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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!

How We Reduced Our Food Spending

Last month I told you about how we are attempting to spend less money on food. The result of our February experiment was that we spent $280 for the month which ended up being $109 less than February last year (2017). It’s also consistent with the $10 a day spending experiment that I have been doing to see if it is possible to eat well for $10 per day for two people. It IS possible.

The main things that made this possible were the following:

Eating in season. We bought blueberries when they were in season in the summer at a great price and then froze them for use now. We also froze most of our own fruit, including currants, raspberries and apples.

Not buying convenience foods. This is an obvious one. Convenience foods may look cheaper to start with but they are used up faster because the quality is poor. You end up spending more because you have to repurchase more often.

Eating a bit less. There is nothing wrong with eating less. I found this quite liberating. We were eating better quality food, and therefore not needing to eat as much because there were no cravings.

Cooking everything for ourselves. This is a must. I have found that eating at restaurants is actually not that fun for me. It’s really for convenience. I prefer the food that we make for ourselves, for the taste, the control of the quality, and time spent together. I know where the food is coming from and what goes in it.

Having a garden. Naturally, growing your own food is going to save you a bundle. It is more work for sure, but the quality of the food, at least in our case, is superior to anything we’d buy from the store.

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The Coming Months

We are continuing our spending freeze on food for the next two months at least to see if it can be kept up. We are definitely going to run out of potatoes this year but that should be about it and not sure if we’ll buy from the store when we do. We’d only buy if they are locally grown potatoes so we can’t predict if there will be many or any to buy in the spring.

Our source for meat is local, which provides us with grass fed beef, humanely slaughtered on farm, so we don’t need to buy meat at the store. This also saves us money. Even though we don’t eat much meat, I eat it for the energy it provides me. Not every one needs to do this but by the same token, not everyone can be healthy by eating only plants.

As an aside, but following the nutritional topic, our dogs eat a raw meat and whole food diet (no kibble or canned dog food). We are able to keep their meal costs to $100 per dog per month (more or less, as the dogs are different sizes and eat accordingly) which is extremely good.

So, all in all, our experiment is providing us with an interesting and useful pastime with a very good result so far.

DIY Garlic and Herb Dehydrator

This is the second year that we are using our homemade dehydrator.

Last year we used it to dry garlic for garlic powder and it worked amazingly well. We will still use it for that purpose, but right now I am using it to dry my herbs.

How To Make A Dehydrator From Junk

To make a dehydrator, all you need is a container with shelves, some trays and some air flow. We had a big cardboard box in the shed. Ernie built an insert with scrap wood to hold two trays, then cut a hole in the top back of the box to promote air flow.

The table is an old coffee table that we had in storage, and the trays are screens from old windows that are long gone. All saved items. The only thing that is new is the heater/fan. We use it on the no heat setting to move the air. A regular fan could be used if that is what you have.

This dehydrator works very well. Obviously you have to turn the herbs or garlic occasionally to promote even drying but that’s no problem.

Yes, it looks weird and is not appropriate for some decor (lol), but who cares. It was free and more junk is not getting put into the landfill.

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Don’t Throw Out Your Dried Up Garlic!

The garlic we use with this is what we know will not last the whole winter because there were worms in them or they drying out.

Never throw out garlic by the way, unless it is mouldy. Even if you have a small amount you can slice it into small pieces, put it on a plate, and let it air dry, turning it regularly. When it is dry, chop it in a small grinder.

The herbs dry faster in the dehydrator than just being air dried, but we use both methods on all of our herbs.

Isn’t it much better to know where your garlic powder and dried herbs come from and how they were processed rather than buying them?

 

Eating Well On Little Money Part 2

Over a year ago, I did an experiment of sorts in my kitchen. Using the local Co-op weekly sales flyer, I chose food items up to $10 per day to see if a family of two could feed itself well on that amount.

The problem I have found is that eating “well” is a subjective term. Some people think that eating well means eating at restaurants or buying as much convenience food as they want. OR it could mean a certain quality or price of food.

All this is just avoiding learning how to eat well for less. It can be done.

To remind ourselves from the last post: The daily food purchases for Day One and Day Two are as follows:

Day 1: Eggs, Butter, Pasta (made from white flour, not great but that is what we used for now), Salt.

From this you could eat for the day and if you did have some condiments such as ketchup or left over from previous purchases of food you could use those to spruce things up.

At our food store, this all cost $9.54 cents. At other stores you could get it for less, I’m sure, but that is not part of the project.

The point is use what is available.

The belief is often that you can’t eat well and cheap, locally.

Day 2: Carrots, Banana, Potatoes, Onion, Barley. Cost: $10.00

With the ingredients from these two days, I made a vegetable soup that was unbelievably good.

So now you have pasta and soup with some fruit.

We figured out that our soup cost us 38 cents a serving while a store brand, canned, cream of mushroom soup cost about 24 cents. However, the nutritional content of the canned soup is clearly lower. Eating this canned food is NOT what I would call eating well.

I expect that some people don’t know how to make soup from scratch, and therefore think that they have to buy canned and therefore can’t eat well.

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The key to eating this way is to learn how to cook. It’s as simple as that, or as difficult.

Cooking for oneself takes time and effort, just like anything else worthwhile.  Our society has moved away from that. The focus is on ready made, packaged foods. You get addicted to these and the convenience of them. They are part of the disconnect between how people work and how people live. They are easy and simple – and not nourishing.

I am not saying this to point the finger of blame at anyone or of how people live, just a statement of fact. My goal is to educate people to see that it is not as difficult as they might believe and to encourage a bit more food security into their lives – learning how to prepare their own food. That is the whole point of this blog.

Many people go to jobs daily that suck the life out of them. They are then exhausted and don’t have the energy to prepare good food for themselves. There is a different way.

This happened to Ernie during his working life in the big city. Work was from 7 am to 3 pm. Luckily his commute was only about 20 mins each way, but at the end of the work day he would go home and sleep for an hour before eating a meal or two hours after the meal. When he changed his life from working at this job, his food selections changed as well.

Working at something you don’t feel good about or are not connected with depletes your energy just like eating crappy food. I know, I’ve done both.

If you feel defensive when reading this post you may not be secure in your food or other choices. Please don’t post a negative comment. The intention is not to try and insult you (I am not that much in control of your thinking anyway ;-).

There are people who need help and it is to those people that this post is directed. Thanks you.

I will continue this experiment as planned and post the results here shortly – with a few modifications. Day 3 and 4 will be posted on soon.

How To Start Homesteading (Without A “Homestead”)

Something that I have always believed about a person’s life is that each one of us has to do what is right for us (even when I was not doing that in my own life). Sometimes this means we do something right away without planning and sometimes it means we wait a bit and concentrate on what we have.

It is a personal choice.

What I do know for sure is that if you have an overwhelming sense of restlessness about something and you keep hesitating on taking action, something will eventually occur that will make a change for you.

Homesteading was that for me and I know it is for many others as well.

Homesteading to me means that you have a certain mindset, one that includes but is not limited to frugality, traditional lifestyle techniques, growing your own food, concern for nature and the environment.

Every homesteader has a different way of living and doing things. Some beliefs about homesteading however, are inaccurate. One of these is that a person needs to be in a certain place to do this.

Homesteading is a state of mind.

If you feel that you want to homestead or live a different more sustainable lifestyle you don’t need to move anywhere.

Just start right where you are.

As I have said before, homesteading (as a state of mind) is how person sees the world and what she/he does in it – NOT what property you own. It is a way of living more simply and being more deliberate about what you do. Sure, you can have goals for your future homestead but that does not need to stop you from working with what you have. And actually, it’s imperative that you start with what you have from a “manifesting your homestead” sort of perspective.

There are so many things that you can do right where you are that would technically qualify as homesteading activities.

A: Plant a garden.

No, you do not need to have any space outdoors at all. Start with planting your food flavourings – basil, oregano,thyme, multiplier onions etc in a container on your window sill. Buy some seed and a small bag of soil and plant them (or save seed from the fruits and vegetables you buy from the store and plant those. You will need to get organic or open pollinated types of plants to do this really well).

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B: Don’t throw everything away.

To grow a herb garden in your apartment, you don’t need to buy any fancy pots. Start by using plastic food tubs that no longer have food in them. I know you have those. Make smallish drainage holes on the bottom and find a reusable tray to put it on to catch the water. Styrofoam meat trays work really well for this. Just make sure you scrub them well with soap and water.

C: Find multiple sources of income.

It is a really good idea to not have all your income come from one source. The reliance on one employer or one method of making money is what gets many people in trouble with regards to debt and making payments. The feeling of security from an employer can over ride sensible thinking.

An example of this is when I was working at the local nursing home. A woman who I worked with had applied for a position in the care home. She already had a job there but it was for fewer hours than the new position.

Since no one else applied, she figured she was a shoe-in for the position and she and her husband went and purchased a brand new truck on payments. The woman who was giving up her position changed her mind and kept it so the first woman didn’t get the position. She was very upset and blamed the other woman for her problem.

Relying on one source of income can be problematic when you spend more than you make or have payments that need a job to be paid.

D: Spend less.

This is a given for a homesteader. The point of homesteading (I feel) is to enjoy life more without spending money on everything you see, to be more connected to nature and more conscious about what you are doing in day to day life. One of the things that we do here is buy only what we absolutely need. We rarely buy “wants” because we have trained ourselves to rethink a want before purchase.

For example, I have a large amount of yarn for knitting and crocheting. I don’t need anymore. Sure it’s tempting to purchase yarn for that really cool sweater. But I don’t need anymore sweaters. I have several. I am not trying to impress anyone with my new sweater, which is essentially what buying something you want is for.

E:  Don’t be influenced by those who are not doing.

When someone says something negative about your new pastimes (pickling, soap-making, herb growing, your expressed desire to move to your own land…), ignore them. You need to keep in mind what your goals are and don’t listen to anyone else. Unless the person giving their opinion has been in the EXACT same pair of shoes your are in, they have no right to say anything.

Never take advice from someone who’s life is not your ideal life.

Your life is your own and what someone else says about it is irrelevant because the comment is not related to you at all. It comes from that person’s own psychology.

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I remember one time my aunt had a older couple visiting. At the time I had really started to get into dogs and dog training. As we were standing around talking the man started picking on me about cleaning up after the dogs (poop-scooping).

He had spent his whole life shovelling livestock crap and he couldn’t understand how anyone would want to pick up any from any animal. He just couldn’t get over how I could do this.

This is not important information. This is purely emotional, based on how much he hated shovelling manure and that he spent his whole life at it. Therefore, to him, no one else should ever do that again.

In order to validate his own dislike of something, he tried to disempower me with negative questioning and ridicule and make himself feel better.

This is not information that would help me accomplish my goals.

I didn’t reply with any fabulous comment to clarify why I pick up dog poop, but his words did serve to make me feel bad – that maybe I was doing something wrong by liking dogs.

My response to him now would be something like “everyone is different” or “not everyone has a problem with poop”, or if I really wanted to be sarcastic perhaps “does that include dirty diapers?”.

Anyway, you get my point. Don’t listen to ANYONE who is talking negative about what you are doing. You are on your own path and must follow that.

So, the most important thing is not what you do to start homesteading. It is that you START and not worry about other people’s opinions of you or what you are doing.

If it is what you really want to do you will do it and if you don’t you will find out soon enough.

 

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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