Thursday, August 27, 2015

Homemade toothpaste for sensitive teeth

Sooo I made toothpaste that looks like dirt, probably because I made it using a type of dirt - diatomaceous earth. Definitely seems counterproductive.

It's because I've had this really sensitive tooth that the dentist said if it continued to bother me I would need a root canal. I would brush my teeth with dog shit if someone told me it would prevent me from having to get a root canal. My fear of the dentist runs deep.

I ran across an interesting recipe for a coconut oil, baking soda, diatomaceous earth toothpaste that claimed to help 'heal' your teeth and I figured it was worth a shot. I have weird jars of hippy concoctions all over my house, what's one more?

 I kinda can't believe I didn't think of brushing my teeth with coconut oil sooner, I've been on the coconut oil bandwagon for a while now. I buy a huge tub of it and I use it for everything. "Just rub some dirt on it" has somehow transitioned into "you're fine, just rub some coconut oil on it" in my house. I eat it, I rub it all over myself, my kids, and my pets. If (*fair trade, organic) coconut oil is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

Diatomaceous earth I use a lot for my chickens as a dust bath to kill mites. I realize I'm not selling this toothpaste very well. Diatomaceous earth is a substance made from fossilized single-cell diatoms (whatever that means). Apparently, it’s a fossil, ground into a very fine powder. It is a great abrasive for cleaning residue off of your teeth, and it contains something like 20 trace minerals and silica, so the theory being it helps remineralize your teeth. It's easy to find, just go to a farm store like Tractor Supply, they have a huge jug of it for $7, or plenty of options on Amazon, just make sure it's food grade.

I used a jam jar to mix the ingredients together and I just use my toothbrush to scoop out enough to brush with each morning and night. If that grosses you out you could use a little spoon to scoop it onto your toothbrush.

I've been using this toothpaste for about 2 months now. When I first started I could barely drink cold water because it hurt one of my lower back teeth so much. I am happy to report that after 2 months of using only this toothpaste I have no tooth sensitivity at all! I can swish ice cold water with no issue. And despite the fact that it looks like dirt and tastes god awful without Stevia or Xylitol, I was super surprised how clean and smooth my teeth felt the first time I used the stuff. I was buying $7 Whole Foods toothpaste, this is nice money saver making my own.


1/2 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon diatomaceous earth (maybe start with just 1 teaspoon if you're worried about too much of a dirt factor)

1 teaspoon (or to taste) Stevia or Xylitol powder (really bitter without a sweetener!)
Peppermint oil, orange oil, cinnamon, turmeric, clove oil or powder, lemon extract, vanilla extract, chocolate extract, whatever makes you happy.

For the kids I used a little extra Stevia, chocolate extract, vanilla extract, and a little cinnamon.

For myself I use Stevia and peppermint oil.

Next I'm going to try adding eggshell powder to the toothpaste for calcium.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Don't waste your dinner, I paid for that food.

"Eat your food honey, we are not going to waste perfectly good food."

I think everyone has heard this before in their life. Our parents have said it to us, we've echoed it to our children, and I've even heard my five year old echo it to her younger sister in sort of a habitual fashion.

The most recent time I heard this phrase was two days ago during a family lunch outing. We were sitting in a diner trying to hurry the kids along to get going and finish running errands.

"Eat your lunch, we paid for this and I don't want to waste it," my husband explained to our 3 year old. I nodded in agreement. Seemed like good parenting.

He then proceeded to put the said lunch, a somewhat disappointing cheese quesadilla, into a Styrofoam to-go container with the assumption that our daughter would finish the sad looking meal in the car.

As we stood up I looked at the items littered around our table at the diner; several used napkins, a few empty plastic jelly packets, two over-sized Styrofoam to-go containers, and a paper receipt.

Technically we "paid" for all of those disposable items as well. I'm sure the cost of the meal reflected the supplies that were needed to deliver and consume it, right?

Why weren't we echoing the concern of wasting these items?

The food is actually the only item on the table that would benefit the earth if it was "wasted"
and put it into a compost. All of the other items, possibly with the exception of the paper napkins, are quite toxic and will sit in a landfill for hundreds of years.

And this was just the waste audit while dining in, we are all familiar with how much waste is associated with one take out meal.

Photo by Calgary Reviews

How many times have you encouraged your children to finish their dinner so they don't waste the food, and then proceed to throw away a large bag full of plastic utensils, over-sized to-go containers, napkins, condiment packets, paper and plastic bags?

How many times have you made sure to finish the entire loaf of bread so you don't waste any, and then unthinkingly toss the bread wrapper in the trash bin or recycling container?

What makes the value of food higher than the value of the petroleum or wood pulp that was used to make the containers we deliver the food in, or the disposable utensils we eat it with?

Let's replace the phrase "don't waste your food" with "don't waste."

Let's start a habit process that teaches our children not only the value of food as a commodity we need in life to survive, but also the value of the earth and it's limited resources.

Has anyone else noticed how many more landfills there are now?! This is starting to get out of hand.

Photo by bsabarnowl

Monday, March 31, 2014

Lesson learned: Don't use hay as bedding in a chicken coop

It's amateur hour over here at Simple Life Ain't Easy.

I'm pretty sure I was warned specifically about using hay for bedding in a chicken coop, but we all learn our lessons better if the mistakes are our own.

During the harshest part of this '13-'14 winter here in Michigan I thought I would start offering my chickens a special treat. I found a bale of alfalfa hay with grass mixed it. A nice soft green colored bale tied and wrapped in a neat plastic bag. "A forage for horses" is how it was described.

My chickens free range most days of the week even during winter. I clear a few walking paths so they can get out and hopefully find some snow soaked grass to tear up.

This winter that didn't happen. Months passed without my ladies getting out. The snow was just too high to shovel. When I saw the hay bale I imagined this would brighten their currently dim existence.

I added a layer of the hay/grass mix to the bottom of their coop. They loved it. Scratched at it all day until it was mixed into their pine shavings that I keep layered on the bottom in a deep litter method.

The next week I layered in more hay and even filled their nest boxes with it. For several weeks I did this. They certainly seemed to enjoy it and it made the coop smell lovely.

What I actually do know, but failed to apply to this situation for unknown mental reasons, is that hay and grass are both "green" in compost terms. Chicken manure is also a "green" meaning it contains a high amount of nitrogen. For a deep litter method to work, you need proper ratios of browns, which has a lot of carbon, and greens to balance the amount of ammonia that can build up.  What I was essentially building were layers of mud bricks in the coop, trapping moisture and ammonia below. The coop smelled fine and the top layer was mostly dry, and while the bottom layer stayed frozen I did not realize I even had a problem.

This week we finally started to completely unthaw in Michigan.

I bared my bright white arms in the warm sun for the first time in months yesterday. The day was just lovely until...

I started turning over the unthawed bedding in the chicken coop.

My god it smelled so bad I thought I was going to die from ammonia poisoning. The bottom layers of the deep litter were so wet and the top layer was working just like a dry mud brick trapping all the moisture in.

It was the worst my chicken coop has even been.

I scraped everything out. I Left the doors open to air out for at least an hour. I Filled the coop back in with pine shavings and left the big doors open for the rest of the day.

Even as I spread the removed bedding along the paths in my garden, the smell was just overwhelming. Thankfully I have two coops attached to each other, so my chickens were not forced to live in this one alone. They have plenty of space and lots of options. And thankfully I only put the hay in the one coop.

The hay does seem to work ok in the nest boxes and is much softer than straw, I may continue to use it there. But I will stick with fine flake pine shavings for the bottom of the coop from here on out. Lesson learned.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Treating a chicken with sour crop

Chicken is throwing up, not eating, and crop feels swollen. Your chicken may have a sour crop.

Tail feathers pointed down or a chicken who does not want to roost are sure signs of an illness.

Tail feathers pointed down
is a sign of a sick chicken

This is the second time in last two months this happened to our favorite hen. I go out to the coop to check on my girls and there is 'Bella' (my two year old named her) sitting in the corner. At first I thought she was choking, she had a brown liquid bubbling up in her beak and she was sort of tossing her head trying to get it out. I went to pick her up and the pressure of my hands on her crop cause her to spit out a bubble of brown stew. 

I massaged her crop for a minute - it felt swollen and full of liquid. She continued to spit out the brown stuff. As usual I ran in to google the problem. The diagnosis: Sour crop. 

I brought her inside and set her up in our entrance way in the big blue bin we always use to transfer chickens or to keep sick ones inside. 

It's cold here right now. Damn cold. The entrance way is freezing still, so I put a heater in the room to get the temperature up to at least 60F for her. 

Whenever I have a sick chicken for any reason at all, I put a healthy dose of real apple cider vinegar in their water. Not enough to deter them from drinking, but at least a few tablespoons per liter. Apple cider vinegar contains live cultures that help alkalize the body and help replenish the good bacteria that crowd out too much yeast. This is actually a true fact, not just some hippie herbal medicine talk. 

Because sour crop is actually a yeast infection in the crop, apple cider vinegar is good for preventing and helping to cure sour crop. It's a good idea to add a few tablespoons of vinegar to their water year round, but sometimes I don't always have it together and I forget.

Do not give a bird with sour crop any food. They need time to pass through what is already in there. Some sites say not to give water, but I think the water/vinegar mixture is important to help neutralize the yeast. 

The thing that I think helped my chicken get better both times she had this was to gently pick her up, step outside (this is important), flip her over onto her back and massage her crop. Watch your feet cause a lot of nasty brown liquid comes out very quickly as soon as you turn her over!

Gently turn the chicken on her back,
use your other hand to massage her crop
and encourage the liquid to come out

Watch out, this nasty brown stuff comes out pretty quick!
I did this maneuver at least once every hour for the first 3 or 4 hours after I brought her inside. The first 3 times a lot of liquid gurgled out. The 4th and 5th times just a little trickled out. Bella was clearly feeling better and was walking around the entrance way after about 4 hours. I kept her inside for one more day just to keep her warm and did the flipping maneuver a few more times to make sure all the liquid was out. 

I encouraged her to drink the vinegar water after she was feeling better. 

She was ready to go outside the next day and join the other ladies back in the coop.

I can see that if I had not noticed Bella acting sick that this could have killed her very quickly. With sour crop it is important that you take action right away and try to get the liquid out and a dose of vinegar in to neutralize the yeast. 

Adding some probiotics to the water, or giving your chicken some plain yogurt after she is feeling better will help boost the immune system and attempt to clear up any infection. 

Lastly, if you feed your chickens kitchen scraps you should keep a supply of grit available especially during the winter months. This helps them digest their food properly and may prevent sour crop.