Category Archives: Reuse


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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Fort Building Update

looking inside...

Sky looking South toward the river levee

We’ve been moving along on the kids’ fort. You can see the four layers of old garden bed frames we started with at the bottom, and we’ve been using scrap wood we had on hand, as well as new wood to build the rest. The newer wood is mostly cut from untreated dog-eared fence boards, which are very cheap. The roof will have additional framing before we install it, and of course we’ll be building a small door, shutters, and a flower box.We’ll be staining the wood, and paint the door and shutters. We plan on incorporating some decorative branches and logs into the structure, either on the roof, around the windows, or wherever feels right. It’s nestled under the trees, and is barely noticeable.

Sky and Prasad will be doing all the sanding on the cut edges. They’re both very excited about their little second home, and keep going outside to sweep out the floor (under trees with no roof = a floor full of leaves and twigs). They’ve already played “restaurant” inside, and asked whether or not it’s okay to jump out of the windows. Of course, the answer was “no” but I’m glad they at least asked!

It’s turning out to be a solid structure, and will probably last a very long time. In a few years, the boys will be too old for a fort and Amelie will enjoy it. After that, we could use it as the perfect garden shed or goat house (if they ever approve of keeping little Nigerian pygmy goats in our city). Most likely, the shed idea will happen. I’ve always wanted one just for gardening since we don’t have a garage or barn.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Collaborative Love, Do-It-Yourself, Family Happenings, Home Projects, Kids, Parenting, Reuse, River Living, Urban Farmsteading

Day 2: Fort/Playhouse Construction

Despite a hectic and hot Sunday, we got a lot accomplished on the fort/playhouse. The last three raised beds were stacked and secured with 2″ L-brackets to the floor, and the framing will also hold it all together. It’s a very sturdy structure so far. The roof will slant from front to back (like the chicken coop), and it’ll have two windows that close up with wooden shutters. The boys had fun drawing up their future floor plan, and are VERY excited about the whole project.

Posted by: Jill

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From Raised Beds to Kids Fort

starting the base and floor

Sky and Prasad watching

moving along...

plywood floor attached

Surprisingly, raised garden bed frames are perfect for building a kids fort/ playhouse. A few weeks ago when we decided to replace all our 8′ long treated raised beds with untreated wood (due to the harsh chemicals in treated wood lurching into our crops), we wondered what we’d do with all that expensive wood. The boys have been begging for a wooden fort nestled under the Elm trees, so it seemed to be a logical use for them. We went out this morning and purchased other boards for the framing and floor. We’ll stack three more of the old, treated garden bed frames on top of this one, followed by some new siding boards, a roof, and voila! Instant (well, almost instant) kids cabin in the trees. It’ll have a door, window & flower box, and front stoop. It should be plenty of space for the boys to hide out and store things. We think Amelie will also love it for years to come. Time to start framing the walls!

Posted by: Jill

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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


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

New Commitment to Cloth Diapers & Training Pants

Daniel has a weak stomach. That being said, it has made for a difficult time when it comes to using cloth diapers. For me it’s different… as they say at the Maine Cloth Diaper Company, I like to “Save the earth one dump at a time.” We’ve used G-Diapers with cloth inserts off and on for Amelie. I say “off and on” because most days that Daniel is around we put her in disposables to avoid the unpleasantries, and so that I can have assistance in the poo department. This has left me feeling guilty, and I may have used Daniel’s sensitivity as a crutch to avoid laundering cloth. Whatever the case, it’s been unconscious, not intentional. I dread hearing the “Can you help me with this? What should I do with this thing. Help!!!” Bless his heart, Daniel is the MOST helpful husband and father imaginable. I mean that in all aspects of family and household duties. He just cannot stomach the diapers with stools. Cloth requires a lot of clean-up and we can’t just roll them up and toss ’em in the outside dust bin, never to be seen again. See no evil, smell no evil so to speak. It’s like we’re brushing them under a giant rug of a landfill, and the earth pays a heavy price.

When Daniel isn’t home, I usually whip out the cloth G’s and they work extremely well. I recommend them highly to every parent I know. You can purchase the compostable/flushable inserts, or go with the washable cotton cloth inserts like we did. Amelie seems more comfortable in them, even though they make her bottom look like she’s wearing a basketball inside (they’re fluffy cotton). When she pees she really knows it, and I’ve heard kids in cotton train faster than those in disposables. I’ve decided that since she’s outgrowing her present set of G-Diapers, I’m going to invest in some thick cotton training pants with covers, and scrap disposables entirely. We may keep a few in her closet for outings into the community, but she doesn’t attend a daycare so she can basically wear cloth full-time.

What does Daniel think of this? He’s very supportive of all our ecologically beneficial decisions, but this one has him cringing. It’s his weak spot, and I’m guessing there are more than a few parents out there who would feel the same way about cleaning up poo-poo pants. It doesn’t bother me one iota. Believe me, after having a severely autistic child with toileting issues for 16 years, I have the stomach for anything. You’d think Daniel would, too, considering he helps out 50% in that area. He says it’s more do-able for him with disposables. It’s time to push out of that comfort zone. Oh, and speaking of Liam, we’ll be switching to cloth ‘adult’ pull-ups at home. The schools won’t allow them, due to sanitation reasons. Somehow I don’t understand that, and it gets me a bit upset because it discourages ecological choices. They bag up the soiled disposables, and they can bag up the soiled cotton pants just the same, right? It’s not like they have to do any cleaning or laundering of them. Poo! Anyway, we’re presently shopping for adult size cotton pants so our entire household can be ‘disposable-free’ and I’m very excited about it.

Excited, you ask? Yes, because despite the mess, the guilt will no longer be a factor in my psyche, and we’ll be in complete control of the supply of diapers/pull-ups in our home. We won’t rely on store trips, ever have low inventory, or add expensive items to every grocery bill. Believe me, we’ve done the numbers and cloth saves A LOT of money, especially with multiple kids. We don’t electrically dry our clothes in the warmer months, so we won’t have any increase in electricity due to cloth diapers at that time. I can’t wait to empower ourselves with 100% cloth… with Daniel it’s going to be a learning experience he’ll have to push through. Poor guy will need a lot of support and prayers!


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