Category Archives: Environment

Collards, Kale, Small White Cabbage Butterfly – Oh My!

With regular personal gardening sessions from the ‘beyond-green-thumb-talent’ at Victory Gardens, I’ve learned the growing part of an edible garden, and am knee deep into the harvesting part. Once harvesting starts so does the regular maintenance and nurturing of the plants that are providing food. It’s a good idea to keep an eye out for pests that want to gobble up your greens while you’re away doing other things.

The Small White Cabbage Butterfly (Pieris rapae) has been visiting my garden on a daily basis. I used to praise her random appearance, “Oh, look she likes to visit the collards, how sweet!”

White Cabbage Butterfly

Not quite so sweet, I have discovered. The offspring from the Small White Cabbage Butterfly is called an imported cabbageworm – meaning it’s not native to North America, and it does major damage to cabbage, kale, collards, and others from the Brassica (mustard) family.

“It was accidentally introduced to Québec, Canada around 1860 and spread rapidly throughout North America.”[1]

First, the lovely Small White Cabbage Butterfly visits the leaves and lays her eggs. This is what the egg sack looks like (see below; with size reference to a penny).

Egg from Small White Cabbage Butterfly

If you don’t pick it off, then it will mature into a green cabbage worm (below). At most stages of the life cycle it is very difficult to see the cabbageworm on the underside of the leaves. Their size and colouring is their self-defence. When you see the amount of damage one of these cabbageworm’s is capable, you would expect them to be very large (like the one pictured below). This is not always the case, so narrow your gaze and practice looking for very small.

Green Cabbageworm

The image below shows how the cabbageworm, as it begins to pupate, has spun a silk pad, attaching himself to the underside of the collard leaf. In this state it is very difficult to see the metamorphosis.

KAT_8913

Luckily, I get unsolicited pest control from the birds that visit my garden. Lately, I’ve noticed more birds hanging around my Kale and Swiss Chard pots. I was wondering what they were doing…? Turns out they are my best helpers. It’s nice working cooperatively.

KAT_8923

Two Birds: Pest Control

Though I appreciate the beauty of all beings, I can be found discouraging the Small White Cabbage Butterfly from landing on my cruciferous vegetables. However, the Small White Cabbage Butterfly does do her fair share of pollinating various flowers. There is always good with the bad. And maybe the point is to understand, like in all areas, that balance is key.

It is definitely a challenge to garden compassionately. I don’t like the idea of drowning insect pests because they all have a role to play in the balance of nature. And what to do with the eggs and cabbageworms that I remove from these leaves? I decided that I might collect them in a bucket and deliver them once a week to the chickens at a local farm, (who provide us with nourishing eggs), unless the birds from my garden get their beaks on them first.

Visit Wikipedia to read in greater detail and to see excellent photographs of the life cycle here. or here.

[1] Howe, William H.; editor, coordinating; al.], illustrator & twenty contributors—contributors, David L. Bauer … [et (1975). The Butterflies of North America. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

Organic Pest Deterrent

Rocky Raccoon In the fall of 2014, I started planning to grow my own food. I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own, if I wanted to learn effectively in a short period of time, rather than through trial and error. I hired the expert edible gardeners at Victory Gardens in Vancouver for some one-on-one instruction. Now, it is May 2015 and I am already benefitting from their tutelage. I have been harvesting beautiful greens for eating. It is incredibly exciting to watch tiny organic seeds germinate into food producing sources of nourishment – all in my own backyard! Spinach garden The only challenge to date has been our raccoon family, who we adore and happily share our hedges. Some days the entire raccoon family can be seen sunbathing and napping on top of the hedge. Other times they pass through the garden in a cautious, delayed single file. Raccoon Family on Hedge The raccoons have not eaten any of my produce. Though they did spend the winter digging up a portion of our lawn for grubs. I thought it was wonderful; they were aerating our lawn. My husband wasn’t amused and tried to discourage them with a wire mesh ground cover (no plastic allowed) and a motion detecting sprinkler, which mostly sprayed us – forgetful that it was on. Since the hunt for grubs has been over for a few months, the raccoons have now turned their attention to the gorgeous earth worm laden soil where I’ve planted my brussels sprouts and kohlrabi seeds. For the last four days, each morning I would be disappointed to find that garden bed completely upended. Raccoon Garden 2 Raccoon Garden I put up a little wire fence to deter them. Hopeful. But it didn’t work. And the few little sprouts that were making their way to the surface were disturbed. I set everything right and planted a few more seeds. raccoon garden fence My husband, who is often in conversation with our seasoned and successful gardener-neighbour told me that he uses cayenne pepper. From my spice rack I pulled out the organic cayenne pepper and sprinkled some on the garden soil where the raccoons have been visiting.   The next morning? Everything was left untouched and the little sprouts are happily growing. Here is a link to an article describing some natural options for deterring pests in the garden. It’s a delicate balance because what deters the harmful insects and pests can also harm the beneficial.

What Were They Thinking?

 

 

What does this image say to you?compost sign

I posted this photo on Instagram and felt compelled to share it here, because I’m curious about what you have to say?

This is the compost sign used to direct elementary students to compost food scraps. Why are those images chosen to depict food that elementary kids would be eating? When I was a kid, those food items were considered treats; defined as something had on occasion not as a staple because they weren’t considered best foods for nourishing a growing body nor ideal for maintaining a healthy one.

These are lousy images to have on a compost sign anywhere, but especially at a school. Those food options are lousy choices at the best of times, but why showcase that kind of eating to young kids.

Imagine the subliminal message these youngsters are picking up!

Who chose this sign?

What do you think?

Meet Your Urban Farmer

This is Julia and Ludo of Urban Digs Farm presented in Meet your Urban Farmer series by Fire and Light Media

“Until 1946, half of all produce was grown in people’s back yards!”

Some sage advice? at 6:13 in the above video:

“Take responsibility for your own food.”

“If you really want food security grow your own food.”

“If you can’t grown your own food, then know your farmer.”

“Know where your food is coming from.”

“Don’t buy food from somebody you don’t know.”

“You don’t have to wait for the government to make legislation around genetically modified food.”

“If GMO is not in-line with your personal values? Then don’t buy that food.”

“If you don’t think chickens raised in tiny cages is a good idea? Then don’t buy those eggs.”

“We have all the power.”

“We don’t need to occupy anything but our own kitchens.”

“Vote at the cash register at the grocery store…better yet, don’t go there.”

“Buy food from your local farmers.”

“Value food for the true value of food.”

“Don’t do it by yourself.”

“If its worth doing its worth doing poorly the first time.”

“Beyond Organic”

Meet Joel Salatin from Polyface Farms: “Beyond Organic” farmer. The following quotes are taken from an article written in 2006 by Michael Pollan for Mother Jones. Joel Salatin “We ask for too much salvation by legislation.”

“Don’t you find it odd that people will put more work into choosing their mechanic or house contractor than they will into choosing the person who grows their food?”

“Greetings from the non-bar code people…”

“…whenever I hear people say clean food is expensive, I tell them it’s actually the cheapest food you can buy. That always gets their attention. Then I explain that, with our food, all of the costs are figured into the price. Society is not bearing the cost of water pollution, of antibiotic resistance, of food-borne illnesses, of crop subsidies, of subsidized oil and water—of all the hidden costs to the environment and the taxpayer that make cheap food seem cheap. No thinking person will tell you they don’t care about all that. I tell them the choice is simple: You can buy honestly priced food or you can buy irresponsibly priced food.”

“When someone drives up to the farm in a BMW and asks me why our eggs cost more, well, first I try not to get mad,” said Joel. “Frankly, any city person who doesn’t think I deserve a white-collar salary as a farmer doesn’t deserve my special food. Let them eat E. coli. But I don’t say that. Instead I take him outside and point at his car. ‘Sir, you clearly understand quality and are willing to pay for it. Well, food is no different: You get what you pay for.’

Still Standing After My 1st Fast

Yesterday, I chose to stand with thousands of people fasting for climate change on the first day of each month. My previous post explains my reasoning for participation. This post will explain how I did my first ever fast (on the first of October) and how I felt.

I felt very well the entire day. Our household starts to stir around 6am every morning (except weekends, which is by 7am). I did my usual bed stretches and my current version of a 4 minute-morning. Made the kids their breakfasts and walked briskly with Dot to the bus. Got home and did household chores, and some on line research. I had been drinking a natural amount of water throughout the morning – about 8oz each hour. By 10am, I started to feel a faint request from my stomach for a morning snack; I acknowledged it with a smile and carried on. By 11:30am, I started to feel that rumbling, more like demanding for lunch. I kissed that demand with some hot water and started contemplating what other liquid would be acceptable for my rules of this fast. Tea came to mind but then I remembered that the previous day I had made a batch of beef stock. By 1pm I drank an 8oz glass of hot beef stock. It was the most amazing drink. The homemade beef stock nourished me; I felt like a wilting plant that stands to attention when given water, I could sense my very own cells responding in that way. I chose beef stock over herbal tea because, being naturally low on iron I would need something substantial to sustain a clear mind, as I was running out the door to run errands before picking the kids up from school.

Shortly after 1pm I was out the door stopping at the Soap Dispensary to refill my liquid dish soap containers and got a great tip to try out a solid house soap for cleaning my pots – this soap will get it’s own post one day because it is remarkable. Photo below.

Solid Dish Soap

Then to the sewing machine store, followed by the butcher to pick up stewing beef (in my Life Without Plastic stainless steel container) for my family’s Irish Beef Stew dinner, which I modified from this recipe, using the already prepared homemade beef stock. By 3pm I had picked up Dot from school then 3:30pm had picked up my son. Just before 4pm I was back in the kitchen preparing the stew and of course my timing was off so had to prepare something else for the kids’ dinner. UGH. Silver lining…we could have it for breakfast…which we did, and it was worth the wait!

By 5pm I sipped another 8oz glass of hot beef stock. It was good. My husband and I had to go out to a school parent social organized for our daughter’s grade. There was a lot of beautiful food and drink laid out. I should have taken a photo to show you. I drank two glasses of sparkling water while I was there.

The only negative effects I felt, was by about 8:30pm I started to get chilled, and started talking faster than normal. By the time we got home I began my wind-down-for-the-evening routine, including my “before bed stretches” then was in bed reading by 9:30pm and lights out before 10pm.

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

-Archilochus

I was wondering how I was able to get through the day the way I had. With zero cravings or near slip ups. The answer is simple. I have been re-training my mind over these last few years. I don’t nibble or nosh randomly or with abandon. And with yesterdays fasting experience, I have now discovered that I have actually learned something worthwhile from the years of this self-discipline around being selective with food. Because I have been methodically eliminating suspicious foods from my diet for fixed periods of time (over the last few years), I have learned how to go without. I have trained myself to make choices; I choose to eat with my mind and with intention for the nutrition of my cells, rather than for taste alone, instant gratification or because of a demanding gut or weak mind. I don’t mindlessly slip food in my mouth while I make the kids their meals, partly because I don’t usually eat what they eat. I don’t nibble at socials just to be polite or because I can’t resist temptation. There is no marketing which subliminally controls me.

I know that I am on a different level than most, because most people tell me that they couldn’t do what I do. But, I counter, ‘of course you can, anyone can, humans have amazing minds, we are capable of so much’…”we don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” ‘

Be careful how you train. You reap what you sow.

 

Related Posts:

My First Fast For The Climate by Zero Waste Chef

#Fast For The Climate

FastForTheClimate

After learning about Fast For The Climate from Cory at Aquarian Bath, it didn’t take more than a second to decide that I would join this “movement of youth, environmentalists and people of faith [who] are showing their strength of commitment by going without food once a month to call for world leaders to do more to solve the climate crisis.” ¹

I decided that I would stand with the fasters. My first Fast will be Wednesday October 1, 2014.

The idea of fasting on the first day of each month appealed to me on a few levels. Firstly, because I already practice compassion and self-discipline: when, on occasion, I hear my inner voice announce that I need a treat or something sweet, I think about mother’s like me who may be four blocks away or hundreds of thousands of miles away, living in poverty who don’t have the luxury to casually escape into indulgence. Thinking about those mothers snaps be back into reality and gives me strength to not give in. It strengthens my resolve to both take better care of my health and environment. Therefore, going forward, I can Fast For The Climate on the first day of every month.

“To bring climate change under control we need to exercise self-control, we need to act together, fasting enhances our focus and determination.”

Secondly, on a regular basis, I think about the impact products of modern commerce have on our climate. The shipping, manufacture including pre-production and post-consumer waste of products, which affect everyone but mostly affect those living in poverty. Can each of us be more mindful about our needs versus our wants? I can practice making less garbage, which means being more mindful about not buying products that come in plastic or single-use disposable packaging. I can forego that chocolate that comes in single-use packaging even though it can be recycled, I know that recycling is something that should be practiced as our last resort but has become a way of justifying selling and buying more products.

Lastly, I think about the ingredients of man-made products. What are these ingredients made from? Are they processed? The mere act of processing creates by-products which need somewhere to go and often end up in landfill or polluting our waterways. If we are consuming products that are highly processed, then our health declines. As our health declines we become dependant upon pharmaceuticals which eventually enter our water ways therefore contaminating the very water systems that support life. Think global numbers here and think about how many pharmaceuticals the average person from North America alone is prescribed. Now think about our water quality. We can change this.

It should be everyone’s goal to practice eating real, unprocessed food and to not eat “products”. We should prepare our own food, which is very different from assembling ingredients that are ready-made store bought ‘products’. We need to change our behaviour from eating on the go with the belief that we can swallow our nutrients in liquid form while multitasking. We need to join the slow food and plastic free movements to ensure a happy healthy civilization (including all beings) on an equally healthy planet.

“To keep in health this rule is wise.
Eat only when you want and sup light.
Chew well, and let what you take be well cooked and simple.

He who takes medicine is ill advised. Beware of anger and avoid grievous moods. Keep standing when you rise from table. Do not sleep at midday.  Let your wine be mixed (with water), take little at a time, not between meals and not on an empty stomach.

Go regularly to stool. If you take exercise, let it be light.  Do not be with the belly upwards, or the head lowered; Be covered well at night.  Rest your head and keep your mind cheerful. Shun wantonness, and pay attention to diet.”

-Leonardo da Vinci, excerpt from Notebooks pg. 263

Can you imagine what Leonardo da Vinci would say about our global climate crisis?

“A nonviolent protest against wanton disregard for the natural world,
And a spiritual affirmation that we are all part of that world,
Responsible for its careful tending.” – Fast for the Earth

¹ Fast For The Climate

You can subscribe (upper right corner) to receive future posts via email. I will post “Reflections on My First #fastfortheclimate by the end of the week. I will share what my kids think of this and how I can include them without having them Fast.

Related articles: 

Why I’m Fasting for Action on Climate Change by Cory Trusty 

Reflections on My First #FastfortheClimate by Annie Levy of Kitchen Counter Culture

The Kids’ Menu

Kids Menu

My kids don’t eat from the kids’ menu. Actually, they quit the kids’ menu a few years ago. Not that we frequent restaurants on a regular basis, but when we do, my kids are quick to let the server know that they will order from the adult menu, which in their opinion should be the only menu. My kids then privately launch into their usual contempt for the way kids are treated in restaurants. “Why is everything on the kids menu made with cheese and wheat or breaded?”

“Here, eat this food you’ve eaten a hundred times before…The children’s menu is always available, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.” – Seth Godin

This link will take you to a great short piece written by Seth Godin at Seth’s Blog: The children’s menu. It makes us think about our habits, habits that have become automatic. And automatic meaning: done spontaneously, without conscious thought or intention. However, having said that, a lot of people will argue that that is precisely how they like their habits to be.

Daughter and I overheard: Parent saying to child, “Here’s your lunch.” Child protesting, “I don’t want to eat that.” Parent says more to himself, “I don’t know why we keep ordering Mac & Cheese for you, you never eat it.”

Most often tired and busy parents like to have predictable outcomes. As a result, they feed their kids food that they know they will eat so that they can check that meal off the list and carry on, without running late to the next activity. The problem being is that kids don’t develop a taste for real food or a healthy habit in understanding hunger and satiety. Most foods that are given to kids are loaded with sugars (often disguised with unusual names) and highly processed. The kids’ health begins to decline and body weight begins to rise and so the parent’s automatic reaction is that the kids need to exercise more. As a result the kids are then signed up for more activities, which leave even less time to practice eating healthy meals.

Habits don’t change automatically with age. We don’t just “grow out of it.” Most adults carry their bad habits from childhood.

Follow these 5 easy steps to practice eating healthy right now:

  1. Eliminate refined sugars from your diet (see the 50 alternative names, but not limited to, for sugar listed below). This includes cutting back on fruit. Do not eat copious amounts of fruit assuming it is a healthier choice. Fruit is nature’s candy. Eating copious amounts of anything is a habit.
  2. Eat a variety of foods. Try a 4-day rotation. Try not to eat wheat, dairy, meat or coffee/tea every single day. If you are not a vegetarian or vegan, try eating like one on i.e. Mondays. You will survive, I promise and you might even feel better for it.
  3. Prepare for hunger. Generally, we get hungry every 3-4 hours. Be prepared, otherwise we make unwise choices by grabbing what’s available as opposed to what’s healthful.
  4. Drink Water (the plastic-free variety). Make water your go to drink.
  5. Join the Plastic Free July personal challenge. By avoiding purchasing foods packaged in plastic you will cut back on your exposure to processed foods that have many grams of sugar added. Practice being in control of what you put into your body and what you end up putting in landfill. Plastic is a hormone disruptor and damages our health and pollutes our waterways. The same water we consume. Click this link to learn more about Plastic Free July.

Our habits matter.

 

List of some alternate names for sugar

  • Agave Nectar
  • Barley malt
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Buttered syrup
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Carob syrup
  • Castor sugar
  • Date sugar
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextran
  • Dextrose
  • Diastatic malt
  • Diatase
  • Ethyl maltol
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Galactose
  • Glucose
  • Glucose solids
  • Golden sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape sugar
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Malt syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado sugar
  • Panocha
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Sorbitol
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Yellow sugar

Q & A with La Coco Bella

The world Hair Care product industry is a huge global business, having generated nearly $49 billion in 2010 and expected to reach $58 billion by 2015.* That’s a lot of product literally going down the drain!
And what exactly happens to the ingredients in the products after they wash down the drain? The ingredients don’t just go away. We know that there are toxic chemicals in cosmetics that interfere with hormone function which may cause cancer. We already know that these chemicals are harmful to fish and other wildlife. All in the name of beauty?
The good news is that there are simple, toxic free ways to groom oneself. Aquarian Bath is an ecologically friendly business, running their website on just 3 Watts of solar power. They only use natural ingredients and promote plastic free alternatives. They are an example that it is possible to provide a safe and effective product in a sustainable way, while considering all the details from start to finish.
I began to wonder about this $50 billion industry. Each country has its hair care specialty geared to different ethnicities encouraging assimilation in order to sell more product. Is there really such a difference in hair types that require all these different gels and balms, sprays and so on? Over the years I have been somewhat aware of the different products available for African hair but because I don’t have African hair I never delved into learning about it. However, upon experimenting with natural shampoo bars for me and my family, I began to wonder if everyone could get accustomed to shampooing hair more naturally, like this, thus on a global scale, reducing the need for plastic bottles and cutting down on the amount of harmful chemicals we unwittingly expose ourselves to on a daily basis, which in turn pollutes the very environment we depend upon.
And so began my quest for deeper understanding. I came across Lauren’s blog: La Coco Bella and decided to ask her some questions. She seemed like the ideal person to ask because as she explains on her site, that after years of chemically treating her hair, she made the transition to natural hair products. From reading her blog and watching the video “You Can Touch My Hair”, it became clear to me that there is a lot more to African hair than all the work that goes into managing it.
Which begs the question: Why are we spending all this time managing hair? What is the big idea behind ‘managing it’ and the need for chemicals and ‘treatments’ to transform ones hair into something it isn’t. And I think this goes for a lot us…wanting the opposite of what we’ve got and fighting nature tooth and nail to get it. Poor nature.

Kathryn – Q: How long have you been using natural shampoo bars?

La Coco Bella A:  I’ve been using natural shampoo bars and products for about 2 years now. I don’t see myself ever changing that :o) The first brands I ever used were Bobeam Naturals and Henna Sooq bars.


 

Kathryn – Q: Do you make your own hair products?

La Coco Bella A: I haven’t quite delved into the realm of making my own products consistently but I have experimented here and there with a few raw ingredients like butters, oils, essential oils, etc. I do enjoy doing DIY hair treatments though! I hope to some day make and perhaps sell my own products because I have realized that the simplest, most natural products are the most effective and I don’t need to rely on large manufacturing companies to help me maintain healthy hair! For now, I’ve been sticking to small business/boutique vendors.


 

Kathryn – Q: How did you learn to make your own products?

La Coco Bella A: I was inspired to play around with a little mixology by paying close attention to what ingredients were in products I love and then checking out YouTube and Google for recipes to get the right measurements. Again, I am no pro and most of my “products” were just mixtures of different raw ingredients! Oh and coconut oil is a MUST have for anyone interested in healthy hair!


 

Kathryn – Q: How did your hair feel when you switched to natural shampoo?

La Coco BellaA: Since I had been using shampoos and conditioners that contained silicones, sulfates and other synthetic ingredients, my hair had to go through a brief detox stage because synthetic ingredients leave a coating on the hair. Natural shampoos break through all the synthetics and can take a few washes. I first switched the natural shampoo by using Terressentials Mud Wash and followed their protocol for detoxing.

I think the term detoxing freaks some people out but it’s really not as harsh as it sounds lol, its just that your hair can feel rubbery or straw-like during the detox stage. Natural shampoos open the hair cuticle so you have to ensure to properly condition it afterwards to close and seal the cuticle back down. Your hair usually feels amazing right away! The key is to be patient in the transition process and you will soon see how healthy, strong and shiny your hair becomes! Another MAJOR benefit I have found from natural shampoos is how well it cleanses and clarifies my scalp. When you have a healthy scalp, you create a healthy environment for hair to breathe and grow!


 

Kathryn – Q: Was the positive effect on your health and environment part of your decision to stop using chemical products?

La Coco BellaA: The positive effect on the health of my hair was the main decision for me to switch to natural hair products but if it helps the environment while I am at it, then hey, even better!


 

Kathryn – Q: What made you switch to natural shampoo bars and hair products?

La Coco BellaA: I started to educate myself by doing research online and seeing what the benefits of individual ingredients did. I also researched on the negatives of synthetic ingredients. This helped open my eyes and dispel a lot of the “myths” major hair product companies have been putting out there. I realized that the simplest, most natural ingredients were the most effective (and consistent!), not the products that had the best marketing ploys or cute packaging. God put everything we would ever need on this earth before man created chemicals in labs so that fact was more than enough for me to completely give up on synthetic hair products.


 

Kathryn – Q: I don’t know very much about African hair. Can you briefly explain the difference between African hair and other types of hair?

La Coco BellaA: I love that God created His children so uniquely. We all come from the same roots but we do have physical differences, our hair of course being one of them, so I don’t classify hair by race or ethnicity. Women of African descent can have thin, fine strait hair to super thick, dense, course hair. Hair also comes in difference textures, densities, porosity, thickness, etc. but women with thick, textured, curly hair, like myself, have to battle with dryness and breakage. Our main concerns are typically keeping our hair moisturized free of frizz. Curly hair in general is especially prone to dryness because it is harder for the natural oils from our scalp to reach the length of our hair. This means we have to take extra care in supplementing moisture by washing less frequently, sealing in moisture with butters/oils and doing deep conditioning treatments often. But when it all comes down to it, all hair types and textures really need the same basic essentials and natural hair products can cater to every type of hair regardless of ethnicity. The beauty of nature :o)


 

Kathryn – Q: I love how you explained that – to “not classify hair by race or ethnicity.” Which completely knocked the wind out of my next question: Does African hair require different care from other types of hair? What I have learned from you is that really curly hair has different needs from straight, wavy or mildly curly hair. I find it so interesting and equally disturbing how industry invents a market.

La Coco BellaA: Just like any ethnicity, everyone’s hair has different needs and requires different types of care but women with thick, course, textured hair tend to need more moisture. There are lots of factors when it comes to the needs of any type of hair. Things like porosity (the way your hair absorbs and retains moisture) play a major role as well, so it can be a bit hard to pinpoint particular needs. I guess it boils down to becoming intimate with your own hair and being in tune with how it responds to what you put in it. The more you learn about your hair, the more you will be able to discern its needs. This means spending more time in your own hair rather than paying someone at the salon :o)


 

Kathryn – Q: Thank you so much for sharing your hair wisdom with us. I have been thinking about that last sentence, which makes perfect sense: “Spend more time in your own hair rather than paying someone at the salon”, which is the same way I think about one’s body when it comes to exercise or healthy eating.

Do you have a page on your blog where people with very curly hair can follow a step by step program to wean themselves off of the chemical processing? Do you have a FAQ’s page as well?  

La Coco BellaA: I don’t have a step by step page or FAQs but I do have a page about my regimen as of last year. Although my current regimen is a bit simpler than what appears on my site, it does contain in depth descriptions of what works for my hair type. Also, I give lots of tips and information in my product reviews so readers can use the search tool on my site to see if I touch on any particular topic, ingredient, etc.


 

Kathryn – Q: How long did it take you to transition to natural products. Was it gradual, or did you do it all at once?

La Coco BellaA: I pretty much switched to all natural products all at once because I had detoxed my hair and didn’t want to revert the effort I had put in lol I didn’t see it as a huge, earth-shattering change, it was more of a hey, this looks cool, let me give it try! I just started buying all natural products and have ever since. Experimenting is the fun part! I also get giddy reading and learning about the benefits of all the yummy ingredients in natural hair products lol


 

Kathryn – Q: Now that you have been natural for a couple years, I imagine that you would have some pearls of wisdom to share with people who are just starting to contemplate this change for the better in a variety of ways? Are there one or two points that, if you could go back in time, that you would do differently? Some advice that might save someone from getting turned off the concept?

La Coco BellaA: I would recommend for anyone interested in improving the health of their hair to not be afraid to try all-natural hair products, I wish I had sooner! It can be a bit intimidating because there are so many options out there but just start with a couple items and build up your regimen. You really don’t need a bunch of different products, that’s the beauty of it! Because once you nourish your hair to health, it requires less maintenance.

Also, stick with products that are pure and organic, they all work well together so you don’t have to worry about chemicals reacting to each other or anything like that. It’s like nature’s chemistry is perfect.

Give your hair some time to adjust to the change and don’t be discouraged if you don’t have AMAZING hair overnight (although you just might!). You will be glad you made the change and will wonder why you hadn’t sooner, trust me :o)


 

If you have any questions for La Coco Bella,  you can leave her a message on her site.   

 

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What to expect when using Natural Shampoo Bars


Since using natural solid shampoo bars over the last four months, my hair dries much faster and is nearly completely dry after washing, needing only two minutes under the dryer; unprecedented for my nearly waist-long hair! I used to spend a very long time drying my hair. The same effect has occurred for my daughter’s hair, which is well beyond waist length.

A few questions surfaced as I started to explore making changes to my hair washing routine. If this is your first time visiting you may be wondering what Shampoo has to do with a food blog? Click here to read part 1.

  • Why didn’t my hair feel smooth and silky when I rinsed out the shampoo?
  • What about conditioner?
  • How do I control those unruly hairs?
  • What happens when I go to the hair salon? Do I bring my own shampoo bar?

When I first started using natural shampoo bars…

Initially my hair would feel squeaky clean upon rinsing out the lather. You know, that kind of soap clean feeling, which makes it difficult to run fingers through? I would wring out the excess water and notice that my hair actually felt nearly dry! That was interesting, because with all the professional salon shampoos I had used in the past, my hair would remain soaking wet and would actually take very long to dry, even with a handheld hair dryer. Summer months excluded; my hair wouldn’t take as long to dry in the summer but regardless of the season, I had never experienced such a low water content remaining on my hair. I consider this a good thing. I spend less time damaging my hair further with the hot air from a hair dryer thus spending less overall time on my hair grooming routine! However I see now that it may have more to do with the dehydrated state of my hair. Everyone’s hair will respond differently to shampoo bars and to different shampoo bar formulas: self-discovery required.

As my personal experiment continued, I noticed that my hair started to adapt nicely to the shampoo bars and that my hair became softer and bouncier. I also noticed that my hair appeared cleaner longer, therefore not requiring as frequent washings, now that I wasn’t loading my follicles up with styling aids.

Professional salon or drug store varieties use additives to synthetically coat the hair strands, which gives hair that ‘artificial’ shine. It all comes down to what you want. Do you want to spend a lot of money on products to turn your hair into something it isn’t thus becoming chained to the products or would you rather work with nature and enhance the untapped natural unique beauty your hair actually is? Which is what I think all of these synthetic products are claiming to do…hmmm.

What about conditioner?

When I was going through my transition phase, I kept wondering about conditioners. Aquarian Bath didn’t sell any conditioning bars at the time (but said she was working on a formula because customers new to shampoo bars had been asking for one). I have gone through the last four months not using any conditioner or any leave in hair product for styling, just to see how my hair would react. I like the results. But admittedly, I like change – I like experimenting and I really like the idea of using fewer products especially the ones that come in plastic with too many unrecognizable ingredients (toxic for me and the environment).

I have done some research on various sites and have found that for people (with any hair type), who are transitioning to ‘natural’ shampooing, generally pre-condition hair once per week, prior to shampooing. Pre-conditioning would consist of applying an oil, such as coconut oil or olive oil to either just the ends of the hair or the entire head and letting it rest for half an hour (or overnight) before shampooing.

The biggest lesson I have learned is to start spending time experimenting with my own hair. And that a grooming routine should be a flexible guideline that changes based on the fluctuating factors that come with simply being alive. Much like how I view food and exercise, each of us is an experiment of one.

How do I control those unruly hairs?

I have unruly hairs. Do you? I seem to have wavy, straight and kinky hair all over the place with no symmetry. Every hair is doing her own thing. On top of that, many of my hairs are now turning silver and those ones seem to want attention; they tend to be the short, kinky extra coarse ones that shoot straight up…there was no controlling my hair unless I wanted to douse my head with chemicals and only then is the control temporary! Lately, I have started applying about six drops of organic jojoba oil (bought in bulk from The Soap Dispensary in my own reusable blue glass bottle with dropper). This seems to do the trick. But I don’t use it every single time I wash my hair. But what I have noticed is that my hair is retaining moisture much better and my kinky hairs are becoming smoother. I think that my hair has been so chronically dehydrated, even though I had been diligent over the years -to no avail – with using ‘professional salon’ products to correct the problem. So far, the underside of my hair which always held more moisture is now looking so much healthier and my natural waves and curls are starting to emerge with some kind of unity – as if to say “We knew you’d figure it out sooner or later”. I am very curious to see what the texture of my hair will be after a few more months of this experiment.

Well, it’s only taken me twenty years to listen to my hair, as opposed to listening to the experts who keep pushing new and improved formulas. My favourite quote from Alan Cohen rings true:

“If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.”

I have a feeling that the more I embrace the quirkiness of my hair and explore what it naturally wants to do…the best years are yet to come.

What happens when I go to the hair salon? Do I bring my own shampoo bar?

I did that once. I took my own shampoo bar. My stylist, who I have been going to for thirteen years, was not amused. Partly because I didn’t tell him that I had asked his assistant to wash my hair with my own shampoo bar. I was curious to see if he would notice the difference. He could tell the difference. Because my hair used to become so dry after washing he was not accustomed to the texture and his comb could not get through. His fist reaction was “What have you done to your hair? It feels stripped!” The particular shampoo bar that I took to the hair salon that day was made by a different local company than Aquarian Bath. Controlling the bubbling chuckles brewing inside of me, I told him the shampoo bar was called Dreads…he was aghast! He graciously put up with my experiment but had to keep spraying my hair to keep it wet. We got through the appointment and we now know how to prepare the hair for the next cut. We talked about the possibility of him carrying a line of natural shampoo bars though I’m not sure he is ready for that (especially with what I put him through that day) but he is happy to hear about my results. 🙂

What I have learned about shampoo bars

Shampoo bars are not all created equally. Each formula will react differently for each individual. What might result in a smooth finish for one person may not have the same effect for someone else. I notice this all the time between me and my daughter. Over the last four months I have amassed a nice collection of Shampoo bars for experimenting until we find which bars work best for our individual hair types. But I keep an open mind and am always willing to retry a bar I didn’t particularly like at first, because now that I have started to truly re-hydrate and eliminate synthetic additive from my hair, these shampoo bars are working even better.

If you google Shampoo Bars you will notice many on the market. Look for small batch makers with a business philosophy like Aquarian Bath. Avoid bars that contain:

  • SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)
  • SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate)
  • Triclosan
  • Parfum
  • Parabens
  • Petrolatums
  • DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Methenamine, Quarternium-15
  • P-Phenylenediamine
  • Cyclomethicone, Siloxanes
  • DEA, MEA, TEA, PEG
  • BHA, BHT
  • Dibutyl Phthalate

How we use solid shampoo bars in the shower:

  1. Wet hair.
  2. Wet shampoo bar and rub bar directly onto hair to lather. (A little goes a long way).
  3. Keep shampoo bar away from water when not in use as it dissolves quickly.
  4. Turn off water allowing shampoo to rest in hair. (And conserving water in the process).
  5. Lather body with shampoo bar or body bar.
  6. Turn water back on rinsing hair and body.
  7. If repeating shampoo, do it now.
  8. Rinse and squeeze excess water from hair.
  9. Place shampoo bar in a dry place. Allow shampoo bar to air dry.
  10. Dry and style hair as usual.

How to Pre-Condition Hair

I have started to experiment with pre-conditioning my hair with Raw Coconut Oil, because that is what I already have handy from making my own solid lotion bars.

Once per week I take about one Tablespoon of Coconut Oil and massage it into my hair, starting at the ends working my way up to my scalp. Because I have a lot of unruly new growth silver hairs I found that applying the oil at my roots helps to soften the coarseness of those hairs. I have left it in anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes before washing my hair with a shampoo bar. Then style as usual without the need for any additional products.

La Coco Bella

 

Next Post: Q & A with La Coco Bella

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Sustainable Shopper’s Guide to a Dirty Dozen Ingredients to Avoid in your Cosmetics. by David Suzuki Foundation

How to give your hair a fresh start or transitioning to shampoo bars by Cory Trusy