Natural friends

Yesterday evening, I saw up to four foxes within a short period of time. I saw one, a gorgeous one with a very fluffy tail and an equally fluffy face, very close to my home. I’d heard a fox call out repeatedly, before I went out. Maybe it was that one.

A little bit later, I saw two or three scrawnier-looking types a few hundred yards away from my home. They’d been up to something and I don’t rule out that they’d caught a bird and were fighting over it. There was a lot of rustling and some squeaking going on, but when I walked up to enquire, the foxes ran off, abandoning whatever they’d been up to.

Last year, I saw up to six foxes one evening, but that was much later in the evening, and I had purposefully gone out to look for foxes that day. While I was standing in the dark and couldn’t actually see the fox, one very close to me warned either me or, more likely, another fox to stay off its turf, by the sound of it. That felt awesome, to be that close, to have a fox call out right next to you. It was that time of the year when the young ones are establishing their territories.

I have seen a fox scale a 2-m-high wall as if it wasn’t there and I’ve also seen one flatten itself and slip under a gate, through a very narrow space.

If you happen to be living in the territory of foxes, and need some help with that, then it is useful to know that if you kill a fox, you usually merely enable another fox to move in. Traditional pest controllers and exterminators tend to want to kill animals, unfortunately. It is much more effective to work with specialists who understand animals and get them to cooperate.

What do they want, foxes? Essentially the same things you want. So it is often possible to entice them to go somewhere else. A good book about this is “Wild Neighbors: The Humane Approach to Living with Wildlife” by John Hadidian and others. (I am lucky enough to have it.)

It’s time to re-evaluate our relationship with animals

From the description (6 May 2014):

Lesli Bisgould is Canada’s first animal rights lawyer. For ten years, she acted for individuals and organizations in a variety of animal-related cases in the only practice of its kind in the country. She has fought for the rights of students who objected to dissection in science class, for critics of facilities where animals are held captive, and for changes in the law to ameliorate the legal status of animals. Lesli is an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s faculty of law where she instructs a course on animals and the law. Lesli is the author of “Animals and the Law”, the only Canadian law text on the subject, published by Irwin Law. Lesli was the 2012 international law lecturer for Australian animal protection institute, Voiceless – she undertook a 12-stop lecture tour of Australia, comparing the commercial hunts for seals in Canada and kangaroos in Australia. In recent years, Lesli’s full-time work has been in the human rights and poverty law fields, and she is currently the Barrister at Legal Aid Ontario’s Clinic Resource Office.

DIY toothpaste, liquid soap and shampoo – follow-up

See my previous post about this topic. I found that it is really easy to buy a lot of plastic packaging when you’re trying to make your own household products to avoid buying plastic packaging!

Bicarbonate of soda, or baking soda (unless you’re in the UK where baking soda apparently also includes cream of tartar) comes in plastic tubs of 200 grams at £1.29 at Asda, or in small wrapped sachets that are much more expensive, relatively speaking (a few sachets for £1).

I decided that I didn’t need flavoring for my toothpaste as that would likely also come with waste. (I still have some eucalyptus oil in a glass dropper. That should work too, if needed.)

I first tried bicarbonate of soda on my tooth brush, just like that, and it turned out to work much better than the toothpaste I was using!!! My teeth had that nice clean feeling. You know what I mean.

Yay, buying toothpaste eliminated!

(Except when travelling, maybe. I don’t want to be caught travelling with a white powder in my luggage.)

A dentist says about it: “Baking soda is completely safe to use as a DIY toothpaste. I like it because it’s non-toxic and increases alkalinity in the mouth by neutralizing acids, all while having a very low abrasion score.” Added benefits: no more yucky toothbrush and no more toothpaste stains on my clothing.

I clearly still needed to find some baking soda that is not packaged in plastic, so I searched online. I spotted Arm & Hammer on Amazon in Britain. 227 grams for £0.81, but the delivery costs are £5.56. Holland and Barrett has 450 grams for £4.49. It appears to be packaged in a plastic bag, but it would be less waste than one of those tubs. It’s much more expensive, though. Ocado has Arm & Hammer too.

But the winner is… Wilkinson/Wilko, which sells 500-gram packages at £1.50! That will likely last me at least a year.


I noticed that brushing with baking soda later produced a mildly sweet taste in my mouth. This may not be obvious to everyone and it may not even be the case for everyone.

(If you avoid consuming sugar, you can also detect the unpleasant acidic taste that results from bacteria attacking the sugar and producing acid around your teeth when you do eat sugar. I never was aware of that before I stopped buying sugar. I have made an exception three times, twice to make really yummy brownies in my microwave to treat my colleagues and once when friends were visiting who like sugar in their tea.)

When I went shopping for these things for making my own toothpaste and shampoo, I almost automatically grabbed some coconut shower gel but I remembered just in time that I wanted to cut my plastic waste. I can probably also use my DYI coconut shampoo as shower gel.

The can / tin of coconut milk cost me £ 0.80, but for the soap, I chose a four-pack of “Simple pure soap for sensitive skin” without perfume or color, which cost £2.16, both at Asda


After I got home, I wondered what “dermatologically tested” meant, which was printed on the soap’s packaging. It looked like paper but turned out to be… plastic. The bars are wrapped individually, too, but at least those wrappers are made of paper.


I looked into the dermatological testing. “Simple” products are not tested on animals, but this soap does contain sodium tallowate (made from animal fat). And what a shame about the plastic packaging.

But the soap smells delicious! Without added perfume!

Another possible problem with the soap is that it requires the use of a moisturiser afterward, but I can accommodate for that by adding enough olive oil.

I often use olive oil on my skin (though I’ve gotten out of the habit lately). It does a great job as it seals moisture in and makes my skin look really healthy and young.

The next thing I did was make liquid soap. I grated about a quarter of a bar with a cheese grater that I had bought because a consumer program on the BBC claimed that grating your own cheese is cheaper than buying grated cheese. (It wasn’t, in my case.)

I wouldn’t call this “finely” grated, but it will have to do.


Then I waited till 8 pm because between 8 pm and 10 pm, my electricity costs less than half of what it costs between 4 pm and 8 pm. (That’s 9 pm and 11 pm in during daylight saving time, though, and 5 pm and 9 pm!)

In the meantime, I tried to figure out how much “a quart” was, in the recipe that I’d found online. In the UK, it is 1.1365225 litres and in the US it is 0.946352946 liters. As the needed quantity of soap was one ounce or about 1/4 of a bar, I decided that about one liter of water would do. I could always add a bit more if I got the feeling that more was needed, but the recipe is American, so I didn’t anticipate needing more water.

Then I set about finding a suitable container for my liquid soap. Guess what? I stuck my arms into my kitchen’s trash container (relax, I knew what was in it) and pulled out two plastic pump flasks for liquid hand soap for which I had thought I had no more use. Each holds 500 ml, so that’s perfect.

These bottles are recyclable (probably turned into plastic wood), but whether I don’t know whether they are really recycled. The pumps are not recyclable.

Dissolving the soap was much easier and happened much quicker than I expected:


The recipe said to let the stuff gel for 24 hours, but I could already tell long before that that this soap was going to be great, and of the same consistency as the hand soap I used to buy.

So, one package with four bars of soap at £ 2.16 will make me 4 times 4 times 2 bottles is 32 bottles of soap that usually cost £1 or maybe 2 for £1. I didn’t use much electricity for heating so making my own hand wash this way saves me £ 15 to £ 30.

A possible downside is that this liquid soap may not be moisturising, so I will add a few drops of oil to it. I added a few drops of olive oil this time. Next time, I may use almond oil or rose oil.

I waited one more day, so 48 hours all in all, before I declared the two bottles with home-made liquid soap ready for use. The consistency is quite fine now, but when I vigorously shook both bottles 20 to 22 hours after I poured the soap mixture into the bottles – to ensure that the mixture had gelled well – the liquid that came out then was still quite thin/watery. It does take at least 24 hours for the mixture to stabilize, said the recipe.

Yay, buying handwash eliminated!

I’ll make shampoo next, when my current bottle runs out.

BP oil spill settlement (2010, Gulf of Mexico)

Remember the big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico a few years back? In 2010, that was. 11 people died in the disaster. I used Twitter to get a shipment of Dawn sent to a group of people who were cleaning up oiled sea birds in Florida, back then. (I used to volunteer there in the mid-1990s.)

Cleaning up oiled pelicans after the 1993 oil spill in Tampa Bay. Photo: Dawn Waldt.

Cleaning up oiled pelicans after the 1993 oil spill in Tampa Bay. Photo: Dawn Waldt.

Well, the damages have finally been settled, and approved by a judge. BP will pay the US government and the five affected states up to $18.7 billion in penalties.

Read more about the settlement: here.

There is also a film about the disaster now.


Pelican cleaned up after 1993 Tampa Bay oil spill. Photo: Dawn Waldt.

Less-waste living

I am not happy with how much plastic I put in the trash all the time and want to change that.

I am going to start by making my own tooth paste. That’s a baby step. That’s how we all learned to walk. Baby steps. Easy does it.

Here are three useful pages with information:

I am also going to start using a wooden toothbrush and I am going to experiment with making my own shampoo.

I noticed that that could produce more waste instead of less if I am not careful. Coconut milk usually is not packaged in plastic but in cans/tins (easy to recycle) and I can use the remainder of the coconut milk in food, but liquid soap is packaged in plastic. Then I found directions for turning bars of soap into liquid soap do I will look for bars that are packaged in paper and turn them into liquid soap.

There is also this method for washing hair with baking soda.

I am going to give the coconut shampoo version a shot to see how it works out and to that end, I will first try to turn bars into liquid soap. If the latter works, I also will no longer have to buy liquid hand soap in plastic. I can use the plastic pump flasks that I already have. (The pumps don’t work on many of them, so I’ve kept a few that work and I refill those anyway.)

Another advantage of using home-made toothpaste is that it won’t contain any nanoparticles. Many products contain nanoparticles these days, but there is no technology yet for removing them from waste streams.

Lawyers’ “fat cat” image leads to more LIPs

On 28 March 2016, Citizens Advice published a new report,called

Standing alone.


It focuses on going to the family court without a lawyer.

The majority found self representing difficult, time consuming and emotionally draining. As well as a bad experience for court users, it also means litigants in person achieve worse outcomes compared with their represented counterparts.

Nine in ten litigants in person say it affected at least one other aspect of their life. Standing alone: going to the family court without a lawyer explores the four key areas affected: mental and physical health, working lives, finances and relationships.