Category Archives: Sustainability

Thinking about words…Organic, Natural, Recycle, Sustainability

I woke this morning thinking about words, words that have become very important to me in the last few years. And with Earth Day fast approaching (April 22nd go here if you would like to get involved) words like Organic, Natural, Recycle, Sustainability have been rolling around in my head. All these words have a positive connotation IMHO. To me they mean doing what is right for me, my family, my neighborhood and the planet. I have started a quest recently to teach myself the “old ways” of doing things: preparing food, gardening, hand crafts, etc. And I believe that in my quest to learn, I will bring myself and my family closer to these words. My hope is that they will start to think about these words and they will begin to incorporate them into their lives. Many of the old ways of doing things meant you did them naturally, human powered versus electric and gas powered; no pesticides, only natural fertilizers; reusing and repairing things instead of throwing away and buying new; growing as much food for your family as you are able; relying on ourselves for our own well being.

As I drank my coffee that was prepared in a stove top percolator, I wondered how am I doing on my quest. I have taken steps to make changes, but am I doing enough? And what else can I do? Am I living up to these words that mean so much to me? So my DH and I sat down this morning and we made a list of things we have done, changes we have made and what things we hope to improve upon. Here is my list:

  • Compost – House…we use an electric Naturmill Automatic Composter (I know electric!!! But because we have such strong wind and little to no rain we can not compost out doors effectively, we have tried) which uses about 5 kWh / month – as much as a typical night-light.  The cost varies due to electric rates in ones area, but it is well worth it to us to be able to produce wonderful compost for our gardens, and not throw organic material into the landfills.
  • Compost – Manure…we have five horses and two donkeys, so we have manure! This we compost, we allow the pile to grow from later Summer until Spring when we then spread it on our pastures, and use some for our garden boxes, fruit trees, etc.
  • Insulation – Our home is well insulated, R30 in the attic, and R19 in the walls.
  • Low Flow Toilets – we recently replaced our toilets with Dual Flush Low Flow toilets. As we are on well water, there is no easy or reliable way to determine what our water savings will be, however living in a drought plagued area of the country, we felt this was a good choice.
  • Low Flow Shower heads – we added these and again no way to measure water savings, just the right thing to do.
  • Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs – yup they are controversial, and yup we switched our entire house and barn over to them. We have not done actual dollar cost analysis per se, but I know our electric bill was lower the month after we replaced all the incandescent bulbs.
  • Our home is heated with, our hot water is heated with, and we cook with natural gas. We also have a high-efficiency wood stove as a secondary heat source.
  • My DH travels for his job, so we purchased a gas efficient car for his commute to and from the airport in Albuquerque.
  • I have cut down my trips to Albuquerque, to two a month, and I make two to three trips to the local feed store, grocery store and farmers market a month. I combine trips when ever possible.
  • We purchase our hay monthly and take delivery of it all at one time. This saves us delivery charges, and the feed store folks are saving fuel too.
  • We save and recycle our newspaper in our wood stove in the winter.
  • I use re-usable grocery bags when I shop.
  • I purchase local produce when available from the farmer market.
  • I buy organic meats, vegetables and fruit when at all possible.
  • We grow as much of our own fruits and veggies as we are able, currently we have blueberry bushes, raspberry canes, gooseberry bushes, apple and peach trees. We grow greens, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, onions, garlic, snow peas, green beans and kidney beans.
  • I use only organic pesticides and fertilizers such as Diatomaceous Earth,Organic Garden Pesticides, and Complete Organic Fertilizer.
  • This year I will be canning, freezing or drying our harvest as well as buying bulk items from the local farmers market to preserve.
  • I am making most of our meals from scratch, I do sometimes buy prepared items such as pizza, pasta, and jar sauce, but I look forward to cutting even more prepared items out of our diet in the near future.
  • We recycle all of our clothing and household goods to the local mission store.
  • We own a high-efficiency washer and dryer. And during the summer months I line dry most of our clothing.
  • I use only natural cleaners, either ones I make at home: from white vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice; or ones that I buy such as the Bio-Kleen line of cleaning products.

So there is my list. It is not very long, and I can see room for improvement. We have not really tackled sustainability yet. We are looking at a long distance move in the coming months, so keeping food livestock at this time is problematic. But we are already looking at what we will add to our new homestead, so far Chickens, Goats and Dexter cattle have made the list. We will be adding a much larger garden, and fruit trees. Our new home will have additional insulation. We hope to rely more on wood heat and are looking at external boilers. We will also be looking at more off-grid options.

Even though I know there is room for improvement, I at least feel as though we are making an effort to live up to these words. Do you have a list? How does your stack up against mine?

Planting Day Has Arrived!

After having to postpone planting for a day, due to high winds yesterday, I awoke this morning hopeful that I could get my paws in the dirt today. But when I came out to the kitchen to check the temperature my face fell, it was barely 30 degrees out there! So I bundled up, went out to feed our horses and donkeys, fill stock tanks and clean the corral. I finished my outside chores and returned to the house to make coffee and my breakfast. With an eye on the thermometer, I began to read e-mail and FB. The hay delivery came and after jawin with the guys as they unloaded my hay, I realized, it was almost warm! Maybe I could plant today after all!

First up was planting the tree and bush we bought this weekend as they are the most labor intensive. Then it was on to planting tomatoes, peppers and figuring out my upside down strawberry planter! Had to make another run for more mulch and soil, wish our soil was rich enough to use, but it is not. We will amend it with compost , Coir and Terra-Sorb before planting our potatoes and strawberries.  Below are pics from today, of our garden boxes, my garden helper and garden area:

You cannot tell it by the expression on her face, but we had a lovely time together this afternoon and all in all it was a very productive day!




Ahhhhh…

After a successful and wonderfully enjoyable afternoon of shopping with my Darling Daughter Aubrey we returned home with our bounty. As it was a beautiful, sunny, and warm day out here, the first place we went was to Parker’s Nursery. It is an oasis of green and flowers nestled within a sea of brown and dry that we have out here just now. I will return in two weeks to purchase my lavender and daisy plants and will share pics then. It is a wonderful breath of fresh air and Spring in the High Plains. We were able to purchase a Narrowleaf Cottonwood tree, a Lalandei Firethorn bush,  some strawberry plants, and my tomato plants. I will be planting the whole mess tomorrow, but with Aubrey’s help, it will be enjoyable. She will be graduating from high school soon, and returning back to Pennsylvania to live with her father for a year, so each day I have to spend with her is a gift.

I could spend hours at perusing seed catalogs, visiting nurseries, and planning our gardens, but I must be honest with myself, it is a lot of work to plant all of the things I wish to grow! I usually end up with sore knees, back and shoulders. Usually a hot shower helps, but this afternoon I found something even better, hence my title of “Ahhhhh”. We had to stop at Costco to pick up a few things, and there they were, right inside the door! What is this magical body restoring miracle? Anti-gravity Lounge chairs! I have been wanting to purchase a couple of these for a long time, and today was my lucky day, the price was right! Aubrey and I set them up when we returned home and tried them, and they were awesome! After just a short half hour relaxing in this lounge chair, I felt relaxed. I can’t wait to try it tomorrow after our marathon planting day. To me, it is funny how a little thing can make such a big difference. Stay tuned, I will post pics of the “Big Plant” tomorrow, after I spend some time in my Anti-Gravity Lounge Chair!

Watering Day

Today was watering day. Sounds funny to say we have a “day” for watering, but we are in a drought out here in New Mexico, and have been for a couple years. The future does not look very promising either. We had three good snow storms this past winter (6″ of snow or more = good and I KNOW my friends back East are laughing at me LOL) but we have not had any rain for over a month. So we conserve, we also have a 1200 gallon storage tank for emergencies, that we fill several times during the summer. We are very careful to follow a strict watering schedule. You might think in these conditions it would be impossible to grow our own food, but we have found a way. We have five raised bed vegetable gardens, three apple trees, two peach trees, and three other raised gardens where we planted three blueberry bushes, three raspberry bushes, a gooseberry bush and a black currant bush.

We have been very careful in our planning for placement of all of these plants. The Apples, and Peaches were placed in an area of the yard that one of our downspouts feeds, we always have grass in that area. We do water them, but only once a week. They are trenched and mulched deeply. The blueberry bushes, gooseberry, raspberries and raised bed gardens are all planted in our south garden, sheltered behind a wind fence. Sheltering plants from the fierce wind we have out here, mulching deeply and amending the soil with moisture absorbing crystals called Terra-Sorb all make growing our food easier in a drought plagued area. In addition, for these plants (once the danger of frost is past) we use soaker hoses. This type of gardening does take more thought and planning, but we have been blessed with good harvests. And what I cannot grow, I purchase from a local farm and farmer’s market.

Tomorrow is planting day and here are the plants awaiting their new dirt home: Potatoes, Jalapenos, Peppermint, Rosemary, Astilbe, Onions, Red Pepper and an upside down strawberry planter waiting for strawberry plants. We will also be planting our tomato plants one Plum, and one Beefsteak.

I always plant my tomatoes and peppers  a month early and actually I am a bit late this year. We use Teepees to protect them from frost and late snows.  You fill them with water, and they act like a warm blanket around your plants. They are such a great and ridiculously easy garden tool! Tomorrow I will share pics of our gardens. Hope you enjoy your day!

Diet Redux

A Blessed good morning to all! In my journey to live healthier and more intentionally, I have been reading a lot about nutrition. And what I keep reading is this: the right foods can heal and prevent so many medical conditions that plague people these days. So after spending a few months researching nutrition, and talking to a very good friend of mine who is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, I decided to make changes. Anytime you make dietary changes for your family, it is a paradigm shift. And that shift can cause some issues. I happen to have a rather picky teenage eater still at home, and not all the changes have been welcomed with open arms by her. So my advice, make changes slowly if you make them, and give them time to get used to new foods.

When our society was mostly agrarian, we did not have as many health issues. People worked hard, played hard and ate whole foods. They ate whole raw milk, real butter, whole grains, fresh vegetables, fresh meats and cheese. If one lived on a coast and fished for a living, there was fresh fish. We ate what we raised or caught, or grew, or gathered. And we were healthy! Then our society changed, and more and more people moved from farms, women started working outside the home, and we opted for convenience instead of healthy. I am a guilty as anyone, after spending hours at work, when I was raising my four kids, I rarely felt inspired to cook. And there was little time to raise our own food.

We have made some major changes in our diet here in the last few months, including adding cultured vegetables, sprouted grains, sourdough breads, organic greens greens greens, and organic whole milk and real butter. We are also giving some new grains a try, including Buckwheat (which is not a wheat at all), Amaranth, Quinoa, and Millet. We will be adding Royal Butter Oil/Fermented Cod Liver Oil Blend to our supplement regimen, which include Vitamin D, Vitamin B Complex and Body Ecology Green Superfood.  My research also included learning to make things the “old way” by cooking from scratch. I am learning to make my own sourdough starter, butter, Kefir, buttermilk, stock, etc. I have been grinding my own grain for several years, and love the results! Recently, I purchased a food dehydrator, a good stock pot,  a butter churn and a pressure canner. It is an financial investment to purchase these items, they are not cheap, but they will last us for a long time. I have used all but the pressure canner so far, but am looking forward to canning what I am growing this summer!

This week I have made Sourdough starter and will be baking some rolls this afternoon using it. I also soaked and sprouted some Soft White Wheat berries and they are in the dehydrator as we speak, tomorrow they will be ground for flour. It is a process that takes a couple days, but it is well worth it as the nutritional value is high. The soaking and sprouting begins the enzymatic breakdown of the protein gluten and renders it more digestible. This is great for those of us who have an issue digesting some grains. See this reference on the nutritional information and uses for the different types of wheat:

http://www.somethingbetternaturalfoods.com/sitebuildercontent

/sitebuilderfiles/nutrition_grains_wheat_berries_soft_white_spring_og.pdf

I have recently purchased these “Handy Pantry Sprouting” wheat berries from Living Whole Foods, Inc., off www.amazon.com for sprouting then grinding to flour. I have tried both kinds and both sprouted perfectly!

Here is a pic of my now soaked and sprouted grains in the food dehydrator:

They will be ready tomorrow for grinding into flour. After trying some of these things the last few months. I am impressed with the process in making things from scratch. There is a feeling of comfort to it and a feeling of connection to my food I have not felt in a long time. I really believe food should not only feed your body, it should also feed your soul. Thanks for reading and Enjoy your day!