Week Ten – Wisdom from the elders

Long before we were ever considering doing a rubbish free year, I was discussing with my grandmother her experiences of raising five children whilst living on a large farm on which my grandfather was a worker. I was reminded of this conversation recently when we received an email from a 70 year old woman, Anna, who wished to pass on some tips ‘from life 50 years ago’. Both woman gave golden advice. My grandmother explained that the grocer used to come via the farm once a month and she would generally only need to purchase about 12 items – things like floor polish, baking soda, flour and sugar. Of course being on a farm is slightly easier than living an urban lifestyle where butchering a sheep in the garage probably wouldn’t go down too well with the council, however, Anna and my grandmother both had advice that might be applicable to our lifestyle. For example, we are keen to try adding a small amount of sand to a mixture of baking soda and vinegar which apparently makes a heavy cleaning product similar to Jiff. Slightly less appealing is saving all the fat from lamb, pork and beef and using it to make soap! According to Anna this soap also works well as shampoo, followed by rinsing the hair with a teaspoon of vinegar, (or lemon juice if blond), dissolved in a cup of water resulting in lovely shiny hair. I also noticed that both women have more specific knowledge about where compost is best directed than we do, ie. what should go to the chooks, what gets added to a pile, what is buried directly into trenches in the vege garden and what gets placed around the foot of plants. As I said before I believe this sort of knowledge to be golden and well worthy of passing down the generations.

11 thoughts on “Week Ten – Wisdom from the elders

  1. hi
    In regards to vinegar did you also know that if you have 1/2 a bottle you can top it up with water, leave it for a week or so and it will ‘re ferment’ and become full strength vinegar again! I have had the same bottle for several months now.

    Also, apple cider vinegar can be used as a hair rinse and you can also wash your hair in bicarb

    That is amazing! Does it work with all types of vinegar?


  2. Hi,
    It seems true that we have forgotten more from the past than what we are learning from the present. Is it possible for you to post extracts from the above mentioned 50 yr advice re the specifics of what to separate out of the general compost and the best place to put the different things?

    Hi there. I wrote a big long response to your comment but it got wiped when I tried to save it so here goes again albeit probably a bit shorter! To the chooks go the green leafy scraps such as silver beet and lettuce. Apparently these are a good source of vitamins for the health of the birds and the pigments in them make the eggs aesthetically pleasing with nice yellow/orange yolks. I’m not sure why but potato peelings and onion skins shouldn’t be given to the chooks, they go to the compost pile. Potato peelings can cause a blight but if the pile is turned regularly or they are buried deep within it this shouldn’t be a problem. Directly on to the garden you can place citrus rinds which will keep cats off it. Coffee grounds serve as fertiliser as well as pest control and mulched branches make a good mulch. Banana skins are placed at the bottom of plants to help lure aphids away. Apparently aphids love yellow so cards with vasiline will attract and trap them as will yellow dishes filled with water. This info was gained through conversations with both women. Cheers.


  3. Hi, I also would like to know what advice you were given from 50yrs ago w/r to separating the compost and what should go where.

    Good work by the way! Inspires me to do a bit more waste saving – at the moment we use one rubbish bag between two people every 3-4 weeks. Still too much though!

    Thanks for your encouragement Tony. Also in addition to the stuff I wrote on the previous comment the water that you’ve boiled your potatoes in is great as a weedkiller apparently.


  4. If you want a soft cleanser to clean the bathroom and handbasins and other hard surfaces try the following: Half a cup of baking soda and put it in a container add to it enough liquid soap to make a smooth paste. Dip a damp cloth in and clean as usual. It rinses easily and reminds me of using Chemico. Store with a lid on and it will keep for ages.

    Thats great, thanks.


  5. Thanks you people. I find this truly inspirational especially that you haven’t got rid of your car and are attempting to live in the current society as best you can.
    A few years ago I seriously looked at all the cleaning products in my and close ones’ houses and whittled mine down to bleach, handy andy, detergent, meths, turps, washing powder, plus one thing for woollens oh and euclyptus oil. Which now looking at them all seem to be a lot too.


  6. I absolutley LOVe the comment about making your vinegar an endless supply! I have just had a baby and am using vinegar to soak nappies in (if you are unsure about this, just try it! It really works so well!) and was searching for a cheap source of vinegar on the net and came across this article! You can imagine how ideal this sounds to me! In regards to using it for cleaning nappies, I do a load of nappies every day, so it’s not really sitting there for that long. I scrub off the excess poo, tip it into the garden (he’s only 8 weeks old, i imagine that once he’s eating food it’ll go into the toilet) and soak in a bucket with half a cup of vinegar added. I put all the nappies in there. It works best if you build it up during the day, leave to soak over night, and put it on to wash in the morning. The previous nights go into the fresh bucket… The other part of this equation is to get them into as much sun and wind as possible, and that seems to get rid of all of the stains as well as bugs… Hope this makes someones life easier!


  7. Hi, Just to let you know, the water you’ve added to the vinegar will not re-ferment into more vinegar. It’s not that simple guys…

    Fermentation is the action of specific (acetic acid) bacteria which turn ethanol (alcohol) into acid. So to make more vinegar you will need a mother culture of bacteria and an alcoholic solution. For example cider vinegar is made from alcoholic cider to which is added the correct bacteria.

    As water contains neither alcohol or bacterial cultures this just won’t happen, sorry…

    Its great to finally get some closure on this one! Cheers, it seemed too good to be true. 🙂


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