Oct 1: Make your own laundry detergent

Make your own laundry detergent.

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Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story.

Talking points

Discuss the ideas presented in the story with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.

  • Scrolling through the photos in this article, what kind of words come to mind? What atmosphere is created by the photos? What kind of adjectives might describe them – such as shining, creepy or mysterious?
  • The writer visits a huge wetland – Awarua in Southland. It stretches as far as the eye can see:“13,000 sprawling hectares of bog and fen, tussock and manuka.” It makes him realise that “once, much of our country looked like this.” Did you know that over 90% of our wetlands have been drained? Are there any wetlands near where you live? Do you think your neighbourhood, or part of it, could have been wetland originally?
  • The article mentions some different types of wetlands – “bogs, tarns, fens, peat fields, swamps, estuaries and lagoons.” Which ones of these are you familiar with?
  • Wetlands “punctuated and perforated our flat lands, soaking up the legendary rains and offering them to plants, insects, amphibians and birds as food and shelter.” Can you put this into your own words – what did wetlands do with the high rainfall in New Zealand?
  • “Maori knew wetlands as larders, troves of seasonal sustenance and a store of materials to fashion into mats, ropes, walls, clothes. Healers knew them as dispensaries of medicines, tinctures and supplements. Europeans knew them as a blight. Wetlands had no place in the agrarian ethic they brought here—flat land was coveted; where Maori saw resources, colonists saw pasture, sheep and fences. Prosperity. Progress.” What do you learn from this about the ways Māori valued wetlands? What does the word “blight” tell us about the way they appeared to European settlers? Since European settlement began, to what extent do you think attitudes to wetlands have changed?

Activity: Make your own laundry detergent

Explore the way plants can be used in our daily lives by making laundry detergent from a common introduced species – ivy.

You will need:

  • Around 80 medium-sized ivy leaves. Older, darker leaves are best but any will do.
  • 4 cups of water
  • A pot
  • Rubber gloves

Step One: Gather your 80 or so medium-sized ivy leaves. Ivy is invasive in New Zealand – you should be able to find a plant growing on a fence without too much trouble. Squeeze them to crush them a little (or chop them roughly) and place them in a pot. Cover with 4 cups of water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Let it cool and leave to soak overnight, or for at least four hours.

Step Two: Wearing rubber gloves if you have sensitive skin, squeeze the leaves to extract the saponins (cleaning chemicals.) Strain the liquid through a tea towel or muslin and store in your fridge in a jar or bottle.

Step Three: Use in place of laundry detergent – one cup of liquid for one load of washing.

Send us a picture of your homemade laundry detergent!