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!
When we go to yard sales in the summer, there are usually certain things that interest me right away. My large-holed grater was one of those things.
For years I used one that had smaller holes for cheese and other stuff, but the way it grated things so small kind of annoyed me. Especially food that was a little moist.
Previously, we used the four sided grater with the handle on top but the handle broke off from use and I was not going to by a new one only to have the same thing happen.
When I found this at a local yard sale I grabbed it immediately. I don’t actually remember how much it was – 1 or 2 dollars. I thought that was a bit steep but I took it anyway.
I use this to grate cheese on pizza, beets and carrots for soup, chili and salad.
The large holes grate things quickly. That’s why it saves time when you are making food. It also helps reduce cutting yourself with knives, which I have been known to do.
I don’t think there is anything toxic about these older graters. If anyone knows anything please let me know. This one is not rusty.
Check out my video description if you feel like it below:
We found this camera case at a local thrift store. The price was $2.00. We looked for camera cases in stores where they sell cameras, but the quality just wasn’t there. They were tacky and cheap looking and I was almost ready to MAKE one when we stumbled on this one, completely unexpected. Again, this reinforces in my mind NOT to bother buying brand new stuff if possible. We postpone buying for a while in case we find something better. This means you may have to make do for a while, but not forever.
This great waffle maker is decades old and was found by Ernie’s mother at a yard sale ages ago. We use it regularly. Homemade waffles are definitely worth making if you can. Our recipe comes from by baba’s old cookbook from 1958.
Here is the recipe:
1-1/4 cup flour – we use all whole wheat flour as it works just as well
2 tsp baking power
1 cup milk
2 egg yolks beaten thick
4 tbsp melted fat
2 egg whites beaten stiff
First whip up the egg whites in a separate bowl. You can do this by hand (takes a bit longer), or by machine. Then whisk flour and BP together really well. Combine milk, egg yolks and fat and mix well. Pour wet mixture into dry and stir until just mixed (don’t over mix). Then FOLD in egg whites. Cook on waffle iron.
We double this recipe when we make it so we have some to freeze. These waffles are even better when toasted. Eat with butter, maple syrup, fruit, nuts or whatever you like.
A few weeks ago the dryer quit working properly. It would still tumble but not heat. So we bought a new one and the old one got put out to wait to be picked apart. On a nice day Ernie (and the dogs) worked on salvaging some parts. The part that he figured was broken was way in the interior and the whole thing would have to be taken apart to get at it. That is why we opted for a new one instead of fixing this one. We normally don’t do that but did this one time. Ernie suggested we use the tub for a bonfire barrel which I think we will because we have been looking for one for awhile.
So much stuff goes in the garbage. Sure there is some stuff that is actually unusable, but the majority of items are reusable or recyclable. I’m sure most people have a story of something they have saved from another person’s garbage, from the garbage dump or from a family member.
To make a point, I am really interested in vintage decor. We have two vintage clocks. The first one was in this house when I moved in. It was my mother-in-law’s and was an electric clock with a cord and was not being used. We took the cord out and put in a battery mechanism. Sorry about the dust – it is in the dog room.
The second clock is even more spectacular. We found it at a flea market for 50 cents. The mechanism in it was original but didn’t work, so again we changed it and now have the most gorgeous clock.
Both clocks are made of plastic and both are made in the USA.
We have a small house because it is:
1. less to clean
2. an interesting older building (almost 100 years old) that has been renovated
3. saves us money because we own the house
4. reduces waste because we aren’t tearing it down to build a new one
Our decor is rustic/vintage. I will be discussing this in the next several blog posts.
The most important point here for homesteaders is that they use what they have. We didn’t tear down what we have to build something new to make it was more stylish or more impressive.
For example, we will start with the business. I groom, train and board dogs for a living. Most people who do this build new and make it as fancy as they can, usually a modern look. I decided to make the grooming and boarding area in a small section of the garage which is also the workshop. The whole garage is about 12 feet wide and 24 feet long. Because of the small size we have to make use of every but of space in a way that maximizes the storage capacity.
This is the boarding room or “dog room” as we call it. It is certainly not new, but it really works and instead in of tearing the whole thing down and re-building we are simply making changes with what we have. Everything that is in this room is made with recycled materials with the exception of the wood that goes up the wall.
The cupboards above the kennel were taken from a house I used to own and found a use here. The owner of that house actually MADE those cupboards himself out of plywood several decades ago.
You can see the large green fan on top of the kennels. This is an old fan but works perfectly and you can’t buy fans that are this sturdy that are made in North America anymore.
The sliding glass door that you can see on the far right was also salvaged from a relatives home as it was being thrown out. Works perfectly.
Sure the cement floor has a few divots in it but that is only cosmetic. It does not need to be replaced.
The only thing in this room that is not my favourite and needs some adjustments is the door. This is the only door we could find because the roof is low and the door had to be cut down to fit so a metal door which would be preferable will not fit. We are keeping our eyes open. For now this will do.