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?