Category Archives: Clean Planet

Authentic Living: The Ego’s Ruin

I recently had a sweet, very dear friend tell me she couldn’t believe we moved from 2500 square feet, down to just 900. We didn’t have to do it, but I explained that I really liked it because of the peace of mind- fewer expenses, smaller ecological footprint, lower bills, less to clean and maintain, etc (the list is endless). ‘Less to clean’ has been a huge plus for me as a busy mom. My friend seemed amazed, and said she wouldn’t be able to do it because of her ego. Ego? For some reason that never entered the picture for us. We’d honestly never even thought of it. Of course, we have egos. I’m closely acquainted with mine, her name is Edna, and I keep her in check regarding other matters. But Daniel and I have never been about appearances, or what others think of us, and we don’t need a large, fluffed-up or fancy home to feel like valuable, important human beings. Granted, we do believe a home should be reasonably clean, arranged well, and that natural beauty is of great importance to our overall well-being. Those aren’t rooted in the ego so much as a general sense of self respect and a need for nature, order, and balance.

The little conversation sparked some thoughts because I’m sure she isn’t the only one reading our blog who thinks what we’ve done is probably difficult, strange, or an ego-blow. I recall sitting across the table with another friend last year and informing her of our recent move. She wanted to know all about the house, our amenities, and what part of town we’re in. She’s very into ‘prosperity consciousness’ which teaches we can have anything and everything we desire if we just set our intentions properly, and trust in the flow of the universe. Amen to the power of our minds, especially when aligned with our true calling. I strongly believe in that philosophy since I’ve experienced many results first-hand. However, the majority of people in  that movement (at least the people I’ve met) make lists of all the material things they want to acquire. That’s fine if it’s what you want, and if it’s where you’re at in your personal process, but it’s so far from my galaxy of thinking and desires that I tend to confuse that crowd. After explaining our scale-down move to my friend last year, she looked at me with the most puzzled and disgusted look (lip curling) and said, “Why on earth did you do that??!” To her, we should be striving for more, not less. After all, we are entitled to all of God’s riches and glory… right? Well, to me, God’s riches and glory do not lie in this world. Not one iota. My only response to that question is “Why the heck not??!” My other friend had it right– the ego just doesn’t get it.

For those who would walk into our cozy, little house, lip curled, unimpressed and puzzled, let me just say we live in a way that is in complete alignment with our beliefs. In doing so, we’ve experienced a level of happiness that far exceeds anything we’d experience with granite countertops, jacuzzis, a tiled foyer, finished basement, 3-car garage, or mammoth master suite. I spend very little time having to clean up the house, and every square inch gets the love and attention it deserves because there’s less of it. Oh yeah! I love the ‘less’ part. Every corner is valuable and sacred. Our family is 110% closer and more intimate; we talk to one another constantly, and I can monitor what my kids are doing easily. We have the huge, tree-lined 3/4 care yard we’ve always wanted instead of a massive and cumbersome home to maintain on an average, limiting lot. The regenerative, therapeutic value of being outdoors far outweighs any desires to materially impress myself or anyone else. My yard impresses me. The earth with her intensity, beauty, cycles and seasons impresses me from our sun room windows. The grandeur is in  the natural world for us, which isn’t easily noticed and doesn’t always impress people. That’s perfectly okay with me, considering I love the feeling of having a secret oasis. We like it simple.

I’d like to add that we have no problems with those who choose to live differently. We don’t think we’re holier than thou, or better than anyone else. We just wanted to simplify our lives drastically in order to experience more peace, happiness, and freedom, and it worked. We’re not selling anything at all, and don’t make a dime from our blog… we’re just passing along what’s worked for us, and why. There have been more than a few folks who have gotten rather defensive with me about their lifestyles, even when we’re not even on the topic. Seriously, they just blurt out, out of the blue, that they don’t like clothes lines, gardening or the smell of chickens, and need way more living space due to company. Okay, I mean it– that’s okay. The ranting can go on forever while I just listen. Reminds me a great deal of what happens when I inform people I’m vegetarian… ugh! I’m not even going there. Again, we make no personal judgments about anything, except what feels right for ourselves.. that’s what we believe everyone should do– live in complete authenticity with yourself and your surroundings, however that looks to you. So, please don’t take any of what we do or believe as an attack. In my experience, when people take what I’m doing in my own life personally, they’ve probably got some self-examination to do.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Clean Planet, Home, Materialism, Order & Balance, Peace, River Living, Simplicity, Small House Living, Thoughts & Insights, Wabi Sabi

WASTE LESS in July!

Can you take on the challenge of producing just one paper bag full of waste per week? If you live in a large household, can you challenge each person to generate only one bag a week this month? Watch the video and see others who are taking on the challenge:

Our family of 7 cut our waste in half this year. We went from two full trash bins by the curb on trash day, to just one. How did we do it? For starters, we recycle a lot more and pay attention to the packaging of things we purchase (minimal or no packaging is very cool). We also have a large compost pile, and next-to-none of our food goes to waste due to the chickens. We use cloth diapers whenever possible, and shop way less than we ever have. What are some ways you can cut down your waste footprint? We hope this gets people thinking.

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Filed under Clean Planet, Materialism, Recycle, Reduce, Reuse, Shopping, Urban Farmsteading, Videos

Farmstead Harmony

Today I’m feeling especially struck by the perfectly harmonious relationship we have with our animals. I was pulling weeds around the roses this morning (which have their first blooms of the season and the fragrance is to-die for) and threw all the weeds into the chicken run. It was a large pile, but they were all devoured in less than thirty minutes by both the ducks and chickens. Instead of tossing them into the garbage or compost heap, they disappeared into a perfect cycle… we’ll basically be consuming the weeds through our eggs. There is something primal and beautiful in having that symbiotic type of relationship with other living beings.

I’m noticing we have the most ideal mulch now. Every month we clean and rake out the entire chicken run. All the old straw and manure goes into the compost pile. Chicken and duck poo breaks down quickly since it’s dry and grainy, so we’re able to stir it around a month or two and see the most ideal mulch appear for our garden beds– rich, organic straw. We laid a heavy layer over our tomato bed, and they’ve been taking off like crazy. (**PLEASE NOTE: The compost we put on the beds was from the Fall/November. Compost should be aged at least 3 months for above ground crops, and 6 months for ground/root crops**) My point- we fed the chickens our scraps, weeds, etc. and they produced fertilizer resulting in mulch that both protects and nourishes our plants while at the same time saving us a lot of money on mulch. Then we’ll  consume the most amazing tomatoes we’ve ever eaten (if all goes well). I’ve been so excited about the mulch, we’ve been putting it everywhere. Note: we have to be sure to use the very broken-down straw compost since it can burn plants if it’s too fresh.

I should add that we have a new type of Dandelion control going on within the yard. We consume it ourselves, but never from our back yard due to the dog waste. Prasad walks around every day picking Dandelion and Violet to feed Forest, our growing Flemish Giant. The Dandelion that was taking over the cellar door is trimmed way down (sometimes he even gets the whole root out), and this week he’ll be pulling out the plants behind the air conditioner. Would Prasad be so willing to weed without his bunny? Probably not. Once again, it’s a sweet example of the natural harmony that takes place when you have the right animals around.

There are so many other examples of this in our lives, and I’m wondering if I’ll ever get used to it and take it for granted… it is, after all, the most natural of things.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Chicken & Rabbit Gardening, Chickens, Clean Planet, Collaborative Love, Ducks, Eggs, Food, Order & Balance, Organic Food, Peace, Rabbits, Recycle, River Living, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading, Veggie Gardening, Wild Food

Latest Happenings: Bunny Gardening

Our little farmstead probably would not feel complete without more animals, right? After adding the ducks to the chicken run, we thought we were done. Worms were all we planned to add this year, and possibly bees next year, but they’re hardly pets. The small ducklings that melted Sky into butter and opened his heart like nothing I’d seen before have gotten too large and high-strung to be held by humans. Being that they’re large birds and predator animals, ducks are naturally that way. Sky doesn’t have the therapeutic and relaxing cuddling any more, and we’ve been saddened by that. So, what’s the solution, more ducklings? No way. Cuddling the Chihuahua? Somehow she doesn’t melt him to butter like the ducks did… she’s higher strung and not so fluffy. More cuddle time with Mama? We do that regularly, but it just isn’t the same as nurturing a cute, helpless creature. After a lot of thought and consideration, we’ve decided to enter the world of Flemish Giant rabbits.

Why rabbits? Well, they’re very easy and inexpensive to care for, and we’re planning to have Prasad and Sky take care of 95% of their needs. This includes weekly hutch cleanings, and daily feeding & watering. It will take a few weeks to get their routines down, but we have no doubt it will be a rewarding learning experience for them. Mainly, it will be one of their biggest lessons in responsibility. I had a guinea pig when I was ten years old, and I recall all the feeding and cleaning. It was very good for me. Unlike my little guinea pig, the rabbits will provide several eco-friendly benefits to our family:

1) Fertilizer- You can use both their recycled paper litter and straw bedding with their droppings in a compost pile, which will then fertilize our garden. Like chicken poo, rabbit droppings contain a large amount of nitrogen and phosphorus which is excellent for flower and fruit production. This is not true for carnivorous pets like cats and dogs. Their waste products are not recommended for compost heaps.

2) Feeding them is fairly inexpensive (a 50 lb. bag of Rabbit Chow at the feed store costs around $10.00-$12.00 and lasts a long time), but you can grow a lot of their food yourself in a backyard garden. They eat practically every green imaginable such as romaine and other dark leaf lettuce, collard greens, kale, parsley, and cilantro, which you can grow in a special home garden vegetable patch just for them. Rabbits also love dandelion greens and flowers, violets and clover; we have an abundance of wild foods in our area, so the kids will enjoy gathering those regularly. And did you know the main ingredient in commercial rabbit food is hay? That’s something we always have an abundance of because of the chickens, and eating it in natural form is far more healthy for rabbits. Providing rabbit food ourselves helps the environment by cutting down on energy consumption and waste production caused by manufacturing, packaging, storing and shipping commercial food.

3) This one is one of my favorite benefits- Rabbits are effective paper shredders. No need to waste money and electricity on an electric shredder- rabbits’ teeth grow continuously, so they need objects to chew on a regular basis. They will happily destroy your sensitive documents, shoe boxes, pizza boxes, chipboard packaging. No need to worry as much about the landfill or even your recycle bin. They’ll reduce our waste production, and it will eventually end up in your garden soil. Gotta love that cycle.

4) Toys- Rabbits’ favorite toys consist of items you would normally throw away or recycle. They love playing with toilet paper rolls, outdated phone books, old towels, boxes, etc. Again, this reduces waste associated with manufacturing, packaging, storing, shipping and advertising commercial pet toys. There are countless commercial ‘toys’ out there marketed to rabbits, but they’ll love these free items much more.

5) Health- Rabbits are very clean animals and, in general, they manage to carry on relatively disease-free lives. I can attest to this because I kept one rabbit as a pet in my early twenties. Like any animal in captivity, as long as they’re given adequate space and weekly cleanings, they’re very clean animals. This means a fewer harmful chemicals and drugs associated with pet shampoos, flea and tick treatments, and other medications. These pollutants cause a several  problems such as drug-resistant bacteria, contamination of waterways, and health concerns for aquatic animals.

6) Size- Rabbits require a minimal amount of space, even less than chickens. When I say that, I’m not referring to their hutch, but their outdoor pen. Gone are the days of keeping rabbits in small  hutches 24/7 for breeding and food consumption. I realize people still do that, but these days more people are giving outdoor bunnies room to hop around, explore, burrow and graze just like they would in their natural habitat. This only requires a 19″ x 6′ of ground area, and can go larger, depending upon your property. Our hutches will have a run that attaches and can move around our property from year to year. It can be beneficial to place the portable run in unused garden beds, then use that same garden next year for veggies since the soil will be rich. Bottom line, rabbits require very little space to be happy and healthy.

6) Our family’s personal benefit- Our kids will love and appreciate animals even more, and develop a sense of pride in caring for them on their own. That was central to our decision. Having small mammals will bring more ‘animal’ energy to our property, which we all love. Having fowl has been great, but there’s something about mammals that we’re also drawn to. The best thing of all is that we’re getting two Flemish Giants, which are known as the largest, most cuddly people-friendly rabbits in the world.

our first bunny

When are the rabbits due to arrive? We’ll get our 6 week old, approximately 6lb.  light grey buck this Saturday. He’s pictured at the left, and will be Prasad’s very own rabbit. He’ll be responsible for all his care and feeding. We’ll wait a month to bring home our doe, Sky’s rabbit. She’s from a separate litter and won’t be weaned until then. They’ll be housed separately, but we do hope to breed them at least once this year, considering they are a very rare and wonderful breed, perfect for families and small farms.

Am I building the hutches? No way. It’s an option (one I prefer).. I wish we could this time around, but we’d rather focus on getting the garden going this year and putting the finishing touches on the chicken run and coop. So, I chose a very simple design for both hutches after pricing them online for several hours. They’re two levels each, 36″ x 36″  with den boxes, and a natural grazing area at the bottom. We’ll attach a longer run later. I have no doubt we’ll be applying extra stain, sealant, better latches and such because manufactured coops/hutches never do as well as hand crafted ones. Now, Prasad needs to come up with a name for his little guy!

UPDATE: As of this evening, Prasad has decided to name his boy “Forest Bubba” or “Forest ‘Big’ Bubba” as he says. and Sky decided on a complimentary earthy name- “Meadow“. I’m guessing she’ll end up being called “Meadow Mama“.

Posted by Jill

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Filed under Chicken & Rabbit Gardening, Clean Planet, Family Happenings, Natural Food, Organic Food, Rabbits, Reduce, River Living, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading, Veggie Gardening

Worm Housing Party

Sorin and Prasad decorating the worms' future home

this worm is saying "Feed me, please"

worm says: "I'm lost" reply is: "Well, you're in the Peebles bin" This was Sky's first little contribution to the box

Yesterday we got the worm bin decorated (since they do appreciate beauty and fine things, after all). We’ll be drilling holes all over the lid and sides for aeration, and then fill it with shredded newspaper, a misting of water, and table scraps. They’re due any time today or tomorrow. We’ll have 250 Red Wiggler worms, along with several eggs and castings. They will produce half their weight daily in castings (a polite term for their poo). The castings deter pesty insects and fertilize garden beds like nothing else on the planet. They’ll reproduce every 60-90 days, so we may end up with a lot of wigglers on our hands. Some will feed the chickens, while we may sell others along with the extra castings. It will be an interesting experiment, and something very fun for the kids to experience.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Clean Planet, Urban Farmsteading, Vermiculture

Getting Wiggly: Vermiculture

Daniel has been interested in vermiculture ever since we moved in last Summer. It’s worm-keeping for the sake of their rich manure, technically called ‘castings’. They’re pure gold, and far exceed any commercial fertilizers. It’s extremely easy to keep worms (much simpler than I imagined), and the bins can be stored anywhere. We’re thinking ours will go on a shelf in the greenhouse. You can make tea-bag fertilizer from the castings and make it go a very long way, or you can sow it directly into your garden soil, or use it as mulch. You can dispose of your scraps in a more eco-friendly way by feeding the worms fruit and vegetable peels, pulverized egg shells, tea and coffee grounds. You can also place extra worms in your outside compost pile, garden beds, and greenhouse soil, not to mention the occasional, very nutritious treats we can offer our chickens. I’ve seen them swallow large earthworms worms in one gulp!

We purchased 250 Red Wigglers this morning, and we’re eager to get started. We’ll update on the process after they arrive. We’ll start out using an old plastic bin we already have, and if all goes well we’ll invest in a little Worm Factory set-up to simplify the process. This year it’s worms, and next year we’ll have bees!

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Clean Planet, Do-It-Yourself, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading, Vermiculture

Cool Cobb Housing

It’s not just cool, it’s very cool. Cobb houses have been built for centuries, and there are many ancient cobb structures all over the UK. It is one of the longest lasting materials to build with, and one of the most fluid, creative and fun to work with materials. That’s why we’re researching it for Sorin’s little future house. We’re planning to build her a tiny house in the back yard… we’ve settled on a location (nestled under  the trees), and now we’re deciding on the style and materials. What exactly is cobb? It’s a mixture of straw, mud and sand. That’s it. Here are the benefits of building with cobb:

  • Cheap, sustainable and eco-friendly method of construction using local materials.
  • Cob is load-bearing and needs no framework. A cob house uses 60 per cent less timber than a stud frame building.
  • Very durable – cob houses built centuries ago are still lived in.
  • Low-tech, hands-on and fun building method that allows you to become involved in the construction process.
  • Thick walls (2-3 feet) mean houses are warm in winter and cool in the summer – a cob house typically uses 20 per cent less energy.
  • Sculptural material allows for the creation of interesting rounded and organic shapes. **(Of course this is my favorite benefit!)**
  • Versatile material: different mixes can be used to create plasters, paints, and polished floors.
  • Natural breathing building maintains background humidity, which is healthier than dry centrally heated modern homes.

Most importantly, what does Sorin think of cobb? She squealed when she saw  this picture, if that tells you anything. She’s thrilled because she’s always fantasized about living in what she calls a “hobbit house”. I love all the curves and design possibilities. It’s a project that we could mostly do ourselves as a family. To make the cobb mixture you spread mud, sand and clay on a tarp and step in it with your feet to work it together– fun!!! Then you make bricks to form the walls. It’s simple, but time consuming. We’d get a builder to come out and help us with the roof, of course. A composting toilet, and an outside solar water tank will probably be used. Simple, simple, simple for Sorin.

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Filed under Clean Planet, Cobb Houses, Do-It-Yourself, Family Happenings, Home, Home Projects, Kids, River Living, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading