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Products worth buying  RSS feed

 
                    
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Stuff that is cheaper, earth friendlier, longer lasting, more portable, less packaged, or just generally really useful.  You could probably live with out it....but you don't.  Not yet. 

I'll start.  With pretty much the entirety of my toiletries, all of which can be packed in a carry bag for an airplane. 

--  Uncle Harry's All Natural Tooth Powder www.uncleharrys.com

The most amazing, economical, detergent free toothpaste I've ever tried.  Sodium lurel sulfate gives me canker sores, and I've used a wide range of detergent free toothpastes over the years.  This is not only the cheapest by oz (you're not paying for the WATER in the paste!) but is nicest tasting paste I've used (in my opinion.....detergent free pastes can sometimes be....eh, unique).  It contains (from the label) "calcium carbonate, mustard seed powder, sea salt, and natural plant essences."  Your mouth feels sanitized after a brushing session with this stuff.  A 16 oz, sturdy & reusable bottle of the stuff is $28, and it'll probably last for about three years - enough for 960 applications!  They offer smaller amounts in tiny bottles for trial periods.  Just put a dime sized dab on your palm and stick some to a wet toothbrush.

--  DIVA CUP - I dunno, a health food store is where I found mine?

If you aren't attracted to the idea of wearing and then washing something resembling a tiny diaper.....this is the re-useable option for you.  I held off for several years on buying one of these silicone cups for containing women's monthly flow (there are several brands).  Mostly because of the price ($30) and I couldn't find another woman who had tried one and liked it, at least that wanted to talk about.  So - here's my shameless promotion (I guess specifically for the Diva Cup because it's the only one I've tried):

Ladies!  It's awesome!  So comfortableEasy to use!  Hygienic (you can boil the thing before you stick it up there)!  Can live in your purse/glove compartment/medicine cabinet until you need it (comes with a little storage bag)!  Pays for itself pretty quickly (how many boxes of whatever disposable alternative is $30? not very many)!  You'll never have to throw away/compost/whatever another blood soaked something again!  And for those of you who like to use blood meal in the garden, you can save and use your own watered down blood as a really great plant treat.  The Diva Cup comes in "pre" and "post" childbirth styles.  I've heard that some ladies find them uncomfortable for bike riding (another reason I was hesitant), but I ride all the time and can't feel a thing. 

-- J. R. Liggett's Bar Shampoo - http://www.jrliggett.com/ ;

I asked about bar shampoos at my local health food store, and this showed up on shelves a few weeks later.  It smells good, one bar lasts us a couple months (I have long hair, but I wash 1-2 times a week), and you don't need conditioner!  The only packaging is a small piece of paper.  The online price is $7, I think like we pay more like $5.50 at my store.  Making your own or buying something totally local would be better (it's made in New England) but this beats buying a plastic bottle (or two) to recycle every few weeks, hands down.
 
                              
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Something perhaps similar to a diva cup might be "Instead"
 
pollinator
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Generic baking soda. It's a good cleaning agent when it can be washed down the drain, and there are enough ways to add food acid to a baked dish that it's my go-to quick leavening agent. Cut with some corn starch and perhaps with some fragrance added, it's a good underarm deodorant and foot powder.

Dry fava beans. Only worth buying if you don't already grow them, of course. It is nice to find a bean that's a good neighbor to onions and garlic all winter; this is important where I live, because summers are so dry. The bulk section of a grocery store is a fun place to go seed shopping, but they look at you funny when you buy such small quantities.

Microplane graters. They save so much effort in the kitchen. I'll be happy when the patent expires: I'm not big on brand names.

A $2 open-topped plastic watering can for in the shower. It saves whatever water runs as you warm up the system before you shower (in bathrooms fairly close to the water heater), and ideally gets you out in the garden more-regularly during the dry parts of the year. Also good to rinse off the toilet brush or plunger before putting them away; to rinse shower enclosure walls after scrubbing them; or to take a "bucket bath" when water is really scarce or service is interrupted.
 
steward
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Earthway 1001-B Precision Garden Seeder.  "An ideal row crop planter, the 1001-B is a tool that takes the guesswork out of planting any row crop."

Holds about a pound of seed at a time.  Cuts a furrow to a depth you set, drops in the seed at regular intervals, covers the seed, marks the next row.  About a dozen seed plates available for sizes ranging from turnip to lima beans.  I've used it, can't say enough about it.  About $150 with a dozen seed plates and shipping. 

 
pollinator
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A scythe.  I got mine, custom-made because I'm short, from Scythe Supply, along with the appropriate whetstone and peening jig.  I love it -- it's no more work than using a weed whacker (probably less work, in fact), and is much quieter.  I can get in really tight spaces with it with less chance of damaging something I don't want damaged.  Kept razor-sharp, it cuts like a dream.

Kathleen
 
                    
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Oh man, Kathleen, I totally agree with the scythe.  I really enjoy peening!

This is one of those big ticket purchases that will last forever:

A Brooks Saddle might be the best bicycle accessory in existence, in my humble opinion.  I have one with springs and it makes long rides on very bumpy gravel roads pretty dang comfortable.  They conform to your pelvic bones after about a hundred miles ridden, and you have a custom seat for the rest of your life.  And it looks classy.   

This website has a six month return policy.  That's right, after six months, if you still haven't broken in your seat (which most likely means you should be riding more frequenly in my obnoxious opinion) you can get a full refund! 

They have lots of other sexy bike stuff also. 

http://www.wallbike.com/Brookssaddles.html


If you're one of those people who's thinking "Why on EARTH would someone spend that much money on a SEAT for a stupid BIKE?!" 

Just ask yourself the difference in cost between any nice bike (ie one you actually want to ride) and any crappy car.  The bike will always come out on top for economy, reliability, and longevity.  Plus you can stop paying for a gym membership, because transportation becomes your exercise.  Just another float in the thought parade.....
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I really like Cetaphil cleanser. I occasionally have skin issues, and it's very good at not making them worse.

I have a few problems with it, though: it's a brand name, it's expensive, and it's thoroughly unsustainable.

The generic works just as well, and while it's still expensive, it's worth the price.

I'm working on home-grown alternatives at the moment. When my soapwort comes in (a few months yet), perhaps I'll have more to post. In the meantime, I've had some success with fenugreek jelly. It isn't as bad as soap, but still a little irritating to skin. It also doesn't clean quite as well as cetaphil. 

 
                    
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I share your stigma of "brands" but consider:

If my farm made a company name, and "branded" our products with it, you wouldn't buy our sustainable small scale stuff?  Or do you just mean large companies?

I feel that the companies who make the products I listed are worth supporting with my dollar because of their quality product, regardless of the size of the business.  I'm sure it takes a huge corporation to produce anything made out of silicone, but that doesn't make that product one that people should avoid.....in my obnoxious opinion. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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marina phillips wrote:If my farm made a company name, and "branded" our products with it, you wouldn't buy our sustainable small scale stuff?



If your brand became successful enough, it would go the way of Burt's Bees or Tom's of Maine or Naked Juice. After a certain point, growth is poisonous to small scale operations, to sustainability.

I do not want to get in the habit of buying what you make because based on trust for your brand, because some day that brand will not be yours. I'll buy from someone I know, but the shortcut of associating that with a brand identity seems fundamentally dangerous.

marina phillips wrote:I'm sure it takes a huge corporation to produce anything made out of silicone



Sort of: There are only a couple of companies making the raw materials, but it's actually one of the best technologies ever for small production runs of polymer products, even one-of-a-kind pieces like the seal around your bathtub.

But I agree with you in principle: good design of medical devices takes so many person-hours that large-ish operations make a lot of sense. And I do, absolutely, believe in rewarding the effort of developing great products, and in using reputation to make sound consumer choices. It's just that information flows freely enough, now, that trademarks are far from the best medium for that sort of discourse.
 
Ken Peavey
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Atlas Mercato 150 Pasta Machine

Make your own pasta.  This machine rolls your dough to the thickness you select.  Different cutter heads can be purchased to make Fettucini, taglietelle, spaghetti, linguini, even ravioli.  Without using the cutter head you end up with flat sheets, perfect for lasagna, manicotti, canelloni.

A motor can be purchased if you are running lots of volume through the machine.

 
                    
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The brands you spoke of "sold out" to large corporations who of course are going to dilute the good intentions that the original maker had in creating their product.  I agree that scale is directly related to sustainability, but I feel that it's possible for a small company to make a quality product with integrity, AND have a well known brand name.  The Brooks saddle makers exemplify this perfectly for me.  If they sold their brand name and manufacturing rights to say, Shimano, I'd predict that their process would lose integrity and product quality would quickly decline.  But they're not going to do that.  They're too damned british and proud.  And for good reason. 

I'm getting itchy product ordering fingers looking at that pasta maker, Ken....
 
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kitchen stuff particularly appliances. my pasta roller, stand mixer, food saver, food processer, blender. I cook alot and I just can't see myself giving up these things at this point in my life, even though none of them are really necessary. they are just more convenient or faster and leave me more time to do other things.     
 
                    
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Neti Pot:

Some company turned "neti pot" into a registered trade mark, but you can get them in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Some of them are plastic, mine's ceramic as I have an aversion to plastic stuff in general.      

It's an ancient Indian device for cleaning out your sinuses - one of the "nadis" or methods of inner body cleansing (the neti pot is the most user-friendly of the methods by far).  Looks like a small tea pot, you snuggle the narrow spout into one nostril and pour warm salt water through your sinuses, rinsing everything out the other nostril as you breathe through your mouth.   

It's amazing when you're sick (although if you're too congested it won't go all the way through and that is just uncomfortable), I have a zinc additive that I add a few drops of during colds or illnesses for sinus support.  Can shorten the life of a cold by days, or nip it in the bud as it begins. 

Supposed to be used on a daily basis as part of your morning routine (it's best to do it in the morning so that the bits of water that remain in your sinuses can have the whole day to drain - wouldn't want that to sit in your cranial cavities all night!).  For city dwellers it washes away smog and whatever else is floating around in the air.  For country dwellers it washes away dirt, pollen, dung, straw and saw dust particles, you name it.  Used on a regular basis it can keep a body healthier in general.  Especially useful for those with chronic sinus infections or allergies. 

It can seem really weird to put water up your nose, but there's no force involved, just gravity flow from the tipping of the pot, and the right proportion of salt in the body temperature (that part is important) water prevents stinging.  It's best to use non-chlorinated water.  I think it feels really good - a warm bath for your nose and head. 

I bought mine for my mom, actually, as she has major sinus issues, but she just couldn't work up the courage to try it and gave it back to me!  I waited until I really needed it to try it the first time, and I've been a believer ever since.  If only I could convince my mom it would help her.   
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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A plausible "gateway drug" for those not hard-core enough to start with a neti  pot, is a plastic bottle of saline solution with a little mist nozzle. Very cheap, available at any pharmacy.

Not the same thing, I know, but far enough along that one can get used to the general idea.
 
Leah Sattler
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marina phillips wrote:
Neti Pot:

I have a zinc additive that I add a few drops of during colds or illnesses for sinus support.  Can shorten the life of a cold by days, or nip it in the bud as it begins. 



off topic a bit.....marina - can you give more details on how you add the zinc, how much etc.... I was really dissapointed when zicam was forced to take their swabs off the market. I have been sick several times since with sinus-ee stuff that just hangs on forever it seems which is really unusual for me, I rarely get sick at all but I always used zicam once or twice proactively at times when I thought my exposure to a virus was likely. the oral tabs just dont work as well in my opinion but I am hesitant to just go dissolving them in saline and squirting them in my nose!

I have been using a product called 'simply saline'. it is in a pressurized can. i like that it really is just saline and you can get a nice steady squirt rather then have to do a repetitive squeeze/suck.
 
                    
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The drops are called "Varcho Veda - Neti Wash Plus" I bought the solution at the same place I got the pot (a salon in cheyenne wy where my mom lives).  I don't remember how much they were but probably not cheap.  It's a glycerine tincture, besides zinc, it has goldenseal, phellodendron bark, barbary root bark, coptis root, and grapefruit seed extract.  It leaves your nose with a very faint herbal smell. 

The website on the bottle is www.varchoveda.org.  This is the same company that trademarked "neti pot...." not really sure how I feel about that, but whatever, I like the pot and the drops seem to work. There's a warning on the other side of the bottle that intra nasal zinc may have been linked to loss of smell - maybe that's why the swabs were taken off the market?  I only use it occassionally - for sickness specifically, the rest of the time I just use salt.  My pot calls for a heaping quarter teaspoon of salt per pot, but I find that to be a bit too salty (can sting if the solution is too strong). 

Joel, yeah, I suppose that would introduce the idea, but -- it's not the same!  When you get the salt and temperature right it doesn't feel anything but really nice.  It's wonderful (and gross) to see the stuff that used to live in your head wash down the drain. 

Speaking of gateway, this link takes you directly to the neti pot stuff at that site:

http://www.himalayaninstitute.org/Netipot/NetiPotGateway.aspx

There's a demo video!  (ew?)
 
steward
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Marina, how is that tooth powder with whitening? I once used a natural-ish toothpaste that I swear increased the tea and coffee stains!

Joel, that fenugreek jelly sounds interesting; I just might have to try that one. I have skin issues, too, as do both my kids. Right now, the only facial soap that's been working for me is the Kiss My Face olive oil soap.

Besides soap, we also like bulk clay (powdered) to help with skin issues. Two kinds used frequently are bentonite and French.

I buy a jar of bentonite clay powder for about $8 (with my Azure bulk foods order), mix a teaspoon with a couple teaspoons of water, smear it on and let it dry before washing off. It's a clay mask that goes a long way in clearing up skin blemishes. Even my teenage boy reaches for it when his skin gets out of hand. Soothing and clearing, without over-drying.

The jar lasts a long time, and doesn't have any icky perfumes, dyes or additives. Whole Foods carries the clay in their bulk spice and tea section, and I've seen it in bulk at other herb and health food shops, too.

The bentonite clay can even be taken internally for digestive troubles. Did you know that clay is one of the main ingredients of Pepto Bismol? Maybe old news to some of you, but I once had an N.D. recommend bentonite clay when I had a little one with some digestive distress (when we knew it wasn't from other things like a flu or bad food or anything).
 
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I have achieved the same sinus washing results using an el cheapo bulb syringe. Didn't want to start with a neti pot because they are more expensive and I wasn't sure if I could get the hang of it. I read where a bulb syringe was a cheap alternative & a great way to get started with minimal investment. It works great for me & won't break if I drop it (and I'm always dropping stuff!). As long as you don't squeeze the bulb syringe too hard, there is no force involved. I like the fact that I can control how much water comes out at once because I can squeeze it very gently when I'm ready for it. If not squeezed, very little water comes out. Even if you drop it most of the water stays put. I've still considered getting a neti pot; but this is working really well for me.

To make sure it's sterile before using, I boil water & mix in the salt. I suck some of the boiled water up into the syringe & then flush it out. I'll add a couple ice cubes to the remaining water bring the temp down and use the tepid water to flush out my sinuses. Of course you could skip the ice and wait for the water to cool, but I'm impatient! There is a bit of a trick to proper nasal irrigation, whether it's a neti pot or bulb syringe. When you get the hang of it, you'll rely on it, I know I do!

I also have store bought bottles of saline solution if needed on the go; but if you are somewhat congested, warm water is better, IMO. I get some serious sinus pressure and the warm water is very comforting. At home, I use filtered water for this purpose, but I've used tap water when staying with relatives and really didn't notice the chlorine being a problem. (Another bonus of the bulb syringe is it's easy to pack in a suitcase.) You can always let tap water sit for a while to allow the chlorine to dissipate before you use it. Non-iodized salt seems easier on my sinuses.
NasalAspirator.jpg
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Gwen Lynn
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Duct tape & zip ties are 2 of my faves.

Recently I did a quick little repair on a bird feeder that I'd salvaged out of a neighbors garbage can. There was a gap in the roof of the feeder. Probably could use silicone caulk to repair, but I was in a hurry, wanting to put the feeder out for the ice storm. So I used the heavy duty foil tape that dh uses in HVAC repairs. It did a super job covering the gap, and I'm amazed at how well it stuck! The top of the bird feeder was poorly applied, dried out latex paint with dried bird poop on it. I was hurrying, so didn't bother to clean it up. The tape stuck really well and because it's aluminum foil (but much thicker than stuff used for cooking) you can fold it and mold it to things. I love this stuff!
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Products/stuff worth scrounging out of the trash!  That's deserving of a whole thread!  I love trash finds, nice repair job on the bird feeder. 

Jocelyn - I can't say I really pay attention to the whiteness of my teeth?  They're fairly white?  The chalk I'm sure plays a part in scouring.  Teeth feel very "smooth" afterward.  I feel like I have less plaque buildup with the powder.  Just get a little bottle for a few dollars and see if you like it!  As a warning though, I first bought the "tooth whitening powder" (same brand) and it tasted really gross.  Gritty, just....not pleasant.  Luckily I was motivated enough to try the regular toothpaste and have been converted.  I first found it at a cool little herbal shop in north Philadelphia. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Part of the whitening of most toothpaste is after the fashion of horse chestnut.

Horse chestnuts have natural emulsifiers (saponins), so they are great for washing linens. But as a bonus, they have a fluorescent dye in them, that gives a pale cyan light when exposed to UV. Fabric that would look slightly yellow, looks pure white because of this added cyan light.

Most every toothpaste (and mainstream laundry detergent, as well) includes a synthetic fluorescent dye for the same reason. Next time you're in a room with a black light, look at people's teeth and clothes. The ones who use granola personal care products will be conspicuous by an absence of eerie glow in their teeth and clothes.
 
                    
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granola personal care products will be conspicuous by an absence of eerie glow in their teeth and clothes.



That's funny.  And vaguely frightening?  My care products have gotten super "granola" lately but the great advantage is that they don't take up much space when you travel!  My little sister was bragging that she was only taking a small suit case sized case for her toiletries when she went on a months long trip, and I whip out my tiny bag and am like "oh yea? this'll last me for three months too!"  Love her to death, she's decidedly not at all "granola."  Decidedly high maintenance, actually.....
 
                            
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Jocelyn Campbell wrote:
Marina, how is that tooth powder with whitening? I once used a natural-ish toothpaste that I swear increased the tea and coffee stains!



I can personally recommend Weleda's Ratanhia toothpaste. Sparkle clean teeth and no chems (including fluoride) what so ever!

http://usa.weleda.com/our-products/shop/ratanhia-toothpaste.aspx
 
                          
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Speaking of tooth care—I got interested in tooth remineralization and came across this link: http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~dna/toothpaste/index.htm Seems crazy at first, but when I did more research on the way commercial products (like Recaldent) are supposed to work, it sounds like they're trying to bind calcium and phosphate into the tooth enamel using casein—and that's what theoretically would happen if you're brushing with a combination of phosphate (from spent wood ash) and calcium and casein (from kefir). Can anyone else give feedback about if this would actually work?
 
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marina phillips wrote:The Brooks saddle makers exemplify this perfectly for me.  If they sold their brand name and manufacturing rights to say, Shimano, I'd predict that their process would lose integrity and product quality would quickly decline.  But they're not going to do that.  They're too damned british and proud.  And for good reason.



sold to Selle Royal, an Italian company, in 2003 after Sturmey-Archer collapsed.  the saddles are still made in Birmingham, I believe, and haven't suffered under foreign ownership in my limited experience.  the Sturmey-Archer name and equipment were bought by SunRace and Sturmey-Archer hubs are now built in Taiwan.  the Taiwanese hubs are, by all accounts, much better than the Nottingham hubs ever were.

Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
The ones who use granola personal care products will be conspicuous by an absence of eerie glow in their teeth and clothes.



unless they've been chewing on horse chestnuts.  I tried that once and don't recommend it.

Kerrick wrote:
Speaking of tooth care—I got interested in tooth remineralization and came across this link: http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~dna/toothpaste/index.htm Seems crazy at first, but when I did more research on the way commercial products (like Recaldent) are supposed to work, it sounds like they're trying to bind calcium and phosphate into the tooth enamel using casein—and that's what theoretically would happen if you're brushing with a combination of phosphate (from spent wood ash) and calcium and casein (from kefir). Can anyone else give feedback about if this would actually work?



seems plausible to me, but I won't pretend to be any kind of authority.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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GlobalMinotor wrote: no chems (including fluoride) what so ever!



I've used several Weleda products, and liked each of them, but I use the word "chemical" a little differently: the only things without chemicals (as I use the term) are, shall we say, on the astral or etherial planes of existence.



Kerrick wrote:Speaking of tooth care—I got interested in tooth remineralization



Saliva is apparently good for that, too. Humans are kind of a freakish species in terms of how much amylase we secrete; it seems to be a recent adaptation to starchy diets, but the enzyme, like calcium caseinate, is calcium complexed in a protein moiety. So you could chew gum or licorice root or spruce sap or...

Fluoride rinses are intended to mineralize, too (though I understand too much can be very bad for you). In all cases, make sure there isn't plaque present for long enough that the bacteria are mineralized. I've seen a couple bad cases of fluoride hardening plaque into ugly-colored, gum-irritating tartar; milder mineralizing agents probably are more forgiving in that regard..
 
                          
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Good info, Joel; thanks. The chemical thing gets me too, but I've given up mentioning that technically even water is a chemical. Well, mostly anyway.

I'd never thought about bacteria being mineralized, but I can imagine concretions of  fossilized bacteria around the gums would be uncomfortable to say the least.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Kerrick wrote:I can imagine concretions of  fossilized bacteria around the gums would be uncomfortable to say the least.



You don't feel it, but you can see the reddening of gums sometimes. It's usually the first step to periodontal disease; the hygenist goes in with a pick every 6 months or so to scrape it out, for just that reason.

I think toothpastes had to become more abrasive once fluoride was added: the "tartar control" was perhaps a correction for the "cavity protection". Ah, modernity.
 
                    
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toothpastes had to become more abrasive once fluoride was added: the "tartar control" was perhaps a correction for the "cavity protection".



Whoa, so fluoride increases plauqe build up? "Intended to mineralize"....that's the supposed cavity protection?  Fluoride is another of those topics that gets me riled if I think about it too long.  My dad works for a water treatment plant and their fluoridation machine broke, and while they were in the process of finding funds to fix it he went and read some books.  Tried to make a case that it's not necessary in water, may even be harmful, etc, but none of the 'higher ups' bought it.    The city spent thousands of dollars making sure residents get some aluminum production waste product in their drinking water every day. 

Weleda paste is one of those really nice but really expensive tooth pastes I used to use.  I liked their salty one, it was basically salt with some essential oils.  I'd just rather not spend $10 on toothpaste every month any more, plus there's the issue (for me) of the non-reuseable metal and plastic tube it comes in.  But it's a company that makes really excellent products in general, I'm glad some of us are still giving them money!
 
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Anonymous wrote:I share your stigma of "brands" but consider:

If my farm made a company name, and "branded" our products with it, you wouldn't buy our sustainable small scale stuff?  Or do you just mean large companies?

I feel that the companies who make the products I listed are worth supporting with my dollar because of their quality product, regardless of the size of the business.  I'm sure it takes a huge corporation to produce anything made out of silicone, but that doesn't make that product one that people should avoid.....in my obnoxious opinion. 



I don't believe in intellectual property. IMO horizontal replication of a good product design by lots of other producers is preferable to growth by one integrated entity. Historically branding has been used as a device for market segmentation, in order to avoid pricing a good as a commodity and instead allowing it to be sold as a good unique to one producer and therefore subject to a significant markup over actual production costs. A good account of how manufacturers invented branding and mass marketing to stave off the evil of low-priced commoditiies and competitive markets can be found in Ralph Borsodi's The Distribution Age. https://www.soilandhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/GoodBooks/The%20Distribution%20Age.pdf
 
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Some form of Billhook.

The cheapest/most widely distributed I am aware of being the fiskars 'brush ax'
 
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