Category Archives: Recycle

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

Day Bed in the Garden

It’s been a weekend of old raised beds for our kids fort, new garden beds for our veggies, and now a very old day bed for our tired bums and sleepy heads. Thanks to my sweet friend, Raven and her upcoming move, we acquired this Victorian era iron day bed for outdoor use. Thank you, Raven! It’s hard to see in the picture, but it has a lot of floral designs with cherubs… it’s also extremely heavy. It needs some TLC- mainly a fresh coat of RustOleum, a permanent mattress (the inflatable pad was put on just to sample the bed), a waterproof cover and several outdoor throw pillows. After the kids went to bed this evening, we moved the bed away from the pictured location to its final resting place deep under the Elm trees closer to the river levee. When we lie down and gaze upward, the view is incredible. It’s even better than a hammock. The bed will be yet another getaway place to read, meditate, or just plain snooze. We’ll post more pics after it’s freshened up.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Family Happenings, Peace, Recycle, River Living, Urban Farmsteading

The Debt-Free Pipe Dream

A long, dry but pertinent post we hope will help others

Wouldn’t it be smart if the “American Dream” were more about financial freedom and becoming debt-free, than acquiring a lot of possessions we don’t need for an amount of money most of us don’t have? Instead of being the ‘land of the free’, most of us are enslaved to banks. We weren’t always this way as a country. My maternal grandfather owned everything he had, and didn’t carry debt on anything. He was proud of it, and never understood why anyone would want to be beholden to a financial institution. He lived simply, had everything he needed, and was always a good provider for his family. He wasn’t a carpenter, but built an entire addition onto his house with his own hands that included a bedroom, bathroom and enlarged kitchen. He had no help, except for the electrician. When the addition was completed, he had no debts to pay off… how many people can say that today? I think of his independent spirit a lot, especially when it comes to finances.

The world we live in today doesn’t support how my grandfather chose to live. If you live within city limits, we probably have so many zoning requirements, permit fees, time limits, and very specific codes about how things have to be built. It’s intimidating, so one might easily decide against building anything themselves and leave it up to an expensive remodeling company. It’s daunting, but at the very least I’d look into doing part of the work myself. Today’s world teaches people that if they can pay someone to do something, even if you could manage it yourself, pay them because it will save time and trouble. What they don’t say is that the time you take would be well spent because you’d have more pride in your independence & self-reliance, and far more money in your pocket. That last one is big, and should be a huge consideration in our Drowning in Debt society. I’m not saying everyone should take on monumental home improvements, but there are so many things we don’t know how to do any more, resulting in a very dependent population.

Comparatively speaking, we’ve never considered ourselves to be drowning in debts as a family. But we don’t like comparing ourselves to the general population. If we did that, we’d probably say were were doing fine and just stay in debt. We used credit cards for big things, like adoption travel expenses and unexpected repairs. We even had a 2nd mortgage on our last home due to our finished basement project. Due to our move, that debt is gone, and we had a major reduction in the mortgage payment  (shaved off by 2/3). As a result, this last year we paid all our credit cards off. We cancelled them all, except one that Daniel keeps for business/court purposes. That one is paid off monthly, and never carries a balance. If we want something, but can’t afford it at the time, we wait and save for it. That’s the old-fashioned way, and the smartest most common sense way. Strangely, it’s been an adjustment to our “want it now, therefore should have it now” mentality– that thinking is ingrained in every American’s mind since birth; instant gratification. Even the less materially minded of us have that type of mindset. It’s important to become aware of it, and keep it in check.

What’s next? Credit cards weren’t the only ball & chain. We still have a mortgage and two car debts. Fortunately, one auto loan (Daniel’s commuter car) was financed at 0% interest, and we’ll have it paid off in a couple of years. After that, we plan to pay cash for our cars. With far fewer expenses, we’re setting money aside now in order to be able to buy a car later, and when the time comes we’ll buy only what we can afford. Sounds logical, doesn’t it? Our second car (the mini-van) is used around town only, so has very low mileage. The loan payment is high, so we’re considering our options at this time- selling and using the cash to buy a less expensive car that we actually own, trading down, etc. The thought of zero car debt is tantalizing and liberating. With each debt we cut out of our lives, we don’t only free up our finances for savings and other endeavors, we liberate our psyche from the imprisonment we’ve created for ourselves. We truly are enslaved when we have debts of any kind. What’s worth more, that inner sense of peace and freedom, or stuff?

As for the mortgage, our largest debt, we moved into a much less expensive house last year, so we’re dealing with a more surmountable mountain now. By moving, we owe less than half of what we did last year.. imagine cutting your present mortgage by almost 60%! We’re shaving off the debt fast by paying hundreds more on the mortgage every month, and should have it paid off well before the term ends. There is a bright light at the end of the mortgage tunnel when you make even small principal-only payments, but people are rarely told about what a difference it makes (it shaves off years, even decades). My mother owns her own home, free and clear. She always tells me home ownership is the greatest gift I can give myself, especially when I’m older. We don’t want to be in our sixties making mortgage payments, but ours should be paid off well before then.

So, for those considering shaving off debt, expenses, simplifying financially, or getting out of the debt cycle completely, here’s our Annual breakdown of the Peebles 2010-2011 journey:

  • Moved and lowered mortgage by 66%
  • Reduced utility bills (and our footprint) by 35%-40% because of much smaller house. Living happily without a dishwasher, microwave or blow dryer, reducing showers, hanging laundry outdoors, and being more responsible with electrical usage
  • Maintained same income first six months and used that to pay off debts in that time frame
  • Food savings: Making lists, menus, and better planning saves a lot of money for a big family. Having chicken eggs from home, plus we’re on our way to having a lot of our own food from the garden. It’s a huge help (both financially and ecologically) being vegetarian, too.
  • Fuel savings: Communing less to work by staying home 2-3 days/week. We have this option now that we have fewer financial obligations. We also drive less as a family, use our bikes, and make fewer trips to the store
  • We stopped what we call hobby shopping- wandering through stores just to buy something, even when we don’t need anything. Impulse buys have come to a halt. Hobby Shopping should be classified as an official disease in our country!
  • Cash only: It wasn’t intentional, but somehow we both ended up carrying cash around this year instead of using debit cards. We highly recommend doing this if you want to curb spending. Seeing bills in your wallet keeps you from spending them as frivolously, and gives you a more tangible sense of what you have to spend
  • DIY savings: Saved money by repairing lawnmower and toilet ourselves, building three fences, landscaping, creating a new gravel driveway, planting our own trees, interior painting, and old kitchen floor removal.
  • Sold a lot of unwanted items on Craigslist
  • Paid for our bathroom renovation and new kitchen floor with cash we saved, not with credit.
  • Purchased new, gently used/recycled items often. Shopped antique, consignment and second-hand stores a lot for kids clothing and discovered how many chain stores donate and sell brand new goods to those shops. We saved at least 50% this year on extraneous expenses all because of recycled goods.
  • Hardly working: With far less to worry about, and significantly fewer work hours (Daniel is down to working about 20-25 hours/week as a self-employed attorney). He still makes more money than we need, and live a very comfortable lifestyle. We both have more time together, and are in better mental and physical health

There is probably far more to add to our list, but this sums it up well. Most people believe that getting out of debt and having more financial freedom means they need more income. It can feel like an impossible pipe dream. We used to wrack our brains for years thinking up solutions. Of course each household varies, depending upon individual circumstances, the level of debt, etc. It usually doesn’t occur to people that it would help considerably if we just changed our lifestyle, habits, thoughts and beliefs about what our needs are and what we can do for ourselves. Or maybe people just don’t want to change anything, and avoid this very liberating philosophy: We do not need more debts, more stuff, more jobs or income to solve the problem. This type of thinking feels almost upside down at first, but we’ve discovered first-hand how true it is. Being in debt isn’t really about money at all, it’s about the attachment our psyche has to the material world, and the importance we place upon it. When we can start asking ourselves what we need, and what truly makes us happy, all the extraneous things we don’t need (that enslave and tie us down) can fall away and we become free.

On a final note, after reflecting upon our last year, we realized if we wish to be free inwardly, our outer reality must reflect that. We can’t expect spiritual upliftment when things in this world weigh upon us and tie us down. We also noticed how getting out of debt and simplifying our lifestyle automatically goes hand-in-hand with becoming more ecologically responsible. Both goals complement and supports one other. I find that intriguing and beautiful! I’m guessing my grandfather is smiling upon us, helping us every step of the way. For all he did, he’s always been such an inspiration to me.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Do-It-Yourself, Family Happenings, Materialism, Order & Balance, Peace, Recycle, Reduce, Reuse, Shopping, Simplicity, Thoughts & Insights, Urban Farmsteading

If It’s Good Enough For Oscar…

…it’s good enough for me. One trash can, that is. As a family of seven, we typically fill up two large garbage cans a week. Occasionally we have an extra bag or two overflowing next to those two cans. It’s too much, and I always feel guilty on trash day. I wrote about how depressing our throw-away mentality is in this country in the recent post “Shopping With New Eyes.” The whole consumer thing had been getting to me, and then I happened upon a news story about a family who has almost zero garbage. You can watch their story here.

Granted, the family’s home appears unusually sterile and sparse, and they may be over the top for some, I think it’s important to stay focused on the fact that they have been successful in producing almost NO garbage. That is absolutely incredible. Did you notice how they store food in glass containers instead of plastic ziploc bags? I can’t imagine how many plastic baggies we’ve gone through over the years, but Americans use them excessively, and they contain chemicals that have been proven to lurch into our food. Prior to watching this story I’d purchased a box of 50 biodegradable ziploc bags at the co-op for $2.11, but we’re planning to switch over to mostly glass after seeing the story. Now, back to the issue of garbage- they produce almost zero. UNBELIEVABLE. It got me thinking, could we simply cut our waste in half?

To find out, I got on Freecycle.com and gave away one of our garbage cans. Yup, just gave it away and it felt great. Then I made sure that everything, and I mean every single solitary thing that could possibly be recycled went into our recycle bags. I signed us up with a locally owned recycling service, Sunflower Curbside Recycling, because they take all types of plastic and more materials than I was able to recycle on my own at the local do-it-yourself recycling center. Then I started paying close attention to the products I brought into the home, and how much packaging they had. I chose minimally packaged items whenever I could, and chose bulk foods from bins- no more oatmeal or granola in boxes for us. I believe recycling is great, but what’s even better is having less waste to recycle. We’d eventually like to cut our recycling pile in half, too!

Well, tomorrow is trash day and I think we made it. We have one trash can full of trash out there. That’s it, and it’s a first for our family. An accomplishment that wasn’t all that difficult by putting our minds to it and paying attention to every single thing we purchased and threw into the trash. I’m hoping if we do this for three weeks, it becomes a habit. Who knows? Maybe after we accomplish that, we’ll be down to just 1/2 a trash can.

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