Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Natural Dye Experiment: Hands on Chemistry

Some hand-me-downs and other clothes that were too stained to wear
Recently, I was given a pile of hand-me-downs for Phoebe (I LOVE hand-me downs!) and several of the items were pretty badly stained. I figured they may be OK for outside play, but a couple of them were really sweet sweaters, and I wanted Phoebe to get more use out of them. I also had a few items of the kids clothing that had gotten wrecked in the wash.... somehow, a few things that were white now had these big yellow burn-looking spots on them. No clue where they came from, but my normal stain-removal techniques did not get them out. So, I figured all of these things were destined for fabric scraps.. unless I could maybe dye them and cover the stains?? Sounded like a plan!
I was wavering between using natural dyes (which I have not had good luck with in the past) or just getting a package of RIT. RIT dye is terrible for the environment, and I hated the thought of using it. But, I also had quite a few garments to be dyed, so I thought I could probably justify it.... in the name of salvaging all of that clothing. But then I went out for a drink with a friend who was excited about natural dyes, and she inspired me to try to dye the clothes with turmeric.
I had used turmeric before to dye eggs, and I have inadvertently dyed my own clothes with it while eating. So, I knew the color would stick, but wasn't sure how easy it would be.
Turns out that it was super easy. Pre-soak the clothes to be dyed in cool water with a little bit of vinegar (to help the turmeric stick), boil turmeric in a pot of water for about 20 minutes, add the clothes and simmer for about 20-30 minutes depending on how dark you want them. Rinse, dry, and you are done.
Clothes simmering on the stove..... or a really terrible dinner.
The clothes came out great... I did one sweater a bit lighter, and it ended up a lovely shade of yellow, and I left everything else in until it was a vibrant orange. Then I washed them in the washing machine... and they all turned a beet-red color! After some internet research, I found out that anything basic, like basking soda, or laundry powders, reacts with the turmeric and turns it red. Crap. Now I had a bunch of red-ish clothes that I wasn't in love with. Then I started wondering if vinegar, which is an acid would turn the clothes back to the yellow/oranges colors. I tested a spot and low and behold, it did! It was like magic! Laundry detergent made red spots, vinegar removed them. Cool, right?
Turmeric dyed shirt with spots from the laundry soap.
Well, not really cool.... because apparently I have a lot of bases around my house. Between soaps and baking soda for cleaning and cooking, every time Phoebe wears one of these dyes pieces, she ends up with red splotches on them. I have looked online for something to set the dye, but to no avail... and why don't more people have problems with this? I have to keep squirting my cleaning solution (white vinegar mixed with water) on the red splotches to get them to disappear. Cool chemistry experiment, but not so great for daily wear (at least not at my house!).  I'm bummed because they look great and I love that I didn't harm the environment dying them... they just aren't very practical. Does anybody have a solution to this? Maybe embrace it as a science-on-the-go tutorial? Ha ha. I would love to explore more natural fabric dying, so if anyone has any experiences that they would like to share, I would love to learn more!!

The finished garments, hanging to dry

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Monday, July 30, 2012

A Crazy (And Amazing) Hike

Sunday afternoon, my friend Heidi and I headed out towards Multnomah Falls to hike the Oneanta Gorge. This infamous hike is a short hike through a slot canyon, so in Oregon, where the rain is a-plenty, that means you are getting wet. So, Heidi and I left the kids at home with our husbands, and enjoyed a mama's afternoon in nature.
The hike starts out by climbing over a  huge log jam. Honestly, my pictures don't do it justice. After making it over the first rock, and looking down at the 30 foot drop onto the rocks below, Heidi and I almost turned back. Sure, it's not that hard to walk over fallen logs, but if you slip in the wrong place, well,... let's just say it would probably not turn out so well. So, we took about 15 minutes to get past the log jam: crotching logs and hanging on for dear life as young, tan guys basically ran past us. We panicked a few times, but we made it over, and I must say that we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves!
The hike continues into a magnificent narrow gorge, with chilly water that would have felt nicer if it had been hot out. But, with the log jam behind us, we were enjoying the scenery and having fun. Until we got to the part where you had to either walk in water up to your neck (and we both had cameras) or boulder along the side of a cliff. After many minutes of indecision, we decided on rock climbing. Which neither of us were in shape for. But, surprisingly, we did it, and we made it to the waterfall... the gift for those who make it to the end.
We enjoyed the falls and the specks of sunlight that were falling into the canyon. And we dreaded the trip back to the car, which required yet another bouldering attempt as well as going back through the log jam. But, with our confidence up, and energized from an amazing waterfall, we made it back without a hitch (unless you count the time that I almost fell, camera and all, off of the cliff and into the water!).
It was amazing. We felt empowered, and a bit reckless. And, if you think we went on some very dangerous hike, I might add that there were hundreds of people there, may of them kids. So, no, we are no super-hikers or incredibly gutsy, but for two mamas who mainly stick to the trail, it was quite an adventure!

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Life With Ducks

It has been a long time since I have posted anything about our ducks on here, so I thought it is about time for an update!
The summer months are always hard for our backyard female.... when we brought the ducks home as wee babies, we bought 3 females. A couple months later, when the sexes became obvious, we realized that we had 2 males and only 1 female. Bad news for us, because that meant less eggs, but it has also been bad news for the female. With only one female, for 2 males, well... let's just say the males are a little (OK, a whole lot) overzealous about mating with her. And, if you have ever seen ducks mate, it is not a pretty site. It is very rough. And with 2 males, each wanting there turn, the poor gal gets de-feathered and beaten. Each summer we have tried to re-home one of the males, but have had no such luck. And we have felt too guilty to slaughter him ourselves. Plus, the 3 of them are inseparable, and follow each other everywhere.... they are a 3 duck flock, and get sad if we even try and put them on different sides of the yard.  But, as the summer wears on, the mating becomes less and less, the female recovers, and everyone is once again happy and healthy. But, if anyone wants a male duck for a pet, please contact me!
A few weeks ago, just at duck, we heard boisterous quacking coming from the backyard. Todd bolted out the back door as fast as he could, and as he did, a raccoon took off running.... and just in the nick of time. The ducks were all alive, but one of the males was badly injured on his neck. No blood, but he wasn't able to hold his head up for more than a week! After a day of him holding his neck in, we realized that he was not able to eat of drink, as he couldn't stretch his neck out to get the food. As our ducks are still people shy, they do not like to be picked up, so examining him, without injuring him further, was not an option. We decided to put some food and water propped up higher, on a stump, and he was able to reach it! He slowly but surely got stronger, and he is now back to normal. Glad we didn't have a death-by-raccoon on our hands, but thinking back, it almost would have been better if he was eaten. Then we wouldn't have to deal with the crazy mating thing.
Having ducks has been a learning experience and they are seriously funny. And of course, they are a hit with the kids. Phoebe wakes up every morning, pulls aside the curtain, and starts yelling "duck! duck!".

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Friday, July 27, 2012

This Moment: Really. Big. Diaper

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soulemama.
 OK, cheating a bit this week and including words. This pictures was taken on Wednesday, when the kids and I went to a friends house to splash in their baby pool. I figured I would put a disposable diaper on Phoebe, instead of our reusable cloth diaper, because I wasn't sure that she would even get in the water and I didn't want her to pee all over herself. Well, she did get in the water and her diaper swelled up so huge that it was throwing her off balance and she could barely walk. It was hilarious! This picture doesn't even do it justice... Pin It Now!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Super Salve

This week, Finn and I collected herbs from our garden to make our annual salve. We collected plantain, dandelions, bee balm, lemon balm, echinacea, lavender, and yarrow. I love making my own lip balm and salves and I love to make extras to give away for holiday gifts!
Have you ever made salve? For instructions on how to make your own easy salve/lip balm, check out last year's post. Pin It Now!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Science and History in Action

Yesterday, the kids and I headed across the river to Vancouver, Washington. First stop: The Water Resource Education Center. We had a chance to see frogs and fish, learn about wetland animals, see what happens to our storm water runoff, and learn about the impact of our trash (and the kids got to play in their cool water-themed play area as well!). We also learned that you shouldn't flush wipes down your toilet, even the ones that claim to be flushable. We are guilty of this, so now we plan on changing our ways.I think Finn, at 4 1/2, was a little too young to grasp many of the concepts that were presented, but for a free adventure, I think it was worthwhile.
Next stop: Ft. Vancouver, the historic fur trading hub of the Pacific Northwest. We got to see some really old buildings, a lot of canons, and learn about the lifestyle of traders living in the 1800s. Plus, they had some amazing gardens. I think we all would have learned a lot more if we could have taken a tour, but with 2 littles, I just didn't think it was a good idea.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Choosing A Sunscreen

Sunscreen weather is here and in full force! Trying to choose a sunscreen that is safe for you and your children can be quite a challenge. I just found this sunscreen tip sheet put out by the Environmental Working Group. It gives a few quick things to look for and a few others to avoid (like vitamin A and oxybenzone). While the sunscreen isle will probably still feel overwhelming, at least these tips should help!

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Monday, July 23, 2012

A Camping Adventure

Last week our family went camping for 2 nights at a place called Lost Lake, which is about a 2 hour drive from our house. The area is beautiful, quaint, and, as you could probably have guessed, has a lovely lake. We spent some time here 2 summers ago, and have been itching to go back ever since.
Well, this year's trip was a little more adventurous than we had hoped. Yes, we had plenty of good times- hiking, fishing, and relaxing. However, the second night, just after Todd and I had put the kids in the tent for bed, it started to thunder and lightning. And not an Oregon thunderstorm.... this was on the caliber of a midwestern thunder storm: huge rolls of thunder and lightning coming from all directions. It was both amazing and a bit scary all at once. Around 11, Todd and I decided to head into the tent. We put the stroller and the stove under the picnic table, just in case the thunder storm brought some rain, and then snuggled into our sleeping bags. Shortly after, the rain began. Lightly at first, but it quickly turned into a downpour... that didn't stop. After about 30 minutes of bucket of rain falling, it started to rain lightly inside the tent. Not good, right? Well, then Todd put his hand on the dogs blankets next to him and they were soaked...... which is when we realized that our tent was basically sitting in a lake of water. If you pushed your hand on the tent floor, it felt exactly like a waterbed. I unzipped the tent door to see that out tent was, in fact, in a huge puddle, about 4 inches deep, and our shoes were starting to float away.
So, Todd and I grabbed the kids and dogs, and we all piled into the car, where we slept for the night. Around 7 am it was still raining, but I broke down the campsite, we stuffed all of our wet and dirty gear into the car, and headed back to Portland. A disaster, but an adventure none-the-less.
Here are a few pictures of our adventure. Looking back, I wish I would have taken pictures of our tent in a puddle, but honestly, at the time, that was the last thing on my mind!
The first day was so foggy we didn't have any views of Mt. Hood

We found some fairie homes...

And some really big trees....

Had a nice hike

And enjoyed the view from around the lake

Phoebe thought being dirty for 2 full days was pretty awesome...

Finn was helping Phoebe learn how to give kisses

And Todd got to take Finn fishing, although they didn't catch anything.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soulemama.
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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Things That Make Me Angry

After I took one semester off teaching to give birth to Phoebe, I lost my health insurance. Since I am a part-time teacher, my insurance eligibility depends on how many hours I teach, and missing those few months made me fall below the minimum amount of hours needed to get on the group plan. I paid for cobra for several months, but it was nearly $600 per month for me alone, and we just couldn't afford it.
Todd, who is self-employed, hasn't has health insurance since he started his own business several years ago. The high costs have just made it something that we can not afford.
The kids are on plans, but Todd and I have just been focused on preventative care and paying any health needs (like for my asthma medications) out of pocket. However, a few weeks ago, Todd and I decided that we should really get on a health insurance plan. So, we got online and filled out an application for a family insurance plan.
Two days later we each got a letter in the mail, and each of us was separately denied for coverage. Todd, who was in a car accident in January, is currently being treated by chiropractors, acupuncturists, and massage therapists... and his entire treatment is (and will be) covered by personal injury protection through our car insurance. We even submitted a note on our application stating that we would not be seeking coverage for anything related to his accident. DENIED.
I have asthma, which I have had my whole life, and I do have to take medication for it. Additionally, the application asked if I had ever had any miscarriages. I reported honestly, and said that I had had 2, both of which I waited out and did not seek any treatment for. I also included a note that said that we are not planning on having any more children, so the fact that we have previously had 2 miscarriages is irrelevant because we have no plans to try and conceive again. My letter stated that I had been denied coverage because of multiple miscarriages and asthma. DENIED.
So, what are people, like me, supposed to do? The cost of health care is astronomical as it is, but to have health insurance, you must have a job that offers it to you. Otherwise, asthma, miscarriages, car accidents- these things that can happen to anyone, make you un-insurable. So, if my family decides that health insurance is something that we need, one of us would have to quit our jobs and take a job (if we could get hired) at a big corporation that would offer us an insurance plan.
How can the simple act of having health care be such a stressful situation? I exercise, eat well, and take care of my body, yet I am not insurable. So, for now, my hubby and I have our fingers crossed that we will stay relatively healthy and that nothing major will happen to either of us. It is a tough game of chance to play, but what choice do we have?

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Yarn Along

Joining in with Ginny at Small Things for today's yarn along. I finally finished Phoebe's Helena sweater. I made a few pretty big changes to the original pattern, like capped sleeves and a ribbon tie, and I think I am happy with the way it came out. I did make the 2T size though, and it is a bit big on Miss P, which is perfect, since it is currently not sweater weather. She has some room to grow. I have just been working on a few baby presents for friends, but the knitting is slow going, as I have been hot and extra tired!
I am still reading all of the same books as I was last week: Bill McKibbon's The End of Nature, The Shock Doctrine, and The Hobbit. I have been reading snippets here and there, but I haven't made much progress!
And now, I am headed to the hills for a couple nights of camping. Of course, I am bringing books to read and yarn to knit, but with 2 kids and 2 dogs, I will probably not even touch either!
What are you reading? What are you knitting?

And, if you have a chance to stop by my July garden link-up, and share some pictures of your July garden, that would be marvelous!
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Monday, July 16, 2012

July Garden Linky Party!

It's the middle of July. Summer is on and our garden is exploding! I thought it might be fun to have a garden photo link-up.... Just post some photos of your garden on your blog and come back here to link up to it. I can't wait to see what everyone is growing! If you are going to link up, try to do so by the end of the week!
Here is what you can find at our house....

Our front yard is our garden space, as the ducks have taken over the less-sunny back yard.

Our new parking strip garden boxes are filled with zucchini, butternut squash, cucumbers, spaghetti squash, beans, nasturtium, and sunflowers. The zucchini is already going crazyW!

We are patiently (sort of) waiting for our tomatoes to come! We have sungolds, tomatillos, and 3 types of heirlooms!

Lots of potatoes...

Some strawberries still to come..

A hop plant that is new to our garden this year.. maybe we will find space to brew a batch of homegrown beer?

An unknown type of pepper plant... ancho, maybe?

Blackberries in the making...

A grapevine growing out of control....

And lots and lots of herbs!

We also have bush beans, pole beans, carrots, beets, and greens.. but those pictures aren't as exciting. What's growing in your garden?

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