This morning when I woke up, I had this blog post already written in my head. As I scanned it while thinking about it, I knew I had to get up and write it down immediately. This is a long post, but important and necessary. I also apologize to anyone who is a dedicated blog post reader and has heard this all before. I think I need to reiterate it to remind myself.
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 province 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Support ethical and low-intensity animal farming for meat. 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. 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. 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 at all.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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 in your way 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.
I’m going to address each of the things above in much more detail in regular blog posts starting today (well yesterday, May 1st 😉). It won’t be a daily post, but it will be posted!
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, 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!
Up until about seven or eight years ago, I felt that I needed to be externally acceptable to others, especially those in my age group. Probably most if not all of you have felt the same way at some point. For me, this came through in the form of wearing trendy clothes, having to keep my hair a certain way and wearing makeup. If I didn’t, I would feel stressed that I was not socially acceptable.
The whole trying to fit in thing started when I was in elementary school and continued on through high school. In university, I held back a bit more with the makeup, but still obsessed about hair and clothes. When I reached my over 40 years, I realized that the thing that was most important to me about fashion and style is that I need to be able to be relaxed at all times in my clothes. This means that I need my clothes and hair to be clean and comfortable and that’s pretty much it.
Personal style is not normally influenced by fashion but it can be. By today’s standards, you should be able to wear pretty much whatever you want, no matter what the trend is at the time. That’s what I do now when it comes to clothes. Hair and skin care for this homesteader has also had a transformation to the frugal and basic kind.
Almost a year ago, I decided I want to live in an even more eco-friendly or sustainable way. This means I want to use as few personal care products as possible and the ones I do use are basically things I can make myself.
I started a while back by committing to only buying products that are made in North America. I actually used this rule for buying things for the home to start and continued it over into the beauty product area as well.
My first discovery of frugal, eco friendly skin care was done by accident. I was trying to get to the point of having cold showers in the morning. I started by using a hot and then cold cloth on my face and neck to get used to the idea of shockingly cold water. This routine had the result of eliminating any pimples I had been getting on my chin and forehead. If I stopped the face cloth routine for more than a week, I would start getting pimples again. This was something I had not anticipated but was pleased about because it solved an issue that was somewhat annoying.
This became my skin care routine and I didn’t have to buy anything new. When I was in high school I went through the buying of skin care products because it seemed like the thing to do and some girls and women are certain they can’t get along without numerous products. I wonder whether putting all kinds of chemicals on one’s skin is not part of the problem.
Shortly after I started this routine, I decided to try the “no shampoo” thing again. I had attempted it a year and a half ago but quit when I saw that it was not working as fast as I had read it should.
This time around, I didn’t stop. The initial result were the same – my hair stayed oily for months and still has periods of being heavily greasy, but there are fewer of those times now than before. When I think about it now, it makes sense that some people will have trouble with this method, especially if you have spent decades washing your hair every day with shampoo. In my case it was well over 40 years of stripping the natural oils from my scalp. That can’t be good for you.
In order to make this work, you need to find the right combination of water temperature, brushing and combing that works for your hair. What was described on informational websites about hair did not work for me. I was not going to buy the recommended “boar” brush due to the fact the I could not find one that was made in North America. Instead I use a vintage wooden handled plastic bristled brush I found here in the house made in France.
The brush does need to be washed regularly as you can see in the picture above to remove the oil that is removed from your hair.
My hair has now started to slow down on the oil production and I have also become better at caring for it in its natural state. It is not shiny (fake) like it was when I removed the oil from it, but it is also not as greasy at the end of the day as when I was washing with shampoo daily. It was definitely over-producing oil then. Sometimes I felt I needed to wash it twice, morning and evening, to get rid of the oil.
Other benefits of this hair care method are that I don’t have to use conditioner now, I never get staticky hair anymore or knotted hair from the wind, AND my split ends are gone.
I do have to be a bit more creative at times about how I wear my hair because it is thicker and still shows a bit of oil in certain styles. But I never have bad hair days anymore which is amazing to me. It used to drive me nuts because my hair was so flyaway when shampooed that it would mostly just be impossible to keep in one place. Now it stays where I put it. Surprisingly, there is no odor in hair washed well with water, or at least with mine anyway. Oh, and my scalp is not itchy all the time either like it used to be when I used shampoo – another benefit.
So, my homestead “beauty” routine is as natural as I can make it. As for traditional beauty products, I can’t stand the smell of nail polish anymore so I don’t wear it and I still have a few dozen unfinished bottles of it. With regards to makeup, a few years ago I started getting watery eyes from anything I put on or any scent that was in foundations. This makes it easy not to wear any makeup at all.
No makeup, no perfume, no purchased hair or skin products. That is my homestead skin and hair care routine.
Our greenhouse is finished. Well, except for painting the trim. The plants that have been in there so far this summer are growing somewhat faster than those outside, but I feel this is likely due to transplant shock of those that were put out.
As I have said before this greenhouse was built with mostly scrap/recycled/savaged materials with the exception of a few pieces of wood and the roof plastic. Even the vinyl siding was salvaged from the dump.
It is functional, not bad looking and seems to be working well.
As for the plants that are growing inside, they are also doing quite well. We have tomatoes, peppers, and herbs in there as well as outside on the patio.
This is all really an experiment for me. I wanted to try to grow vegetables in pots, in and outside of the greenhouse, to see if and how easily it could be done here in our climate.
What I have found is that it is easy to grow your own food in pots on balconies or outside on your patio. The easiest things I have found to grow are herbs, onions, obviously tomatoes, peppers, kale… well everything really.
I even have corn growing in two pots just to see if it would work. And yes it works.
Recently, several people have complained to me about the increased prices at the grocery store, particularly vegetables. Of the people who complained to me, some lived in the city and some lived in rural areas.
I can understand that there will be certain places in urban areas in which it will be difficult to have any kind of outdoor space for plants. But everyone has an indoor place for one plant.
So there is really no excuse not to do this except that you are completely set against doing it.
Why should I grow my own food? Isn’t it time consuming?
My answer to this is, no. But it IS a lifestyle. My opinion ( if it matters) is that everyone should learn how to grow SOMETHING of their own, even if it is just flowers or houseplants. I believe tending to garden, even a small one, is an important part of being human. But you don’t have to start out growing everything at once. And of course if you don’t want to that is your choice. Just don’t complain to me about the price of food.
When you learn how to grow even the most simple and small amounts of food for yourself, you are connecting to nature, you can control where some of your food comes from and you learn something new every time you plant something. This last point is the most important one of the three in my mind.
What to grow
Growing your own herbs is the best way I have found to start growing food. You can grow all of the oregano, basil, coriander, parsley and dill you need for a whole year in pots in a small space. Parsley can grow inside all winter in a sunny window, and early in the year you can start coriander (cilantro), dill and even small onions in pots to pinch for fresh flavour in your cooking.
Multiplier onions can provide green onions before they mature AND just the greens if you want. If you leave them to mature, the bulbs can be saved and planted at another time. There is really no way to make a mistake in planting them.
Other really useful plants to plant in pots are tomatoes and peppers. They take a little more attention, especially pruning for the tomatoes but nothing that can’t be handled.
Tomatoes never have to go bad because if you grow too many because you can freeze them whole and use them anytime during the non-growing season.
Anyway, I’m not getting rid of my greenhouse just because I don’t need it. I love it and will use it to start the large amount of veggies we need each year.
But it is time for people to take matters into their own hands and start growing some of their own food if only just to eat something amazing.
Our main focus on the village homestead is to reduce consumption of stuff we don’t need. That doesn’t include what we eat though.
We are actually increasing the amount of vegetables, including herbs that we grow ourselves. This means we need more containers for planting, growing medium and trays to put the containers in. We also need more space.
This year we decided it was time to have a greenhouse to support these plants. Since finally starting a business dealing with herbs and garlic, I felt it was now unavoidable to build one.
Ernie drew up a couple of plans and looked in a few books and we designed a greenhouse based on where it will be situated and the materials we had. We wanted to use as much of what we already had as possible.
Using What We Have
Over the years, Ernie has saved old windows that were replaced on the house, all kinds of wood, pieces of siding, nails and screws, and many other things that might come in handy for building. The only things that we were missing for this project were the concrete for the footing (which we didn’t really need), the roofing, which will be purchased fibreglass panels and some miscellaneous pieces of wood like some studs and a piece of plywood.
The door is even the old front door from the house. Nothing goes to waste.
We chose a slanted roof because it would be more efficient for collecting water. The tall side is north facing and has the door but no windows. There will be enough light from the other three sides. Rain water will be collected on the one side or go into the raspberries in the ground around the greenhouse. Water will not collect on the north side where we will be entering.
My plan is to grow certain plants in the greenhouse all summer. These will be the tomatoes that I want to save seeds from in particular (heirloom), and some herbs that need the heat.
Since the building is not completed yet, I will be posting again on the progress and then on how I am filling it up with plants. Ernie figures it should be done over the weekend.
I am currently collecting our garbage. I know that sounds weird but I hope to show that it will be useful and creative.
The Project Material
The stuff I am keeping from the garbage is anything that is plastic or ceramic and occasionally very small bits of metal. This includes plastic bags, packaging, anything that is ceramic and has broken or things that don’t work anymore.
I am also keeping plastic packaging from food like the wrapping from sardine or salmon cans, as long as it does not have food particles on it.
All of our wood is used for burning or is reused in another project and paper is recycled so there are never any of those materials. Also, some of the plastic we have can be recycled so I won’t be using it if it can be taken to the recycling depot.
There are many others who do junk art with plastic garbage, namely from the project “Washed Ashore” who collect plastic garbage from the ocean and create amazing sculptures with it. Check out their website.
The plastic they use has mostly been broken up from larger items from sun and water exposure. They also have a larger supply to collect from.
I am simply going to use what we ourselves throw out and in the state that it is currently in for the most part. Though if I think I can make use of something by breaking it up I will do so.
The Result So Far
What I have noticed is that our garbage cans have hardly anything in them. Actually, it’s mostly dust. There are the occasional food wrappers that can’t be cleaned as well because I can’t use those in junk art.
The point of doing this is that I no longer want to participate in throwing out as much garbage as we do. We have already reduced our trash by a huge amount since we compost and recycle, but for me it is not enough.
I just can’t do it anymore.
The main thing that annoys me about garbage or things that we throw out is that a lot of it is good stuff that stops working. You can see in the box two flashlights – both in good condition – but neither work. Ernie tried to fix them but can’t.
Also, the green strap belongs to a headlamp for camping that now will only flash it red light. It won’t work properly. Very, very wasteful.
I am hoping that saving “useful” garbage will actually produce a good result – a nice junk art sculpture – but I really have no idea if it will or not. Either way, I am going to have a nice collection of stuff and keep it out of the dump for now.
I also hope that I will inspire myself to reduce what I buy and use even more. Since I am focusing more on experiences in life rather than things, this might help.
Oh, and this exercise (or blog post) is in no way trying to criticize anyone who doesn’t feel the same way I do about garbage. I don’t think I need to say anything because the amount of garbage speaks for itself.
Happy Reusing and Recycling.
This kind of a complaint blog post. I apologize in advance. There is not really any useful information in this post.
I have an issue with the LED lights that are used at this time of year.
We have a box full of strings of LED lights that don’t work. Some of them have been around here for several years but the majority of them didn’t work almost from the very start. This is highly annoying.
And extremely wasteful.
I have decided that this wastefulness will no longer continue here at our house.
We put up all of the lights that work in an acceptable display. However, half of the lights we used were NOT LED lights but the old incandescent lights. THESE WORK.
The plan is to keep using the lights – no matter what kind we have – until they are all gone or don’t work. We won’t be replacing them.
This is part of our contribution to the earth of reducing consumption. Yes, I know we are using power to light these up, but we are not going to throw the good ones away just because of that. We have them and we will use them.
Then we won’t buy anymore.
I feel that throwing away the lights that don’t work is MORE wasteful than the power we use to light them.
Two days ago, my aunt told me a woman who lives here in the village told her she watched as a couple across the street put up their lights on their house. She related that every time a string of lights didn’t work – INTO THE GARBAGE THEY WENT. EIGHT TIMES.
There was no attempt to fix them, they just got chucked.
I did some research and found many articles on how to fix these lights but they did not mention that almost every set has a different end and DOES NOT FIT into the socket. We have tried and failed every time. And we are talking about Ernie failing to fix something which just doesn’t happen.
This is wasteful and if I may say kind of, almost, unethical to make a product that can’t be fixed and gets thrown away when it doesn’t work. And then on top of that saying that they are more earth-friendly.
When I first started grooming dogs for a living, I did it fast, so I didn’t have much time or money to get all the supplies I needed at the highest quality. Thank goodness we live in an area in which most people didn’t care what I was bathing their dog in!
My first bath tub was a true DIY. We purchased a livestock tub at a farm store in the city an hour away and used it just as it was, with a hole cut out of the bottom for a drain. One day we were out for a drive in the village and on a road near some cottages someone had put an old bathtub out for garbage. It was a small apartment sized tub – not a regular sized one – but it was perfect for my use.
So we took it and the DIY trough bathtub got put aside.
When we got our new dog – Ira – a Kuvasz, I knew eventually I would have to have a tub lower to the ground. At 5 months of age he was 55lbs and I couldn’t lift him into the high bathtub anymore by myself. So we made some modifications to the DIY trough bathtub so I could use it on a low grooming table that Ernie refashioned (will discuss that in a different post 😎)
Because we can’t lift Ira the Kuvasz into any tubs we have to get him to walk up a ramp or use a step to get into the tub. This means the tub had to be cut in the back in order to make it easy for him to do this. Hopefully he won’t have a problem after training wanting to enter the bathtub for a bath!
Ernie used a reciprocating saw to cut a section out of the end of the tub. The tub will sit on the low table when we need it.
He fashioned a drain out of left over pieces of plumbing supplies. It is a good idea to keep these things around just in case. And a good idea to learn how to figure things like that out.
The drain simply lets the water into a rubbermaid container underneath. This is all we have for now since there is no floor drain and the drain for the other tub is too high to allow for proper drainage.
Ernie also cut an old rubber tube in half that he had in his junk drawer and put it over the edge of the opening cut. This is where the dog will enter the tub.
When I am done wetting or rinsing the dog, I simply have to lift the bucket underneath into the other tub and dump it down the drain. Hopefully it won’t weigh more than 55 lbs! Actually, I’ll probably just use a smaller bucket to transfer water into the other tub until it is light enough to lift.
If you bath dogs a lot, it’s a good idea to put a catch over the drain to prevent too much hair from going down and plugging things up. As a pro groomer we are required by law to have that in place for our drains.
If you don’t have a drain for the water to go down, it could go out the bottom of the tub onto the ground, but this isn’t very eco-friendly. If possible make sure it goes into a manhole or sewer drain (which still isn’t perfect) but can be used if absolutely necessary.
The main thing about this tub is that it is not just on the ground and any dog that will be bathed in it will need to become accustomed to being in it and getting sprayed with water. If you do some work ahead of time with out water and with some yummy food almost any dog can learn to step up into the tub with no problem for the dog or you.
This tub could obviously be used for other pets and washing other things as well. The limits are only made by one’s imagination.
I prefer reusing things as much as possible. This is one way we do our part to be kind to nature. We have stuff and we don’t throw it out if at all possible. If we hadn’t used this for a bathtub it would definitely be used for something else. Maybe to grow plants in?
Happy Reusing Stuff!
Ernie put the finishing touches on a new pine shelf for the dog food bowls and utensils. This one was, of course, made from left over or scrap wood. It was stained with leftover stain and the varnished with water-based varnish.
I wanted a shelf there to keep the top of the washing machine clean. I have been putting the dog bowls there are preparing their meals there which usually makes a mess. Then it becomes difficult to clean when there are a whole bunch of things on top of it.
This will solve a whole heap of problems, and hopefully won’t create any!