Tag Archive | Reusing

Getting Serious About Protecting Our Planet

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.

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 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.

  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. 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.
  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 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!

 

The Greenhouse Is Done – But You Don’t Really Need One

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.

corn

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.

Just start.

onioninpot

Multiplier onion growing in a reused plastic “pot”.

Vintage Knitting Book Is Gold

Today’s vintage item is my knitting book printed in 1947. This book was my mother-in-law’s and was here when I moved in. Likely she bought it at a yard sale or auction, along with a bunch of other things, but we really don’t know where it came from.

Either way, it is well used.

From a knitting standpoint this book is gold, but that is not the only reason I love it.

It is full of great information not only about knitting but about life at the time it was written. At the time of publication, women were getting back to being housewives, many after having worked while the war was on.

Some of the text in the book is quite dated with regards to how women were seen at that time in society. I do not feel bad about that, as I feel things have changed considerably, although maybe not completely.

My mother-in-law did not have her husband away during that time, and continued on in her role as a homemaker. She had just had her third child (out of 8) and did some knitting, mostly so that the children had clothes.

I wish I knew more about how she obtained this book, if she used it much and why she kept it. Unfortunately, access to that information is gone.

I use the book a lot. It stays in my current knitting project bag and I refer to it regularly. Even some of the patterns that do not seem practical are fascinating, like the knitted skirt. I can see how it would be to adapt this to a more modern look and usage.

I’m glad no one threw this book away. Things like this are sometimes at risk of being tossed just because they seem old and not relevant anymore, which couldn’t be more further from the truth.

There is always something contained within old or vintage things that is worth learning.

book2

 

 

Junk Art Reduces Waste

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.

http://washedashore.org

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.img_0114

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.

 

Seasonal Lights Issue

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.

lights3

The lights in the box do not work and have to be thrown out.

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.

NONSENSE.

lights1

Ira the Kuvasz playing in the light of the Christmas lights display in the back yard.

 

 

Make A Dog Bathtub From A Livestock Trough

When I first started grooming dog 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 if I was bathing their dog in a livestock water or feed trough!

We purchased the tub at a farm store in the city an hour away and used it just as it was. 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 trough got put aside.

Now we have a puppy who will be a big dog. Already I can’t lift him into the bathtub anymore by myself. At 5 months he is 55 lbs. He will be between 110 and 120 lbs at maturity.

So we get to reuse the trough 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.

tub2

When I am done wetting or rinsing the dog, I simply have to lift the bucket into the other tub and dump it. 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.

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 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!

 

 

 

The Garden So Far

I know it is probably a boring post to make but I am showing off our garden this year. We were’t sure if there would be much of one, since we weren’t going to be planting as much, but it looks like the garden is doing what gardens do – GROW.

Firstly the cucumbers we plant are a heirloom variety, although we don’t have a name for them since they came over at the beginning of the 20th century with the settlers from Ukraine. Ernie used field fencing and salvaged metal poles from the dump this year for them to climb on.

garden1

Then the corn and onions look pretty good too. We’ve had quite a bit a rain this year and everything is so green. Corn is not usually this large at this time of year here simply because of the lack of heat. But hopefully we will have an amazing crop.

 

Umm, well you know about horseradish. This is one of those plants that is not used very often but grows like crazy just to make a point. Beautiful though. And shading some volunteer garlic that doesn’t seem to care.

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And finally the whole garden which looks amazing because of Ernie’s obsession with weeding. Thanks goodness!

garden4

There you have it!

Junk Crafting – Painting Supplies

Anything that we do here in our little urban homestead we try to do as eco-friendly and as frugal as possible. I know it’s difficult to be truly “eco-freindly” but one has to give it a good go anyway.

So for my new hobby, as I have said in a previous post, I have started learning to paint in both watercolour and acrylic. This requires some supplies like brushes, paint and some other tools. Not exactly your most eco-friendly stuff.

One of the things that I can use junk as a substitute for is my painting palettes. Right now I am using two different pieces of junk. One is half of an egg carton lid, which an be used over and over for acrylic paint. The other is a old plastic makeup kit box, likely from the 1960s, that Ernie found in the back shack. I pulled the mirror our of it and use it for mixing watercolours.

trayeggcarton

The third thing that I am using as canvases is scrap pine panelling cut into small pieces as a sort of canvas. Using acrylic paint, I am making scenes of local landmarks and plan on using them as tree ornaments. Rather than buying canvases I am making my own and produce unique, local art that has appeal to the local tourist market.

painting2

We also use thin sections of tree branches – maple, birch, even poplar as painting canvases. These are taken from either dead fall trees or trimmed branches both from our own property so nothing is wasted or cut down unnecessarily.

painting1

As a final canvas idea, which I can’t take credit for because it was my cousin’s, are smooth stones. Here are some of my cousin’s (who’s name is Rocky of course 😎 – seriously it IS), creations. I have started doing this as well but I’m not as good as this yet.

painting3

So there you have it. Several ways to save money, reduce waste and be creative at the same time.

Reusing Junk – A Homemade Camera Accessory

This past summer, we found a small camera tripod at a thrift store. It was in great shape and was $10. Ernie bought it as soon as he saw it.  The only thing missing was the part that attached the camera to the tripod.

tripod1

Yes, I know this is a crucial part of the whole thing, but the solution was pretty easy to figure out.

All that was needed was a thick piece of plastic attached to the base of the camera. The plastic part had to fit into the top of the tripod and hold tight inside the clip.

Ernie found a piece of thick plastic from an old tripod and matched the size and shape to the opening of the camera holder on the tripod. He did this by filing it down with a regular hand file and a small hack saw.

He then used a short wide screw to attach it to the bottom of the camera, which has the standard attachment point like all cameras.

tripod2

As you can see, its not perfect. But it works and it is not noticeable from the top.

tripod3

Anytime you have a chance to pick up something that is possibly missing a part, consider how much you will save compared to how much time you have to put into making the missing part. Often you will find that it won’t take long and could save you a bunch of time and money.

Reusing Metal Coat Hangers

Our radios are broken. Well, mostly the antennas, but without them we can’t get evening jazz music. So I asked Ernie if he could figure something out for new antennas, and of course he used metal clothes hangers.

We have a box full of the just sitting in the back shack, waiting for projects like this.

radio2

Radios before.

radio1

After

radio4

After

The hanger does not stay on the blue radio on is own  and needs to be held, unless propped up against something such as is  shown in the photo. The grey radio holds the hanger nicely while standing.

Our conclusion: keep your metal clothes hangers.