Born in 1948, Tui Rose grew up on a dairy farm in New Zealand, where the home, garden and pantry were filled with wonderful natural remedies. Boils were covered with hot compresses made of wet bread and castor oil; eyes with sties were bathed in Epsom salts, and diluted cider vinegar soothed sore throats. A cake of soap filled with sand was her mother’s only abrasive cleaner. Chlorine bleach was never heard of. Lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, salt and sunshine was all there was to remove grass, mud, tomato sauce and fruit stains.
As a teenager, Tui joined other New Zealanders who tuned in to “Aunt Daisy’s” popular radio show, where callers shared their favorite household hints and asked for advice on least-toxic remedies. Aunt Daisy’s hints were printed in daily newspapers and national magazine columns, year in and year out, and Tui became an enthusiastic collector. She stored these hints in dusty old drawers for decades.
In the early 1970s, Tui was assigned a job as a private nurse to Sir Winston Churchill’s aged and ailing wife, Lady Clementine Churchill who lived in a plush apartment in Knightsbridge, London with her Philippine housemaids. To accept the position, Tui and her husband sold their new home in New Zealand and traveled to the other side of the world to live and work in England. During the two year stay, they took advantage of every opportunity to backpack and “rough it” across Scandinavia, Europe, Russia, Poland, Spain and Morocco with other adventure seekers from down under.
Tui traveled light – partly because she knew the only cleaning products she needed to carry in her backpack were baking soda, a spray bottle each of vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide, a bar of Ivory soap and a tube of plain white toothpaste. At every new destination, Tui sought out local remedies and least-toxic hints, scribbling them in a notebook she carried with her. By the time Tui and her husband returned to New Zealand in 1974, their bags were bulging with tips from around the world.
But that and happy memories were all they brought back with them, as they struggled with the reality of starting over again, with nothing but the shirts on their backs and backpacks full of handy hints which she relied on for a means of frugal living. Tui took a full time nursing job in a cardiac unit. Within a year she was pregnant with her first child.
Tui and her husband purchased an old fixer-up house. As they settled in, Tui put some of those natural and least-toxic household and garden hints to good use: whitening stained wood bench tops and cutting boards with salt and lemon; polishing furniture with salad dressing (vinegar and vegetable oil); creating her own antibacterial and antiseptic solution from a mix of vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide, and cleaning windows with vinegar and newspaper. Tui made her own cushion covers out of colorful scarves and stitched her own curtains, placing old keys and large foreign coins from her travels into the bottom of the hems to keep the curtains hanging straight. For her indoor and patio plants, Tui concocted liquid fertilizers from steeped lawn clippings, garden and kitchen waste, teas, coffee grounds and other common and natural pantry ingredients.
To keep a supply of natural remedies growing nearby, Tui and her husband cultivated beautiful gardens, fruit trees and greenhouse plants using least-toxic pesticide ingredients such as blended grated ivory or olive oil soap and whatever else they had in their pantry: vinegar, vegetable oil, citrus, lavender, garlic, mint, rhubarb leaves or black pepper. Tui’s years of collecting hints had taught her that just about any natural ingredient was useful for some type of house and garden chore.
Other practical life experiences, some unfortunate, also contributed to influencing Tui’s natural remedies and hint book. Tragedy struck her married life early, forcing Tui to become a widow at age thirty six, and a single mother of two young children. She made a life changing decision to move to USA in 1984 and start life over. However, when legal battles brewed over her financial trust, she returned to New Zealand a few years later to sort it out. The wheels of justice turn slowly. As time dragged out, Tui found distraction and comfort in an old familiar pastime as she picked up her hobby of hint collecting from where she left off more than a decade earlier.
Due to her need for frugality as a part time stay-at-home single mom, and part time medical professional, Tui’s personal thrifty and nifty experiences became the basis of a chapter in her book called, Money is Honey which reveals the art of frugal housekeeping and living at home. Tui learned how to clip and cash coupons, bargain for discounted prices for slightly blemished produce, and trade helping-hand time in exchange for wholesale food at the Farmer’s Market. She saved hundreds of dollars by learning how to shop for cheap but durable children’s clothing at church thrift shops and Salvation Army stores, re-styling them with the help of her sewing machine and some creative nerve. She made some extra cash for gas payments by developing a creative talent she didn’t realize she had by hand-painting designs on white tee shirts and selling them to peers, boutiques and at flea markets.
During the 70’s and 80’s, the public was very unaware of the damaging health effects of household and pesticide chemicals. Tui’s nursing training had never included studies on home and garden chemical poisoning. It simply wasn’t something most people thought to worry about. But because of her upbringing, where only natural ingredients from pantry shelves which were utilized for household cleaning, and because of her lifelong interest in collecting hints, Tui knew instinctively that chemical products could endanger her baby’s health.
Tui was afraid that if she used household chemicals and pesticides, she would inhale toxins or absorb them through her skin. The result would be a toxic accumulation in her body that would cross the fetal blood barrier and increase the chances of giving her child a birth defect, a developmental or learning disability, or an illness such as leukemia. She wanted her babies to be born healthy, and to be able to breath uncontaminated air, eat uncontaminated fruit and vegetables from the family garden, pet the dog, put uncontaminated toys or hands (and even toes) into their mouth, and crawl on the carpet or grass without absorbing chemicals through their skin.
So Tui stuck to using only natural ingredients to do her household and garden chores, continuing to put all those safe hints to good practical use for the sake of her family health. Little did she know, over two decades later, Tui would come across hundreds of such unfortunate and detrimental health issues, which she had feared about chemical cleaners and pesticides while working as a nurse and researching. Later, this information became a central focus of her book, explaining her reason why least-toxic alternatives are so important to our health, especially so for parents and children.
Despite Tui’s training as a nurse, what she discovered online shocked her. Until she started to sift through some of the available medical and scientific reports, Tui realized how little she really knew about the toxic dangers that lurk inside almost every home. Sadly, her medical peers as a whole seemed to know as little as she did.
Tui remembered some of what she’d experienced during her time in London. A friend’s dog became sick and nearly died after being treated in a bath with a liquid flea solution and Tui had also read about a school head mistress who suffered paralysis after shampooing her hair with a lice treatment. At that time, Britain was way ahead of the United States and indeed the rest of the world in exposing the dangers of toxic chemicals to the public. Even so, Tui remembered seeing children with acute symptoms of pesticide poisoning in the London hospitals where she worked as a float nurse.
After Tui endured two spinal surgeries she could no longer work as a bedside nurse, and her career of over three decades as she knew it took a change. Tui took a new job in a federal program for the state of Texas as a Medicaid Authorization Review Specialist which specialized in health benefits of the financially needy. There she was shocked to learn about literally thousands and thousands of children and adults just in the state of Texas alone, who have birth defects, and physical and mental growth and developmental delays and disabilities. News and health reports were now linking such detrimental health issues to household toxins and chemical pesticides. In comparison, it was far beyond that of anything she had experienced in New Zealand as a nurse, where chemical toxins were used much less liberally.
As a result of these personal experiences, when Tui began to get serious about writing her book of hints, she knew she had to focus on safer alternatives. Any hints using chlorine bleach and other toxic solutions got tossed into the waste basket. In all good conscience Tui couldn’t use a hint in her book that may be harmful. She decided that’s what would distinguish her hint book from most other collections of household tips. She would focus on the least-toxic way to do things and, with the help of Internet research, offer explanations as to why the least-toxic approach was so important.
Now with Tui’s research and writing background, she has been able to link and trace many of these detrimental lifetime conditions which she saw in her work to exposure and contact to toxic household and insecticide chemicals. Sadly, though she learned how little is known or being done about it locally or nationwide except for a small minority of doctors, scientists and environmentalists who struggle to be heard. Tui saw an opportunity to weave the results of many of their findings, studies and services into her book by adding a Health and a Resource Chapter into her hint book where parents, pet owners and homemakers can more easily be exposed to this valuable information than they would if they had a rare chance to read environmental books or articles.
Tui’s hint book began to grow and took on a whole diversion of its own. Discovering and researching the topic of alternative diatomaceous earth as a non-toxic insecticide, led Tui to write an entire book on the topic entitled: Going Green Using Diatomaceous Earth How-To Tips: An Easy Guide Book For Using A Safer Alternative, Natural Mineral, Food Grade Insecticide. Other than cumbersome university text books, this is first book for the lay person on the history and benefits of this natural alternative to poisons for killing bugs in the home and garden.
Although Tui doesn’t consider herself an environmental or medical expert in the field of toxicology, and has not even touched on the dangers of household chemicals other than pesticides in her book, as a nurse she felt a duty to share those discoveries with her readers, and to offer resource data so readers could follow up with research of their own.
It is Tui Rose’s hope that the many who share this book use the hints or resources to positively affect the wellbeing of not only their own lives and environment, but also that of their families and friends.
Written in collaboration with Janet Helin, Crickettworks Publication Services.