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How To Help Protect Our Planet

Loving Nature

Ever since I was small, I loved nature. I don’t know why particularly, I just did. Growing up, I loved spending time in the country, around plants and animals and anything from the natural world. I took biology and ended up taking Agriculture in university.

Looking at career options, I was not pleased. A good paying job was most likely to be found in a region that I was not willing to live in (for several reasons), so I got sidetracked into a job that kept me in this location, but not really contributing to anything on the nature side of things. I had access to nature, but not a viable way to contribute to it’s health in the form of a career.

The main thing I didn’t want was a commute, which I had done previously for 2 years and which was draining and annoying and can take the life right out of you if done too long.  Finally I was able to create a self-sustaining business right here where I lived.

So, now there was the time and energy for nature. I suspect this might have something to do with many people’s lack of interest or ability to contribute to the health of the planet – being tired and stressed from work. Change takes effort and when your effort is going into a job that is energy draining (as most are), you have little left after work for anything but the basics.

Anyway, this year we, Ernie and I, have decided to make a serious effort to live differently. We have been moving towards this for several years and refining our thinking and actions and have come up with many things that we feel will help move us and others towards living more kindly towards the planet. We are also now actively promoting this lifestyle to people (tactfully), hoping that they will make a few changes to their lifestyles to help out and make a difference. We do not lecture anyone, but simply mention things we and others can do in our daily conversations with people in our area.

The following are the things we ourselves are doing to feel that we are working towards the goal of protecting the health of our planet.

  1. Working towards growing all our own vegetables and fruits. We grow 80% of our veggies but only about 25% of our fruit. Producing our own fruit is more difficult but not impossible. We buy oranges, blueberries in season, cherries in season, and macintosh apples which we can’t grow here. We have our own apples, Saskatoons (Service berry), and raspberries. For veggies we buy cauliflower and radishes, both of which we can’t grow here successfully, and hothouse cucumbers from a different province and mushrooms grown locally. Everything else we grow ourselves and process for winter or do without.
  2. Reducing the amount we drive dramatically and walk as much as possible. This is easy to do especially in cities where you have public transit and can cycle most times of the year. In the country it is more difficult especially if you choose to live away from a larger centre where things need to be trucked in or you have to drive longer distances to get somewhere or buy something. As society moves towards more digital based commerce, it is likely that most things will be delivered which will save on individual car driving.
  3. Feed our pets as naturally and with as little waste as possible. Our dogs eat mostly raw meat, with some cooked foods such as sardines and tripe. Meat and eggs are obtained as much as possible from local ranchers/farmers. Sometimes we have to buy meat from the store, but if we do that, we save the plastic and styrofoam meat trays and reuse them for many things. There is almost no waste, where as if we fed dry dog food we would be throwing away big dog food bags, about three larges one a month. These are lined with aluminum and plastic for freshness and are not recyclable.
  4. Attempting to eliminate new purchases of plastic items and reduce the use of disposable plastics. This is a non-negotiable. I feel this is the most serious environmental issue that needs to be addressed currently. If we have some re-usable plastic, we won’t get rid of it just because we don’t want plastic around, but use it until it is not in good condition anymore. We don’t use shampoo anymore (water wash only) and very few store bought personal products so there is much less plastic waste. This is an area I’d like to reduce even more.
  5. We RE-USE EVERYTHING at least once. If it can’t be re-used, we will try not to buy it or find an alternative to it that is re-usable.
  6. Find new uses for most, if not all things that would normally be thrown out. This includes clothing, furniture, wood or any building material etc.
  7. Composting our waste. There is much that can be composted that people are not aware of, that would reduce the amount of garbage, maybe not useable for food plants, but compostable nevertheless. Cardboard is compostable by worms for instance.
  8. Support ethical and low-intensity animal farming for meat. In order to support this statement I won’t be including information here, but I encourage you to do your own research about red meat, farming etc. We will never be vegan as veganism is not a diet but an ethical position that rejects using animals for food, clothing, entertainment and other reasons, like having pets. Yes, if you have a pet you cannot be vegan by definition. In fact I would question whether there is even anything truly vegan at all, but that is for another article. I would resort to calling yourself a “strict plant-based eater” instead. I consider myself a plant-based” eater because my diet is based on plants, but I also eat meat and eggs and a very small amount of artisan cheese. I will also not give up my connection with other species on this planet especially dogs. I feel it is a natural way for humans to live, interacting with animals and it is pleasurable. That said, I do not agree with factory or large scale animal farming. People can eat less meat and we can raise and slaughter food animals better and more humanely. We can live in harmony with animals in our lives and in domesticity. If I can’t have animals in my life because of the beliefs of a few radical people, I don’t want to be here on earth at all.
  9. We save things from the garbage. There are so many things being thrown out in dumps and landfills that shouldn’t or don’t need to be thrown out. Ernie and other people we know have salvaged many, many things from being burned at the dump, and we have found ways to reuse these things.
  10. When we buy food, we make a great effort to buy products that are produced in this country, and even better, from within our community. All our meat and eggs come from local farmers and ranchers. It is not more expensive when you eat less. We also eat wild meat, specifically deer, which is low in fat as all wild meats are. For those of you who are opposed to hunting but still eat meat, unless you only purchase meat from animals that are dispatched on the farm and under no stress from transporting, then the meat is not at the highest quality. Wild deer are not terrorized by hunting anymore than they would be if they were being hunted by wolves or coyotes, whereas transporting animals to a slaughterhouse is very stressful on the animals.
  11. We don’t follow fashion trends. If something is not “trendy” or current in style we don’t get rid of it. Fashion is not really important. That being said, for some people it is important, but it is a throw-away culture. Furniture, knick-knacks, clothing, etc can be kept, saved, reused. Humans do need re-adjustment on the way we think about consuming things. We choose to buy good quality, and yes, more expensive items that last longer and do not give these things an expiry date based on what the current fashion or trends are. If something is in bad shape we simply find other uses for it until it is no more. I like the idea of finding one’s own style without the influence of consumerism. There are some amazing products in the marketplace that are high quality and unique and thoughtfully made. This is what I look for when thinking about a purchase (which isn’t often).
  12. Houseplants. Or how about just plants in general. Need I say more? OK, I will. I’m obsessed with plants. It’s what I studied in university. I love them. Tree, shrubs, flowers, food plants, houseplants. They are useful (in all kinds of ways) and houseplants bring nature into the home. The more I have the better I feel mentally. Having a few or several in your home is beneficial for you and your surroundings, reminding us even in snowy and cold winters (if you have them) that the plant, and planet, needs assistance to live.
  13. Writing about what we’re doing. This is a great way to spread information and ideas to assist others in changing perceptions about how we live. Ernie and I don’t presume to know what you do or can do in your own area, but where we live, since the community is small, we can come in contact easily with others to communicate information. Writing and posting on the internet is the same thing. Easy and convenient, and it works. If you think about it, I’ll bet there are several things you could do where you live now to spread the word.

I’m sure there are more things that you and I can and will come up with to contribute to this planet project, which MUST be done now. There is now more fooling around and we cannot go back. We must do this together.

Now that I have said all this, I want to emphasize, that this post is NOT a criticism list, to make people feel crappy about how little they are doing. This is a SUGGESTION list, describing mostly what we do ourselves and what CAN be done, and how important I feel this is. We want to encourage you (I know most of you who read this are already doing this stuff) and show how easy it is to do some of these things, give ideas and to impress upon people how important it is to do these things. That’s it. We’re not saying how great we are, or that you’re a bad person for not doing what we are. Instead, I’m simply giving information.

If you feel defensive or angry at some of these suggestions, that is not my fault. It is something for you to examine within yourself, on why you feel that way.

Then, once you have done that, take action and do something great for your city/town, province/state, community, and most importantly for yourself and your family!

Traditional Christmas Tree Alternative

This year we decided not to use our homemade Christmas tree . It’s pretty tall and a little difficult to fit in the house, especially now with the new puppy around. I don’t want to take any chances with him near it. It could go flying.

Instead, we are using a Ficus plant that I got when I was taking my Horticulture degree in university. This was one of the first things I got when I started living on my own and was a purchased from the Horticulture club on campus.

Use What You Have

Using a houseplant for a seasonal tree is very simple. The only concern is to us appropriate decorations. Obviously the branches on the Ficus are fairly sturdy but in order to avoid damaging anything you will have to minimize the number and weight of the adornments.

Also, if your plant does not have a nice pot to sit in, you may have to decorate that.

I didn’t do anything to the plant pot because there is a large surface area of soil and I need access to that for watering. The pot is just a left over one from a nursery plant that we had purchased and the tray underneath is an old aluminum pizza baking pan.

I know it doesn’t look great, and I may try to fix it up yet, but mostly I just look at the beautiful branches and lights.

It’s best to make sure that if you use electric lights, that you keep them away from the soil when you water.

Earlier this year I trimmed the tree’s branches away from the base and repotted it in a larger pot. The branches are now quite a ways up from the base which gives it a jaunty look.

If you have a larger plant in your house, why not try to decorate it for the season. You never know, it might grow on you.

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Redecorating Without Spending

I redecorate regularly by spending no money.

This is actually something that I have been doing since I was in elementary school in my childhood home.

My parents had little money, and certainly nothing to spend on decorating. For some reason, redecorating the house came naturally to me, and I did it regularly for almost two decades. I would simply move furniture around, and find things in boxes or closets that hadn’t been used. Occasionally, we bought things are yard sales – which didn’t cost much anyway – but most of the time it was what we already had.

When I got a little older, I started growing flowers in the yard, cutting them and drying them for the house. I also dried wildflowers from the ditch that I picked up when we were on holidays and used them in the house too.

Now my obsession continues.

Currently we have no more room for any new things in the house. I like to keep things to a minimum, such as it is. What I am using for decorating is what was already here or what I had before I moved here. Also, I am not repainting or staining anything. It has to look good just on it’s own without any adjustments.

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There are a few important rules that I follow when redecorating with no money.

Use what you have. There is an unbelievable force in our society that tells people to buy new things and if you don’t you’re not good enough and you may end up feeling guilty for not doing it. We actually don’t need to do that unless there is a real need for something like a vacuum cleaner, a new shower head, or a large appliance. Most other things we buy we can do without, especially if they are from stores that sell cheap things in large quantities. You know the ones I’m talking about.

There are so many things that can be bought nowadays that break right away, look cheap and provide you with no unique qualities for decorating. I avoid these things as much as possible. Unless I already have them, I don’t include them in your redecorating. Mass produced cheap knick knacks and even household items often have no real thought behind their production other than to make a quick dollar.

Your best bet for decorating is to use what you already have. I can pretty much guarantee that you have stuff in storage that you can use, no matter what it is: fabric, craft items, yard sale finds, old stuff, new stuff, almost anything.

To reuse things you have, you can follow some basic principles for no money re-decorating:

Don’t always leave out something or get rid of something you dislike. Often, there will be an item that you dislike or that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere in your house. Don’t necessarily get rid of it.  Obviously if you REALLY don’t like looking at something maybe don’t include it in your display, but sometimes things you may really hate can look different among certain other things. It really just depends. My suggestion is to try it first before discounting it. I find that it is better to wait a while and see if an object or placement of an object grows on you. Sometimes even a few days is needed to make a final decision.

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An example of something I disliked was the white (yellow) pot on the right. It looked kind of yucky but because it is vintage, I just couldn’t get rid of it. Then I paired it with it’s green friend on top of the stereo speakers and it worked!

I don’t try to match things. Matching colours or sizes of items is boring to me. I don’t go nuts with using bright colours or anything like that but new stuff and older stuff  can often work together or different fabrics and material can give neat contrasts. Just go with whatever you like and that usually will be right. Below you can see a small display I have on the top of my work desk. All items are finds, the green candle holder from a thrift shop, the glass holder and plant pot were already mine. They look good where I put them together even though they are completely different objects and unlikely partners.

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Moving things just slightly can make a big difference. I find I don’t always have to move EVERYTHING around to different places. Sometimes there will be an item that just doesn’t work and it’s removal or a change in position will fix it. Just offsetting one thing can also work wonders.

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In the picture above, you can see that the wall hangings are not quite in the right position – at least for me. This is a personal preference. Put or arrange things so that they are pleasing to your own eye. When I put these up, I used the nails that were already in the wall without moving them. If I want to fix them, I would move the  painting down a small amount. that would be all I have to adjust to make it look better.

I make sure to dust. Yeah right! Well, the intention is there. Dusting really makes things look better and makes you FEEL better about your house. Just regularly dusting some things can make a huge difference and gives the illusion of redecorating! It’s magic.

And there you have it. My simple but effective, (I think), ideas for redecorating without spending money. Everyone has a different style and preferences. Make sure to use yours when you are working on your house and it will always work out well for you.

Plywood Bathroom Sink Stand

Our bathroom has been in pieces for 2 years. It has taken us that long to dismantle, design, choose, and buy the stuff we needed to finish the project.

Actually, I am not really complaining. Our favourite thing when doing a project is to do it slowly. And that we did. We did that because we didn’t want to make any mistakes.

In the picture below, Ernie is varnishing the sink stand. He made it out of Maple plywood. We stained it with dark stain and then varnished it with water soluble varnish.

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The next picture is the bathroom mostly done. The sink was purchased at a hardware store and was really the only choice we had and it was in stock in the store. If we had to do it again, I would either order one that we knew was eco-friendly – if such a thing exists, or we would make our own out of something recycled. The plumbing is not done in the picture, that is why there is a rag hanging out of the wall. Obviously the sink tap is not cheap. We have found that often you get what you pay for so we spent some money on that.

The ceramic wall tiles were left overs at the store and they had enough for this surround. Ernie bought pine panelling for the wall behind the sink and a small section on the other end of the bathtub. This will be varnished with the water-soluble varnish as well. Just as an aside, the mirror in the picture was salvaged and Ernie made the frame from scrap wood. I varnished it.

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So from a homesteading perspective, I feel we did the best we could on the recycling/reusing side and the not spending too much side. Ernie did all the work himself and did it at a relaxed pace, not stressing himself out at all. It took several weeks but was worth the wait.

How To Make Your Own Unique, Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree

I decided to make our own Christmas tree so that we have a unique looking tree as well as be able to celebrate the beauty of nature in our home all year round. Yes, green trees are beautiful too, but this one lasts for years and is also super earth friendly.

It also cost nothing to make.

I found the branch on our 2 acre property which was deadfall from an old wild plum tree. Ernie made the stand out of scrap wood, 1X2’s and 3/4 inch plywood. You don’t have to be a woodworker to make this base or one like it. He used Philips head screws to attach the wood braces to the tree and the base. The important part is that the wood is quite light so it doesn’t need much in the way of strength for braces. Obviously, a live tree will be much heavier in weight and will also not last more than one season.

This was our main reason for choosing this type of tree – it is totally eco-friendly.

I covered the base with fabric that we already had. You could use anything that goes with your decor and I’ll bet you already have something in your house for this. Be creative.

This tree could even be made with a small branches from any tree that has fallen onto the ground. You can likely find branches like this anywhere, even in the city.

In fact I think a tiny tree made in this way could look extra cool for an apartment.

We keep our tree in the house year round and leave small lights on it for fun.

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