Caution: Chemotherapy Material

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The first thing I learned about putting 5% Fluorouracil on my horse was that I was never allowed to get it on myself.  5-FU is a chemotherapy medication, so it’s basically a hazardous material.  It comes in two plastic “transport bags” with yellow warnings that say “Caution: Chemotherapy Material” and “observe safety precautions for handling and administration.”  My vet told me to wear gloves on both hands when administering it.

The second thing I learned about putting 5% Fluorouracil on my horse is that I never should have told my mother about it.  She wants me to wear double gloves on both hands and long sleeves.  I’m just waiting for her to suggest a gas mask and a hazmat suit.  I honestly think she’d prefer if I just had my hands amputated and replaced with metal tongs.

(Pro-tip: if you’re lost right now and have no idea why we’re discussing equine skin cancer instead of some ineffective natural deodorant powder, I suggest you go back to the beginning for a recap.)

The 5FU comes in a small tube and looks like lotion…except for the warnings all over the front.  Other than that, just like lotion.  It works by attacking cancerous and pre-cancerous cells in the skin.  This form of chemotherapy is unique in that it is supposed to only attack diseased cells, leaving healthy cells unaffected.  You can determine which areas of tissue are cancerous by how they react when the 5-FU is applied; healthy skin should have no reaction, while cancerous tissue should become irritated.

I began using 5-FU to treat the lesion on Hawk’s nose on November 26, 2016.  The Fluorouracil works in cycles.  To begin, my vet instructed that I apply a small amount (think dime-sized) to Hawk’s lesion once a day until the area becomes too irritated to continue.  I asked how I would know when that was, and my vet replied, “oh, he’ll let you know.”  Surprisingly, though, Hawk is pretty good about it.  I’d like to think this is because he’s so well trained and really likes me, but he’s probably just gotten used to me antagonizing his nose by now.  That’s not to say that he loves getting the medicine, and although he doesn’t typically act up, I usually can tell when he’s had enough.  Once, he actually ran in the opposite direction when he saw me coming with the tube – no signals were mixed that day.

After stopping treatment, I allow the lesion to rest for a few weeks, and I apply an antiseptic – usually Neosporin.  Once a scab forms and then falls off, I let the lesion rest for just a few more days before beginning again with the 5-FU.  Each cycle typically takes between four and six weeks.  The treatment is to continue in these “on”/”off” cycles until the cancer is hopefully eradicated. We have completed 10 rounds so far, and I am about to begin the eleventh in the next few days.  As an example, this is a photo progression of Round 1.  In this 38-day cycle, Hawk spent 12 days on chemotherapy, and the scab fell off on Day 29.  Photos are labeled “CHEMO” and “REST” to indicate days on and off of the 5-FU.

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People often ask me if Hawk’s nose is getting any better.  Well, it’s definitely changing, but I don’t know that I would describe it as “better.”  Before we started treatment, the sore was a raw and lumpy mass of hard, leathery tissue.  Now, it’s gotten smaller, and it’s opened up into what I call a “crater,” which has a nasty odor and drains constantly.  The vet tells me however, that this “eating away” of the flesh is likely a good sign that the chemotherapy is working.  Here’s a comparison of what the sore looked like when we first began and what it looks like now.  That dark area in the second picture is the opening that I call the “crater.”

Sometimes I feel like we’ll never be done treatment.  What if the FU just keeps eating away at diseased flesh for eternity?  Will the sore ever go away?  Will his nose ever be normal again?  In the beginning, these moments of frustration would have me in tears. I’d leave the barn so disheartened, smelling the rotting smell of whatever drainage Hawk had wiped on my jacket, and I’d just cry.  I’d cry because he looked worse than yesterday, because he’d ripped a scab off, because it was bleeding, because it was draining, because it was discolored, because it was always one step forward and two steps back.  I’d cry because even though I’d gone through cycle after cycle, I didn’t feel like I was looking at progress.  Sure, his nose looked different, but was this weeping, rotten-smelling hole really progress?

Eventually, I realized that I can’t live and die with Hawk’s nose every day.  The reality is that his nose changes all the time.  Due to the nature of the treatment, it routinely goes from blistered and aggravated to soft and pink in the space of a a few days – in the space of a night sometimes.  That’s quite an emotional roller coaster if you’re hanging your happiness every day on a glimmer of hope that maybe you’ll see some progress this time.

Progress in this challenge is a lot more “big picture.”  Do I still get disheartened?  Of course.  Do I still cry sometimes?  Maybe…he is my baby after all.  But I try to trust that it will get worse before it gets better.  And, most importantly, I try to trust that it will get better.  If it doesn’t, then Hawk will spend the rest of his life with a nose that smells like a skunk laid its rotten eggs inside of it.  And I’m betting God’s nicer than that.

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Don’t tell my horse he’s UV sensitive (he thinks he’s a ninja)

Hawk’s story starts with a sunburn.  

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In case you missed last week’s post, where I introduced my horse, Hawk, his skin lesion, and the topic of my new blog series, I’m not going to recap it, so go back and read it yourself. Trust me, it’ll be a character-builder.  Plus, I need to boost my viewership.

Hawk is an American Paint Horse with a white face, which means he has pink skin.  He’s also my 1,200-lb baby. Like other horses – and babies – with pink-pigmented skin, he is very sensitive to the sun and burns easily in areas that aren’t covered in enough hair, like his nose and eyelids.  It wasn’t too bad when he was younger, but as he aged, his reactions got worse and worse. In winter, he never had any trouble, but during the summer, I was in a constant battle with the sun. I didn’t know what to do.  

I tried slathering him in as much sunscreen as I could buy without maxing out my credit card, but I obviously couldn’t follow him around all day to re-apply “as directed,” so he usually got burned anyway.  Then I thought about keeping him inside during the summer, but Hawk was born on the plains of South Dakota, and he hates being in a stall, so that seemed like a pretty miserable option. I thought about covering him in a mask, but I’d heard horror stories of horses that had gotten bees trapped inside fly masks and then injured or killed themselves in a panic.  Not to mention, I was worried that it would restrict him too much and turn him into a bubble boy.  So I started using homemade inventions like the fringe and plastic shield shown below.

 

Unfortunately, nothing was foolproof, and one summer he got a really bad sunburn on his nose, and one particular blister just wouldn’t go away.  That’s the one that eventually turned into squamous cell carcinoma. After that, I became fanatical about keeping him protected, no matter what I had to put on him or how long he had to wear it or how silly he looked – he was not going to see the unfiltered light of day from April to October.  I spent $26 on a UV-blocking fly mask that covers his entire face and makes him look like a ninja, which I think he secretly likes. Then I spent another $26 on a back-up mask in case he lost the first one.  Then I spent another $26 on a back-up-to-the-back-up mask in case he lost the first one and ripped the second one in the same day. If you’ve spent any time around horses, then you know why I did this. Yes, I do have nightmares about the bees getting trapped inside, but in his case, I think the benefits of the mask outweigh the possible risks, so I just keep praying that never happens.

 

Even with his face completely out of the sun, that chronic blister never healed.  I tried everything imaginable, but nothing seemed to touch it – not fungicides, antibiotic ointments, or antibacterial creams.  As Mother Nature’s Maid, I of course threw a kitchen sink of natural remedies at it, as well: green tea soaks, eggplant compresses, coconut oil, white and apple cider vinegar, yogurt, and tea tree oil.  Still, it persisted – through medicated shampoos and twice-a-day treatments, through prescription burn ointments and garlic poultices that made the whole barn smell like lasagna (sorry, everybody…or you’re welcome).  I even treated it with yeast infection cream to no avail. This is what it looked like in 2016:

 

Finally, I contacted my vet, who determined that it was most likely squamous cell carcinoma.  He didn’t do a biopsy, but he said we could be quite certain it was squamous cell based on the tumor’s appearance and reaction to medication.  He started Hawk on a chemotherapy treatment called 5-Fluorouracil in November of 2016. So far, we have completed 10 rounds with more ahead.

If I’ve learned anything in all of this, aside from how to detect lesional infection based on discharge and odor, it’s that I should have kept Hawk’s pink face covered from day one.  It makes me sad when I think that I might have prevented all of this by simply putting a UV-blocking mask on him right from the start.  It seems like a no-brainer now: Pink skin must be protected or it will get sunburned. I, of all people, should have known better – I have the complexion of a vampire.  But I honestly didn’t even think this could happen. He’s a horse. Horses live outside – that’s what they’re meant to do. God wouldn’t design a creature so fragile if it had to live outside, right?  Well, actually, God designed some creatures to be not only fragile but also highly accident-prone with a serious vendetta against plastic bags. Horses are living proof of that.

My Horse the Pink-Faced Bubble Boy

HOORAY!!!!  After a nearly two year hiatus from sub-par homemade remedies, mediocre back-to-nature advice, and deodorant recipes that absolutely (do not) work, guess what?  Mother Nature’s Maid is BACK!  Say it with me now: HOORAY!!!  No, no, really, even if you don’t think it, just fake it: HOORAY!!!  And what, you might ask, brought me out of the depths when I could have just cashed in on that big, fat royalties check that I definitely did not make as MNM and coast through life in a tent under a downtown Baltimore overpass?  You guessed it – equine skin cancer.

I have a 19-year-old American Paint Horse named Hawk who is the love of my life and the main reason I can’t have nice clothes.

About a year and a half ago, I discovered that Hawk has skin cancer.  It was a really weird diagnosis because, honestly, I didn’t even know horses could get skin cancer.   Hawk actually developed his case from sun exposure, which was even more surprising to me, because I always assumed horses were meant to live outside and were built to withstand the elements.  Apparently, they can be affected by the sun just like people.

As you can see from his photos, Hawk has a white face with pink-pigmented skin.  A few years ago, he got a sunburn that became an irritated sore a bit larger than a half dollar next to his right nostril.  I tried every kind of over-the-counter medication I could find to get it to heal, but it was largely unaffected by anything that I would put on it – from garlic to antibiotic ointment.  Finally, my vet diagnosed Hawk with squamous cell carcinoma.

My first reaction was confusion and fear.  I didn’t know what to do. I’ve never known anyone whose horse got cancer.  I was completely blindsided.  It’s not that the idea had never crossed my mind; I just don’t think I ever entertained it.  I had no idea what a diagnosis like this meant, and I had so many questions. If you’ve ever had an animal become a part of your life and a part of your family, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Was he in pain?  

Can you do chemotherapy on a horse?  

Does squamous cell carcinoma even respond to chemotherapy?  

Could it be surgically removed?

How much would this cost?

Could I afford whatever the course of treatment might be?  

Was there even a course of treatment?

I was completely in the dark.  I tried to do some research online, but information on squamous cell carcinoma in horses was pretty hard to come by (as you might imagine) and most searches gave me a lot of veterinary articles that used words like “intralesional” and “toxicosis.”  So all I succeeded in doing was making myself even more confused and more worried.  Eventually, I just got off the internet completely and stuck to asking the vet.  He said the prognosis was pretty good, and it was unlikely that the cancer had spread.  He started Hawk on a cyclical treatment of an ointment called 5-fluorouracil, or 5FU. 

Although 5FU is a topical chemotherapy, the treatment is supposed to specifically attack cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unaffected.  The vet told me to treat the sore with chemotherapy once a day for about 8-12 days or until a scab formed.  The 5FU would target the cancerous area, making the tumor angry and sore and scabbed.  Once it got too irritated, I would stop treatment and allow the area to rest until the scab fell off.  After this healing period, I’d start on another round of 5FU, and the cycle would begin again.  Hawk’s first round of treatment started around Thanksgiving 2016, and we are going to start his eleventh round in a few weeks.  

I know equine skin cancer might be slightly off-topic for someone who’s usually telling you how to make mascara out of charcoal, but I’m kindof obsessed with Hawk’s treatment, and I’ve realized I need a platform other than dinner parties to discuss my horse’s dermatological maladies.  Through this blog series, I plan to document our progress – all the unappetizing photos, all the trials and tribulations, and all the heartaches.  I’ll probably even describe the nasty drainage that comes out of the lesion (I told you I’m obsessed).

If unsightly medical conditions aren’t your thing, don’t worry – I won’t be offended if you don’t follow the series.  But if this is your thing, then please contact me with your advice, questions, and anecdotes!  My family thanks you for giving me another sounding board for all of my way-too-detailed pictures and odor descriptions.

La vie par hasard

There was something surreal about Corsica.  Maybe it was the juxtaposition of mountains and sea, and the way tiny villages cropped up out of nowhere someplace in between.  Maybe it was the simple way life existed on the island, as if completely independent of the world.  Or maybe it was the fact that we subsisted on cereal for more than half the trip and it was just our hunger that deluded us into surrealism.

I traveled to Corsica in 2009 with my brother, Daniel, and my friend3177_747203521048_5942233_n Katherine.  It was meant to be a camping trip over the Easter holidays of a semester in France, but it turned into something much more adventurous.  We arrived in Bastia, one of Corsica’s biggest cities, and planned to move on by bus to a campground on Cap Corse, a mountainous region with a long, jagged coastline that is said to be the most scenic place on the island.

Catching the bus to find un camping on Cap Corse was a shot in the dark.  It was April – still early in the season – and we knew many campgrounds wouldn’t be open yet.  We were just hoping against hope that we could find something from wherever the bus dropped us.  If not, we had to make sure to get back to Bastia for the weekend, so as not to be marooned on Cap Corse, where – we had been told – wild boars roam free.  Upon boarding the bus, our journey was suddenly complicated when we found that a road closure would cut our route short.  In semi-comprehended French, we understood the basic gist that, if we got off this bus at the terminus, we would be dead-ended somewhere on Cap Corse with no idea where to go next or how to even get there.  So, without a plan in the world, the three of us naturally stepped off at the very last stop, determined to continue our journey on foot.  Sometimes, the combination of midday sunlight and youth can be enough to make unsavory possibilities – like not finding a campground, missing a bus back to civilization, or encountering a wild boar – shrink to the back of your mind.

The very last stop was Erbalunga, a tiny haven of civilization tucked inside the sauvage mountains of Cap Corse.  By this time, we hadn’t eaten a substantial meal since catching the ferry to Corsica from France the previous afternoon, and we ran for the first restaurant we saw – a small pizza shop. Even in this country town, the French had not lost their fashion decorum, and we looked ridiculous in sweatpants and tennis shoes, with our tent, sleeping bags, 3177_747203381328_7900098_nbackpacks, and camping supplies in tow.  Pouring over guide books and sheets of information that Daniel had wisely printed, we tried to calculate how much farther we could safely venture.  Studying our dwindling food rations, which consisted of a box of cereal and a bag of Monster Munch, we realized we had to find both a camping and a supermarché in our travels if we were to survive until dinner without scrounging for edible insects and berries.  And, based on the few amenities that Erbalunga offered beyond pizza and human contact, it seemed unwise to hope that we would find much else on Cap Corse.

Suddenly, an English-speaking voice broke into our worried discussion.  Daniel, Katherine, and I turned around in unison at this welcome interruption of comprehensibility.  He sat at the table behind us, smoking a cigarette so casually that we had mistaken him for a Frenchman.  He was a tall, tan rail of a man with rakish, graying hair that was grappled into a ponytail in untamed, wavy tangles.  He did not quite have the look of one who had just sprung up out of the dirt, like old men tending fields on the uneven Irish countryside.  Rather, he appeared to have simply taken on the topography of the land in his skin through years of exposure; he had become Corsica.  He had a woodsy British accent, and when we asked how he ended up in Corsica, he said he had needed to figure some things out and, after 50 years on the island, he still hadn’t gotten around to figuring them out yet.  I was intrigued and somewhat chilled by how haphazardly his life seemed to have unfolded.  At 20, I did not realize that life often refuses to unfold in any other way.

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Hiking along the coastal road from Erbalunga to Sisco

He was a wealth of information for our beleaguered brains.  Apparently, the next town was called Sisco.  He recalled a campground being nearby but couldn’t be sure that it existed or would be open; however, there was certainly a supermarket.  We could reach this Mecca, he claimed, in just a few miles.  And then, with a quick nod of good luck, he was on his way to what we could only assume was another adventure.  So onward we tramped, with the sun sneakily burning through the afternoon behind us.

The miles between each outpost were desolate, yet friendly.  We followed a circuitous coastal road, framed on one side by green mountains, which dropped off dramatically on the other into the depths of an aqua-blue ocean. Drivers and cyclists waved as they passed.  Each bend in the road brought renewed hope of a sign or an advertisement – anything to indicate that we were not searching for a phantom town with a phantom supermarket, but we walked for more than an hour with nothing.  We knew we couldn’t continue searching indefinitely; at some point we would have to turn around to make it back to Bastia.

Another bend brought no more reassurance than the last.  We sat down and divided the rest of our cereal between us and vowed to turn around in the next unsuccessful 20 minutes.  Then, around the next curve, as if it had just sprung3177_747203461168_1615448_n up for no other reason than our requirement, a seaside town became visible.  Sisco di Marina is embedded in a green valley that opens up to the sea.  Mountains rise up on either side and, farther inland, you can see the roofs and steeples of the official Sisco.  A two-way street passes through the town and then sends you on to the next one, several kilometers away.  It takes about 10 minutes to walk through the entire village.  To our delight, there was a Cocci Market (we silently thanked the haphazard Englishman) and a billboard advertising a campground, A Casiola, which we found out was open.

We had a moment of blind celebration before we ran straight for Cocci – once again desperate for food and fearing a waning sunset.  While we were greedily unloading our wares at the checkout, we heard a familiar voice behind us.  “So, you made it to Sisco!” It was the haphazard Englishman, looking as though he had walked into Cocci expecting nothing less than to meet us there.  He gave us the smiling nod we’d seen before and walked out of the supermarket in a jaunting lope.  We stood in stunned silence upon meeting him again at random.  We’d only come about five kilometers from Erbalunga, but in our uncertain journey, we felt we might have crossed the face of the earth.  That was the last we ever saw of him.

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The petite colline behind our campground

On that first night, we took our dinner and a bottle of victory wine out to a hill that Katherine had found behind the campground.  On either side of us, two broad mountains rose up, covered in rich green.  The gray clouds in the darkening sky hovered in misty shadows over the mountaintops, and as it got darker, the little twinkling lights of the inland Sisco became like a solitary beacon of civilization.  We sat for a while, watching the scenery fade to darkness and all the greens and blues disappear in shades of black and white.

Sometimes in life, there are places we go to which we feel an instinctive and inexplicable connection, as if we’ve belonged to them for years without having even known of their existence.  Sitting on that hill, alone in the world, watching civilization meander through the tiny streets below, I suddenly realized how the Englishman had come to belong to Corsica.  In the mundane everyday, I can rarely feel my life unfolding; most often I seem to be running after it, cursing it, and trying to make my way around the roadblocks it leaves in its wake.  But in that moment, I was living.  Whether haphazard or not, I knew the future would unfold and it was worth all the hardship and pain that awaited just to see a bright day fade silently into night and to feel, for even one minute, the depth of infinite possibilities ahead.

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It’s Like I Had No Idea I Even Looked Like That

That is NOT what I look like…..is it??

Well this is just great.  Now I have to look at myself.

In the process of scrubbing the bathroom last week, I stumbled upon a great glass cleaner.  Considering that I’m (as usual) about a week behind on my Mother Nature’s Maid Service Challenge, this sounds like a wonderful godsend of a discovery, right?  Sure, if you really want to look at yourself in the mirror.  I, however, have been suffering from horrendous cold and allergy symptoms the past few days, which causes a stuffy nose, which causes me to sleep (so adorably) with my mouth wide open, which causes my throat to go raw, which causes me to get absolutely NO sleep, which causes me to wake up looking like the dead in my bathroom mirror.  Ain’t nobody wanna see that.

I don’t know who invented bathroom mirrors, but I’m not a huge fan.  It’s not that I don’t like mirrors;love mirrors.  I have this obsession with my hair and will go to great lengths to turn just about any reflective surface – from the bottom of a soda can to a doorknob – into a mirror.  The reason I have a particular aversion to bathroom mirrors is because having one basically ensures that my sleep-deprived, sandy-eyed, drooled-on face is always the first thing I see in the morning, and it’s honestly enough to give me a heart attack some days.  I don’t know who invented bathroom mirrors, but they must have been a morning person.

So now we have this sparkling clean bathroom mirror, and I have to look at myself every morning.  What a nightmare.  I preferred when our mirror was covered in dust and soap and hairspray and toothpaste, so I only ever saw a blurry outline of myself and could just assume I woke up looking like Jane Bennet, beauty of Meryton.  But, to get to my point, what’s my new Windex?  Get ready for another surprise, because one’s about to fall on you like a ton of bricks.  Vinegar.  That’s it.

I know, I know – I’ve been trashing vinegar lately, because it won’t stop following me around.  Since I started using it to clean the bathroom, I feel like I have this lingering vinegar scent wherever I go, like I’m in some sort of vinegar dust cloud.  It’s not amusing or attractive, but I do have to admit the stuff has cleansing properties.  I discovered it’s Windexing power by accident when I sprayed it on the mirror just to see what would happen.  Wouldn’t you know it cleaned the darn thing.

I use the vinegar basically the same way I would use Windex – spray, wash, wipe, buff.  And I don’t buy anything fancy for my cleaning supplies – just cheapo white vinegar.  It’s simple and effective – everything I love in any sort of homemade product.  Give it a try and see if it cleans your mirrors as well as it did mine.  The only downside is that now you’ll have to look at yourself.  Good morning!  Good morning!  Good morning!

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The agony of victory, and the thrill of defeat

Mother Nature’s Maid is very much in need of a win.  Our cable went out last week and cost nearly $50 to fix.  The AC in my Volvo seems less-than-prepared to work this summer.  Our backyard is already completely overgrown with ivy.  And I’ve been followed around for about a week by a lingering vinegar scent.

Sound like first-world problems?  Wait til you hear this: My dryer balls don’t even work!

Everything I read in my research about these homemade dryer sheet replacements said they would actually cut down on drying time.  Did I believe that?  Absolutely not!  MNM believes nothing until it has been run through a number of proven, thorough, and exhaustive testing processes before my very own eyes.  And, you can trust me – I have 20/20 vision.

So I stirred up my very own experiment to determine the effectiveness of my dryer balls.

  1. Strip your bed and wash your sheets
  2. Put a fitted sheet in the dryer, alone without dryer balls
  3. Dry the fitted sheet for 10 minutes, then remove
  4. Put a top sheet in the dryer, with dryer balls
  5. Dry the top sheet for 10 minutes, then remove
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 until one sheet comes out completely dry
  7. Record drying times

Easy enough, right?  Wrong…here are a few steps I left out:

  1. Realize that fitted sheets and top sheets are not at all the same size
  2. Ignore this information and proceed anyway
  3. Take a book down to the basement while you wait
  4. Take your dinner down to the basement while you wait
  5. Swipe Gargantua off your ankle and chase him around the basement
  6. Clothesline yourself with an actual clothesline in your basement
  7. Drown Mother Nature in defeat

I spent a total of about 45 minutes alone in my basement with no one but Gargantua and his poor dead prey for company only to find out that my homemade dryer balls do not, in fact, shorten drying time whatsoever.  Turns out the fitted sheet (dried without dryer balls) took about 20 minutes to dry, while the top sheet (dried with dryer balls) took more than 25 minutes to dry!  Explain that, hippie bloggers!

Maybe the explanation is that top sheets are actually larger than fitted sheets and naturally require more time to dry.  Maybe the explanation is that more than two wool balls are required to really cut down on drying time (sorry, but I was not about to employ the blue fart balls again).  Maybe the explanation is that my experiment was not at all proven, thorough, or exhaustive and actually had a number of scientific faults (do we call those variables?).  For example, I could only dry one sheet at a time, which means that both sheets had amounts of time to air dry independently of the dryer.  The list could go on, but I won’t bore you with my scientific facts (or lack thereof).

The basic point is that Mother Nature got herself a big, fat TKO in this experiment.  Whether it’s really my fault or hers, I guess we’ll never know, because I’m not about to spend another evening in the basement with Gargantua just to correct my ragtag experiment and prove, once and for all, that dryer balls really work.  Still, I’ll probably keep using my wool balls in place of dryer sheets, because they seem to work great for static.  But, for now, let’s just bask in Mother Nature’s defeat.  She’s such a tyrant; it’s nice to see her knocked down a few pegs.

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All-Purpose For Every Surface

Do you remember what I was wearing to clean the bathroom last week?

Neither do I.  I’ve tried very hard to remember but unsuccessfully.

The trouble is that the scent of homemade all-purpose surface spray seems to follow me around wherever I go in The Newport House these days.  And considering that my homemade all-purpose surface spray is composed solely of vinegar, thyme, and tea tree oil, you can imagine that it is not a very hospitable scent that’s tailing me.  I’d love to remember what I was wearing when I cleaned the bathroom with my homemade all-purpose surface spray so that I can give the entire outfit a second, third, or fourth good wash, but no matter what I do, I cannot seem to jog my memory on that point. I certainly hope that it’s just an outfit I’ve been unwittingly re-wearing that is causing the scent, because the only alternative is that my homemade all-purpose surface spray has left a lingering odor of vinegar throughout the entire house, and I don’t think I like that at all.

The scent is, however, quite tricky to pin down.  I’ve been through my entire t-shirt wardrobe with a fine-toothed nose, and nothing really leaps out at me as the definite culprit.  Of course, if there is an outfit that I wore last week to clean the bathroom that has been washed several times and that is still stinking of vinegar, it’s certainly no wonder.  If you could have seen the amount of homemade all-purpose surface spray I had to use in our bathroom to get a desirable level of clean, you would have thought we hadn’t scrubbed our bathroom in months.  Ok, so maybe we hadn’t.  Still, it was a lot of surface spray.  Here’s the recipe:

  • 16 oz White Vinegar
  • 1/2 C Dried Thyme
  • 15 drops Tea Tree Oil

I simply poured the dried thyme leaves into a 16-oz bottle, then added the vinegar, and topped it off with the essential oil.  You’re supposed to let the mixture sit for a few days, then strain out all the excess thyme.  Enter: Difficulty.  If you’re making this and you haven’t invested in a cheapo funnel and scrounged up an old stocking, please do so now!  Both of these things will make your life infinitely easier.  I used a makeshift tea ball strainer technique, and ended up losing part of my concoction due to faulty pouring and ruining a spray bottle by getting some leftover thyme leaves stuck in it.

So, it wasn’t as easy to pull together as I thought, but was the spray effective?  That’s debatable.  As I noticed with my scouring powder, my all-purpose spray didn’t work like conventional Pine-Sol.  The most difficult thing was the lack of foam.  It’s so hard to tell what and where you’re cleaning when you can’t see any suds, so I just kept spraying to be on the safe side. In future batches, I think I’ll mix in some of my dish soap, in order to get some foaming power.

All that said, the vinegar seemed to clean quite well. However, it did leave that lingering scent, which I hope will be eliminated by revising the recipe.  If I have more suds, I hopefully won’t have to use as much product and hopefully won’t end up drenched in Eau de Vineger & Thyme.

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