Category Archives: green living

2013~ A Year in Review

2013 was a busy year. I didn’t blog much, but I did get a lot done.

I have a daughter that is now a senior in high school and a son that left elementary to move up to the big leagues of middle school. Hubby got (and rejected) two job offers. One was definitely not a better job. The other would have been a pay raise but would have caused a ridiculous amount of stress for Mr. Hippie. Mr. Hippie’s ulcerative colitis doesn’t do well with stress, so although I still pine for the extra income that would make our fiscal lives easier, I am grateful for his time with our family and for his health.

Will 2014 be The Year of My Blog? I don’t know the future, but I hear that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Regardless of what 2014 brings, I’m leaving 2013 with a bang!

The top posts always surprise me a little, but it helps me understand what people actually want to read! Apparently the movement toward healthier, greener cleaning hasn’t lost steam and people still love animals!

Coming in at number one:

Vinegar and oil(s)Homemade Fabric Softener

housing for two rabbits

Home to our breeding pair.

Building a Rabbit Hutch

Finished loaf cooled, sliced and ready to eat.

Freshly baked bread in five minutes?

Crusty Round Loaves of Homemade Bread

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Soap after the mold has been removed.

How I Made Homemade Soap (and Didn’t Screw it up)

Some of the finished treats.

Homemade Dog Biscuits

Supplies needed to make your own.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Sink Scrub

Homemade Scouring Powder

Chicken Tractor

Chicken Run

Pinot Jelly

Pinot Noir Jam

Thanks for sticking around to hear what I had to say even when I didn’t have much to talk about!

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Why Resale Shopping is Better Than Retail Shopping

I have shopped at resale stores for years. Goodwill is one of my “must stops” when I actually drive around, but there are a few others in town that I frequent and several others that I visit once in awhile.

There are lots of reasons I love resale shopping. First of all, it is much cheaper than retail shopping. Jean Jacket? $7. You can find all kinds of goodies for a fraction of their retail price. Sometimes resale shops even take “leftovers” from retail shops. I got a brand new, still-in-the-box deep fryer for $10.

But, “brand new, still-in-the-box” is not what I look for at resale stores. In fact, not having to deal with all the packaging that accompanies new merchandise is one of the things I love most about resale shopping. Have you seen all the plastic, styrofoam and even twist-ties that come on new stuff? The box is often twice the size of the coontents because of all the extra crap they cram in there. When you shop resale you don’t have to dispose of even more waste. Even though I recycle when I buy new, not everyone does. Resale reduces waste.

Haggling is acceptable. Now, you can’t get out of control with the haggling, but the staff at resale shops usually appreciates it when you let them know if a price is out of line. They want to sell their stuff and won’t if the price isn’t good. Most of my canning jars came from Goodwill. Sometimes when I go in there the jars are marked $.99 each. I won’t buy jars for that price; I can buy them new for less than that. But, if you tell the cashier what the jars retail for new, they’ll mark them down. I’ll buy quite a few jars at fifty cents apiece, but I’ll clean them out if they are a quarter each.

Lots of things that seem like a good idea but take up a lot of space can be found at resale shops for a reasonable price. I buy a LOT of housewares at resale shops. For example:

New pitcher for the ancient Osterizer blender that I dropped and broke.Blender jar (BTW, if you drop your favorite glass blender pitcher on the floor and it breaks, you can screw a standard-mouthed mason jar onto the base as a temporary fix. Screwing a canning jar to the blades also works if you want to make individual smoothies in different flavors or want to premix a bunch for storage.)
Ice cream maker
Bread machine for school
Fermenting crock
Super-deluxe, stainless-steel colander that I use for everything
Drinking glasses
Jelly/cheese straining bag (So, it’s really a cotton pillowcase, but whatever.)

Many resale shops offer you a discount on a future purchase when you donate your old stuff. Cleaned out your closet? Take the old stuff to a resale shop. Somebody will probably love your “old” outfits and you could get 10% off your next purchase.

Lots of thrift stores benefit charities. Women’s Resource Center benefits battered women and their children. Goodwill helps people find jobs. Shopping resale benefits people in your community.

Rundrand TulipToday the reason I love resale shopping is this beautiful Weck canning jar. I have been wanting to try Weck Jars for a while now, but they are quite pricey. This 1 Liter, BPA-free jar cost me $5. It was probably too much since it rivals the actual retail price of the jar and was most of the money I had left from my March allowance, but I can try it out and see how it works before I invest a fortune on more fancy-shmancy canning jars. If I don’t like it for canning, I can always store dried beans or coffee or something in it.

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On Breeding Like Rabbits

When people say someone/something is, “breeding like rabbits” the implication is that they are reproducing at an unbelieveable rate.  As someone trying to raise rabbits for meat, I can tell you that it isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds.

Our breeding stock, Fiona and Nibbler have been old enough to breed since January 2011.  However, January in Northern Michigan can be pretty harsh and I wasn’t ready to start my breeding endeavor then only to have it result in frozen litters of baby bunnies.  I waited until March.  The air had warmed sufficiently and I deemed it safe to start.  I took Fiona to Nibbler’s pen just like the books/internet said I should.  I left her there for a while, checked back and returned her to her cage.  A few hours later I let her visit again, left them alone for a bit and then put her back in her cage.  I documented the date, marked the calendar and started counting down the days until she would need a nesting box.  I Googled different types of nesting boxes.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  A week after the due date I gave up waiting.

I tried again.  No luck.

I tried again.  I decided that once again the pregnancy hadn’t taken. In June I asked my friend Joan from Olds’ Farm if I could bring my doe out and put her with one of the bucks they keep.  Joan agreed and I planned to take Fiona to the farm next time I went.

Imagine my surprise when I awoke the next morning to find Fiona pulling her fur out and spreading it around her hutch.  I needed to pick Dylan and some friends up from a sleepover and take them to a 10:00 movie. I didn’t have time to set up a real nest box before I got the boys so I put out a makeshift nest and went about my business.  I intended to come home and set up a real nest box before Fiona delivered her babies because rabbits are “supposed” to deliver at night.  Wrong.  I got home at noon to find my husband in the yard announcing the arrival of two kits.  Fiona didn’t like my makeshift box and had delivered them on the floor of the cage.  Mr. Hippie had moved them into my “nest box” with a towel because he didn’t know if he should touch them or not.  When everything was said and done, Fiona had delivered eleven kits.  One was stillborn but we moved the ten surviving kits into the “nest”.  After the horde of boys left, Mr. Hippie and I went out and got the rest of the things we needed to properly accomodate the babies.

I set up the deluxe nesting box and moved the kits into it.  Fiona decided that she would dig a new nest next to the one I made.  She started pulling more fur to line the new nest.  I started panicking, afraid that she was going to deliver another litter of kits.  (Rabbits do that, you know.)  Fiona did not deliver any more kits.  She did however divide her kits into two groups and move half into the new nest.

Once Fiona had completed her second nest, she promptly stopped nursing the front five kits.  Fortunately, rabbits are designed to survive harsh conditions.  Like, for example, your mother not coming back to feed you for a couple days because there is something dangerous lurking about your home.  I moved the five littler kits that she hadn’t been nursing into “her” nest with the five bigger kits.  The next morning I awoke to find two of the kits pushed out.  They weren’t just pushed out of the nest either.  They had somehow managed to be completely evicted from the hutch.  Both were chilly and crawling around on the ground.  I put them back into their nest so they could warm themselves and went on my way.

The next night I went to derby practice and left the kids home with Gwen in charge since Adam was working that night.  After practice I checked my phone and found that I had missed a call.  The kids know that they are only to call me in an emergency, so my heart stopped for a moment while I, without listening to the message, called the house.

Gwen was bawling on the other end of the line, “Mom, one of the rabbits died.” She was panicked, distressed, I’m not sure what else but I tried my best to talk her down.  She didn’t know what to do with the dead kit.  I suggested she add it to the compost heap like I had done with the stillborn kit. This solution was not acceptable to her. When I got home she had already provided funeral and burial services for the kit.

Fiona continued to push the other runty kit out of the nest for a while, but never split the nest again and begrudgingly nursed all the kits.

When all was said and done, we ended up raising nine kits from our very first litter!  It took a while for the rabbits to figure out what they were doing, but in the end it was a successful endeavor.

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Goodbye, 2011

2011 was a difficult year both for my family and for this blog.  If you are/were a regular reader, you noticed I wasn’t around much. I hope to change that this year.  Because I didn’t write many posts last year, I wasn’t surprised that most of the top posts last year were older posts.

As a farewell to the year gone by I present:

The Top Five Posts of 2011

  1. Brined Pork Roast
  2. Homemade Fabric Softener
  3. Homemade Laundry Detergent
  4. Building A Rabbit Hutch
  5. Crusty Round Loaves of Homemade Bread

I am surprised that the Brined Pork Roast recipe was number one. Especially because in my opinion, this recipe is much tastier.

I get lots of searches for green cleaning recipes. Pinterest has been especially helpful in promoting them. I’m glad people are being greener and I’ll try to post some more green cleaning recipes this year.

I am excited to see the rabbit hutch plans make the list.  I wonder if that is because more people are interested in rabbits for meat, or if pet owners just need plans? Regardless, I hope to post more rabbit updates soon. Until then, if you’re looking for rabbit information, check out On Breeding Like Rabbits.

Happy New Year,

Angela

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Filed under Charcutepalooza, food, frugality, green cleaning, green living, meat rabbits, Miscellaneous

#7 ~ Write Another Magazine Article and Have it Published

Writing is something that I’ve always done but didn’t realize I really enjoyed until recently.  After I started this blog I began thinking more and more about writing for an audience.  I can upload pictures and write down recipes, but if nobody looks at them, or reads them, then they are just taking up virtual space.  Sometimes when I post things I know that they aren’t going to be very popular posts, but typically, I try to share information that will be helpful or interesting to my readers, and to people who just stumble in for a visit. 

A Tomato in Every Pot and Compost in Every Backyard

Last year I was asked by the editors of Edible Grande Traverse to write an article about my experiences with farm to school.  I was honored.  Edible Grande Traverse is a local publication, but its readership is far greater than mine.  After the article was published, Barb and Charlie (the owner/operator/editors of the magazine) told me that they would like me to write for them again.  Last weekend the Winter 2011 issue hit the streets; my second article, “A Tomato In Every Pot and Compost in Every Backyard” is in it.

Hopefully, this won’t be my last!

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Homemade Scouring Powder

Green cleaning is something that many companies are trying to market.  A lot of it is just “greenwashing”.  Making your own earth-friendly cleaners is cheaper, better for the environment than many of the “green” cleaners for sale, and doesn’t take very long.  This recipe is more of a non-recipe than a real recipe but I’ve decided to share my super simple Sink Scrub recipe.

While I call it “Sink Scrub”, it can be used to safely scrub most surfaces: countertops, toilets, bathtubs, the top of your stove or inside of your refrigerator.  Pretty much anywhere you would use “Comet” or other commercial scouring powders is a good place to use this scrub.

Sink Scrub

Sink Scrub

Ingredients:

  1. Borax
  2. Baking Soda
  3. Essential oil (optional)

Directions:

  1. Assemble your ingredients.
  2. Find a container with a shaker top.  An old giant-sized spice container works well.  An empty parmesan cheese container would also work.
  3. Dump or scoop equal parts baking soda and Borax into your shaker.  (I used to measure but now I just do it by eye).
  4. Add essential oil (optional) Teatree oil has antiseptic properties and makes a nice addition.  Lately I have been adding wintergreen.  It has a nice fresh, clean scent but doesn’t come off too “minty”.  A blend works too.  In my spice container shaker I add about 20 drops of oil.
  5. Cover and shake well.

That’s it.  Easy-peasy.  You may want to make one for the kitchen and one for the bath.

If you like this, you may want to check out my recipe for homemade laundry detergent as well.

 

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Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011

The start of a new year is always a time for reflection on the past, and hope for the opportunities yet to come.  This year my family starts with some setbacks, but I am optimistic that the future will be bright despite the hurdles before us.

Although this blog was “born” in 2009, last year was my first full year blogging.  Sometimes I did a better job than others.  Posting regularly was a challenge for me at times but I hope to have a better go of it this year.  I’m not going to resolve to post daily or even weekly, but I think that posting more frequently is a good goal, as ambiguous as it is.  Challenges like the Spice Rack Challenge with its required monthly posts and the Dark Days Challenge with bi-monthly posts until April will help me stay motivated, but so will various things on my 101 in 1001 list (which I fully intend to complete).

But, as a farewell to the year gone by I present:

The Top Ten Posts of 2010

  1. Homemade Fabric Softener
  2. 28 Day Challenge Final Results
  3. June Can Jam~ Herbed Strawberry-Balsamic Jam
  4. Crusty Round Loaves of Homemade Bread
  5. How I Made Homemade Soap (and Didn’t Screw it up)
  6. Lavender’s Blue . . . (April Can Jam)
  7. How to Make Your Own Soap (Concluded)
  8. Homemade Laundry Detergent
  9. Everything but Apple Jacks?
  10. Can Jam Challenge Round Three ~ Jerked Onion

I was surprised that some of the posts made the list, but in general I wasn’t.  This blog is (mostly) about me getting back to slower times, cooking and cleaning in a way that is more sustainable.  So I shouldn’t be surprised that most of the posts on the list are in that vein: recipes for homemade food, instructions for preserving your harvests and recipes for cleaning in a more gentle manner. 

And, I was glad to see my three favorite canning recipes make the list!

Happy New Year,

Angela

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Filed under canning, food, green living, Miscellaneous

Tooth Soap

By now you probably know that I make my own laundry soap and fabric softener, “fabric freshener”/ bug spray, dishwasher soap, toothpaste and even, on occasion, bar soap.  Pretty granola, huh?  Well, today I stumbled upon tooth soap.  Yuck, right?  Maybe not. 

Ambre at We Are of the Day is giving away this tooth soap from Beautiful Soaps

Pearly White Teeth

All natural and free of SLS.

It can’t kill me, and it’s better than all the poison nastiness that is commercial toothpaste, so I decided to enter.  You should too.  Really.  Go now.

Not game for tooth soap?  She’s also giving away lip balm and bar soap.  Everyone loves free soap, right?   

Some of the soaps are pretty amazing.  Actually, I may just be inspired enough to go whip up a batch myself.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Stuff I Love ~ My Ecomower

 

Reel Mower

Ecomower

Ecomower is a relatively new term.  Apparently, I’ve been ecomowing for years without knowing it. 

I bought my Scott’s reel mower a long time ago. Who’da thunk, I was ahead of the band wagon on this one!  I love it.  It’s quiet.  It’s cheap and clean because it doesn’t use any gas.  I don’t have to breathe exhaust fumes or have dirt and dust blown at me.  My mower is good exercise.  I even feel safe letting the kids push it around.  (I wouldn’t let them push around those deathtrap gas mowers.) 

stringy weeds

The bunnies LOVE plantain.

Ok, so it doesn’t do a great job with long weeds like those seedy pods on the plantain or dandelion flowers, but as long as I keep up on the lawn, it does a good job.  Besides, the chickens and bunnies help keep the taller weeds in check; they love plantains and dandelions.  I can’t say that I’d use my push mower if I had a VERY large lawn, but if I had a bigger yard, I’d probably have more gardens.  Or more fruit trees.  Or, a goat.  So, I guess even if I had a VERY large lawn, I would probably still use my ecomower.

This post is a part of Simple Lives Thursday.  Hop on over to see what everyone else is up to this week and find some great ways to simplify your life!

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Nibbler

Last week I introduced you to our new doe rabbit, Fiona, and told you about my hare-brained scheme (Yeah, I really just said that.) to start raising meat rabbits.  I can’t raise cattle in town.  At present, I can’t even have a goat, but I can have rabbits because they can be raised in small, urban spaces and are considered pets by most people.  

I can, and will continue to buy sustainably raised meat products from farmers I know and trust, but raising my own meat rabbits is financially a better option for me.    Besides, rabbits are greener; they are very efficient converters of plant biomass into meat.  If you don’t believe me, read this research paper by Wayne Cook from the Warner College of Natural Resources of Colorado State University.  It’s really long and unless you’re versed in the science, probably difficult to read so I’ll just share this statement:

“Calculations for comparisons among herbivores show that rabbits can utilize the herbage biomass potential better than sheep or cattle and sheep are considered more efficient than cattle.  (The data) shows that rabbits are about 2.2 times more efficient than sheep and about 2.8 times more efficient than cattle.”

So, even though I don’t have space for sheep or cattle, I can cleanly, humanely and efficiently produce my own meat.  Rabbit meat production doesn’t require much space or equipment and the start-up costs are minimal.  I’ve done my research.  I know there are breeds of rabbits more suited to meat production based on their size, body shapes and growth patterns.  Fiona, our doe, is a Palomino rabbit.  Palominos are considered a good breed for meat production.

Young buck rabbit.

Our new buck.

This is Nibbler.  Nibbler is a 9-week old buck that we purchased at the fair last Wednesday and picked up yesterday.  The kids selected him.  I like that he looks like a wild rabbit.  My only criteria for rabbit selection other than suitability for meat production was that we couldn’t have any of those zombie-eyed albino rabbits.  I’ll be honest, they creep me out. 

Nibbler is a mutt, but he is a blend of several varieties of rabbits that are of a good size and shape for meat production.  Not all the breeds in his gene-pool were on the “preferred” list for meat production, but most of them were and his parents were of a good size (9-11 pounds).  I’m not raising pet rabbits, so I don’t need pedigrees.  By diversifying my gene pool, I will actually end up with heartier stock not prone to genetic defects common in straight-breed rabbits.

When we started with chickens I didn’t keep excellent records of our costs because saving money on eggs wasn’t my goal.  However, I want to show that rabbits are affordable, sustainable meat that anyone inclined to could raise.  We won’t have any meat from our pair for a while because they are young, but I will keep you updated on the expenses as we move forward in this venture.  Check back soon for a post about rabbit housing!

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Filed under food, frugality, green living, meat rabbits