gratification, I need a bottle of alcohol and the flea comb. I use rubbing alcohol, even if not completely safe and natural, as I still eliminate the exposure of pets and children. Comb the fleas out and douse them. They're dead.

Neem powder is made from an herb and is a natural repellent because it interrupts the insect's life cycle. It also has moisturizing properties, which may help heal flea irritated skin.

Yarrow powder is supposed to help sooth the skin. It's also quite expensive with no free shipping options, so I wound up leaving it out.

Eucalyptus is a repellent, but after I made the powder, I could not really smell it.

Making the powder is a matter of combining the ingredients in a glass jar. If you have a shaker top to fit a Mason jar, you're set. I wound up transferring powder as needed to a cheese shaker jar.

It will make your dog's coat look dull and green and to me they smell like henna, very herbal. Death is not instant for the fleas, but there has been a gradual decrease in their numbers and less frantic scratching. My senior JRT, Abi, has a flea allergy, so she's been getting occasional doses of Benedryl to help her cope. Everyone is getting powdered regularly and another bath is looming. I think we'll have the situation eliminated in another few days.

No, it wasn't an instant fix like a good dose of chemicals. But it is safe and natural and I'm pretty sure we'll all survive, although Abi is looking a little worse for wear.

4 - After two batches, I tossed my Vitamin C serum. It wasn't doing anything. At the same time, none of the $20 to $30 commercial products I've been trying seemed to do anything either. I'm washing with olive and castor oil, and following it with plain aloe vera gel. My daughter has been trying some other essential oils, but I haven't got around to it yet.

5 - I also haven't gotten around to making natural housecleaning stuff. My daughter made a batch she shared, and I've discovered baking soda cleans the shower as well as Mr. Clean magic sponges, but I feel like a slacker in that area. I really want to make natural air freshener. On the other hand, I'm not using the chemical kind either, so I guess I'll get around to making my own one day.

And I generally feel like a slacker when it comes to anything to do with cleaning the house anyway, so that's not a big shocker.

6 - I won't go back.

I was rushing around the other evening and thought some hand lotion would feel nice, you know, good old commercial lotion. It didn't. It didn't even smell good any more. My hands felt like they were smothering. I washed them and tossed the container in the trash. I think there are still a few unemptied lotion bottles around, but I don't think I'll be tempted to use them and they'll soon be making the trash run as well. I am about out of my luscious body butter, but I've restocked on ingredients and found another lotion recipe to try, so I'll be cooking some up and sharing it soon.

For me going crunchy has been not only a gradual transition, but a learning experience as well. I'm far enough along to notice the difference quickly and have to catch myself before I look down my nose at anyone still relying on chemicals or eating highly processed foods. I'm glad it's a multigenerational thing and "my" girls are living in a home with fewer chemicals as well.

It's a journey and I don't think there will ever come a time when I think, hey, I know all I need to know to make all I need to make. I'll keep experimenting and losing my recipes and finding new ones.

I'll stay on the crunchy path.


  1. I fear heartworm, that's my thing with fleas.

    1. Some parasites are spread by fleas. Heartworm is from mosquitoes, if I remember correctly, which is why the flea treatments don't mean you can skip heartworm treatment.

  2. In the interest of full disclosure I had to go chemical on fleas last week. Abi, my eldest Jack Russell, has bad allergies and one of them is to fleas. Just one flea can cause her to tear her hair out. Unfortunately, there were more than one and she couldn't handle waiting for the natural treatments to work. Baths, sprays and powders were taking effect, but meanwhile she was balding and scabby and losing weight. I bought three Seresto collars for Abi and her housemates. Everyone else is still natural and those who take the garlic supplement the best (Willie, who lives in the kennel especially) seem to be well protected and flea free.