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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!

DIY Dog Bathtub

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 dog grooming 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. We put it on a homemade wooden stand and I lifted the dogs into the tub to bath them. This worked perfectly for quite a while.

Then one day we were driving around town and we passed by a cottage that had an old apartment sized metal bathtub sitting at the roadside. We took a closer look at it and decided it would replace our DIY tub. The DIY tub got put aside in the wood/junk pile.

WE NEED THAT TUB!

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 was using for grooming smaller dogs 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. The low table was originally a piece of 3/4 inch plywood with rubber matting on top with full length folding legs. To make it shorter, Ernie had to remove the folding feature of the legs, but it worked perfectly.

iragroom

Ira on the low table getting used to being brushed. You can see the higher bathtub that we found on the side of the road in the background.

The modifications

The tub needs to sit on some kind of stand or table. I also needed it low enough for the big dog to easily get into it.

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. He wouldn’t be able to hop over the lip of the tub and likely won’t want to either, so it had to be easy to get him in there.

iragroom3

Ira learning to climb into the tub. You can see the yellow top of the step he is using.

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 or pail 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.

tub2

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.  During a groom for a big dog, you will have to dump the pail at least a couple of times if not more.

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, or a place to put a tub underneath, it could go out the bottom of the tub onto the ground. This isn’t very eco-friendly especially if you use dog shampoo. If possible, make sure it goes into a manhole or sewer drain (which still isn’t perfect) but can be used if absolutely necessary.

tabletub

Here I’m working with Tommy who is heavy but nowhere near as heavy as Ira the Hungarian Kuvasz will be as an adult.

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 without 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!

 

 

 

How I Use My Time On The Homestead

Our homestead is unconventional but is one nonetheless.  It is one because we are homesteaders by vocation. We do the most we can for the environment, self-sufficiency and frugality.

To do and be all these things, it is important to have a daily routine that gets stuff done but is flexible to things that might come up. And things always come up.

Sometimes you just don’t feel like doing something. There is nothing really wrong with that. Feelings are facts, I always say. The only thing that absolutely needs to get done are those things that involve taking care of animals or if the garden is very weedy. The rest of the time I follow a schedule that removes the need to make too many decisions about what I need to do.

Morning:

I work from home, so in the morning I have to get my work done before I do anything else. This means I get up early (well early for me, just 7 a.m.) to work on the computer. I do that for an hour and a half. The quiet is what I need and the dogs and Ernie are still sleeping. There is minimal traffic noise. So at least I can get a good amount of work done first thing.

At 8:30 a.m. I feed the dog and myself. The new puppy is learning the routine now and doesn’t fuss in the mornings after breakfast. I work again from 9:00 – 10:00. From 10:00 – 10:30 the puppy gets a playtime and the other dogs a stretch, so that I can start working again from 10:30 – Noon.

Afternoon:

Since we don’t have any livestock other than dogs (yet), I spend the afternoon working with them. I train and video that and then edit and upload videos to YouTube. I may also at this time video something for Homesteading 101 as well.

When I start making supper around 4 p.m., things are a little more chaotic but still get done, because I am not thinking about all the other work I have to get done – it’s already done because I stuck to the schedule. This is where I can feel the benefit fully of getting work done in the morning. I haven’t had most of the day to think about what I haven’t done. When you have many things to do that are just regular routine things and are fairly unimportant (not talking about taking care of animals here), it is easy to let those things take over your time.

Evening:

This is the time I spend with Ernie and the dogs. If we feel like working on something and are not too tired, we do. If not we don’t.

thetwo

It took a while to get this schedule figured out, even though it’s pretty simple. I have made numerous schedules in the past, and have never been able to follow them. With this one, I seem to be able to make it work.

Maybe it’s because of the simplicity of it. I have no choices at certain times of the day. Removing other options of what to do reduces decision fatigue which I have found to be a real problem in the past. Because it seemed like there were so many things to do (even though they were unimportant), I became frozen – not knowing what to do first.

If I take care of the the thing that is most important to me first thing in the morning so that it gets done, I don’t have to worry about finding time later.  If I don’t do it first thing, it won’t get done.

So that is mainly how I manage my time on the homestead. Things that need to get done may change, but I will always remember to get the most important things done early.

How We Feed Our Homestead Dogs

Pets are an expense, with food and vet bills being the main issues. When I consider feeding my dogs on the homestead, I always feed the best food I can find. This doesn’t always mean pre-made, store bought food either.

The reason for this is simple.

Dogs need to eat well just like we do. What they eat affects their health. Having six dogs and many more over the years and being a pet professional, I have tried all kinds of store bought dog foods as well as those I prepared myself and I have seen many different kinds being fed to their dogs by clients.

What I’ve found is that on the homestead, the more food I can provide for my dog the better.

dogs

The dogs are waiting to find out what Ernie is making.

This is what we do for our own dogs on the homestead. All dogs are different and respond differently to foods. Know you own dog(s).

We Feed Dry Dog Food

Yes, we use a dry dog food for convenience. Yikes! Isn’t this the opposite of a homesteader’s thinking? In a way yes, and in a way no.

By yes, I mean that it is not self sufficient and likely NOT the most ideal thing for a dog. By no, I mean that I have always felt that our dogs need to be able to eat from many different sources. Often, I have worked with a dog who has been babied and won’t eat anything but certain types of food. I expose our dogs to many different kinds of foods and this includes a good quality dry food. But it is not our main source of food for the dogs.

If you want to and can feed your dog raw or only stuff from your homestead, perfect. It can be done and is the best way in my opinion to feed dogs. This is also a goal of mine.

I have fed raw in the past, but currently don’t have the access to the kind of meat I want to feed to six dogs. Supplies come and go around here. Also, two of my dogs are 15 years old and can’t chew bone anymore. They are starting to not want to eat, so I give them whatever I can that is tasty enough to interest them AND give them nutrients they need. Mostly, this comes from a can.

We Feed Cooked Fish

We buy canned salmon and sardines, and fish that was caught from the local area lakes. Don’t forget that if you are or want to be a “raw” feeder, canned fish is cooked and so is not raw. All fish caught in local lakes is cooked before feeding it to the dogs. You could probably feed it raw but it would have to be frozen for at least 3 weeks before feeding to eliminate parasites.

We Feed “Scraps”

All scraps have to be whole foods i.e. NOT processed meats, foods with additives etc. Our scraps include things liked cooked potato and other veggies, meat scraps like chicken, venison, beef, pork etc. If there is fat, we remove it and don’t feed it. Cooked fat is different from raw fat and has a different affect on the body for dogs. So eliminate cooked fat.

We also make dog treats such as cookies. It is easy to make your own dog treats and there are unlimited recipes to be found on the internet.

We Feed Meat From Local Sources

We get meat locally. The beef is grass fed from nearby ranchers and we get chicken from a woman who raises them herself. We used to get pork from a farmer but have not had any for a few years. Ernie also hunts during the season, and sometimes the dogs get extra deer meat, but we always freeze the deer for 3 weeks before feeding. The deer antlers are also given to the dogs instead of bones to chew, but can also cause cracked teeth so we need to be careful about that. If I feed bones they must always be raw. We only give chicken bones as we have had bad experiences feeding other bone.

If I feed raw meat only on one day, it is not likely to be an issue since the dogs are getting calcium from other sources on different days. I also feed the chicken parts with the bones. These include all parts of the chicken however, I am careful to feed appropriate sized bones to each dog. You must know your dog no matter what you are feeding.

One of my dogs can’t eat small chicken thighs without me breaking the bone in it ahead of time because she gulps it. But then she can’t eat larger bones either so I have to watch her. With my large dogs I have never had an issue with any of them eating bones because they are not gulpers.

Feeding raw meat exclusively without bone leads to nutrient imbalance and should not be done.

Other Fresh Foods

We also feed raw or cooked eggs. Eggs are like a multi-vitamin for dogs. The nutrient content of eggs doesn’t change much whether raw or cooked so I alternate.

If we have farm eggs, then we feed them raw and can feed the shells as well. The skin on the inside of the eggs has nutrients that benefits the dogs. If the eggs are boiled in the shells, we do not feed the shells as they become sharp when cooked. Eggs are like a vitamin pill for dogs.

In the fall we have apples from our trees and the dogs eat them right off the ground or are given one to eat. We make sure not to give too many so that they don’t eat too many seeds. Most seeds go right through because they don’t chew them, but just to be cautious we watch how many they eat. We also feed raspberries when they are available from our garden and blueberries when we can buy them in season.

Vegetables from the garden can include spinach, kale, parsley, and herbs.

Basically, we try to keep it simple and not rely too much on processed food from the grocery store.

Feeding the homestead dog a variety of foods is beneficial in several aspects.