Follow along as I experiment with using a DIY swale and reverse hugelkultur to create drainage in our raised bed garden!
Today the economy is causing many people to be concerned about how they are going to make ends meet. Following some simple “green” principals can help keep money in your pocket while reducing your carbon footprint. We just need to change our bad habits and how we live. The complete act of recycling utilizes “reusing” materials again for the same purpose or “rethinking” to “remake” the product for a new use. Recycling is at the end of the phrase because that is the last thing you want to do with any material.
Remake, reuse, recycle is a simple mantra that can be easily remembered. Recycling decreases the utilization of new materials and creates jobs in this big industry. Recycling curtails the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill. Recycling also reduces the need to cut down forests to build new products. Rethinking the purpose of an item can lead to reduce and reuse. Recycling can increase efficiency and reduce waste geometrically!
When you are done with an item what do you do with it? Take a moment and “rethink” about possible alternatives for the product. Your favorite Sister is getting ready to pitch a pair of faded jeans you had always admired. Your sister passes the jeans on to you somewhat like the Traveling Pants in the current movie. Unfortunately, the jeans do not fit you as they fit on your sister so you can’t “reuse” them. Your neighbor says she will take them. She “rethinks” about what to do with the nicely faded jeans and how to “remake” them into something she can use. The crafty neighbor transforms the jeans into a trendy, hip purse. The purse has extended the life of the jeans through a different use.
We could only hope that the neighbors’ trendy blue jean purse becomes all the rage, with everyone wanting a “remade” jean purse. People start gathering unwanted jeans to order their designer jean purses that your neighbor sells. This keeps many unwanted blue jeans from ending up in the landfill. Your neighbor becomes independently wealthy by “rethinking” a new use for your old, torn jeans. And the neighbor lived happily ever after.
Realistically, the jean purse is used for several months and then is donated to a non-profit organization to be used again. You saved money not having to buy another pair of faded jeans; your neighbor then saved money from not having to purchase a purse and then again saved money on her taxes from the donation made to a non-profit organization.
The new owner of the jean purse is a devout recycler. After using the jean purse, she recycled it. The jean purse was recycled into insulation. The original pair of jeans had many uses and was kept out of the landfill.
Most items in our modern society are recyclable. Metal, plastics, glass, paper, wood, and many electronics are recyclable. Some items need to be disposed of properly due to the hazardous material they contain such as computers and cell phones. Do not forget about donating to local efforts like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Purple Heart. You can donate building supplies and working appliances to Habitat for Humanity ReStores. Inquire about internet sites such as http://www.craigslist.com and http://www.freecycle.com where you can either give items away free or sell them. Many of the items that are recyclable could put some extra cash in your pocket, like having a yard sale or taking your aluminum, copper, or brass to sell to a metal recycler.
Another way of recycling is vermicomposting with your vegetable kitchen scraps and paper. Yard composting can utilize leaves, grass, garden wastes and cardboard. To find recycling centers in your area go to http://www.local.com.
According to www.environment-green.com “for every 1 ton of plastic that is recycled we save… equivalent of 2 people’s energy use for 1 year, the amount of water used by 1 person in 2 months time, and almost 2000 pounds of oil.”
As a nation, we need to be conscious of the effects of our actions. Recycling is good for our economy: it creates jobs and creates a demand for recycled materials. Recycling saves energy and helps use fewer natural resources. Recycling also reduces deforestation and water pollution. Recycling helps prevent climate changes. Recycling makes a difference.
Remember to, “Rethink, Remake, Reuse, Recycle.
The microbiological process that creates compost is the natural process through which plants and other organic wastes are broken down. Worms, insects, fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms help breakdown the waste to create compost.
The Golden Rule of Composting
Composting is a natural process. There is no need to obsess over creating a rapid, robust compost because even a failed compost heap will eventually succeed. That said, a very effectively created compost heap will proceed to finished compost much, much more quickly (and can be a strangely rewarding accomplishment).
For the composting process to occur, oxygen, water, some warmth, and a good ratio of carbon-based to nitrogen-based materials are necessary. Fortunately, every one of these materials is abundantly available and should be essentially free!
Many different compost bins are available, for many different prices. In fact, many cities offer conservation incentives through which they offer bins at highly discounted rates. Which one should you get? Choose the one that fits your household. thing In fact, no container at all is just fine too! Some of the best compost heaps are just that – a heap in a corner of the yard with a small enclosure or picket fence to keep things looking tidy.
The insects and microorganisms that do the work of composting will come no matter what you do. Fortunately, putting out the right combination of nitrogen- and carbon- based materials will be like offering them a free all-you-can-eat buffet. Carbon-based materials to add to your compost should be available in abundance. These are the brown materials such as dead grass clippings, leaves, and even shredded cardboard. Nitrogen-based, or green, materials, can take the form of fruit peels, green grass clippings, and food wastes (avoid adding dairy and meat wastes). The ideal ratio for your compost is about 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, but anywhere in that neighborhood will work just fine.
The other two ingredients you will need to ensure a speedy process are water and air. Because the center of your heap will retain a great deal of water, the compost should not need to be wetted very often except during dry spells.
Oxygen is introduced by turning the compost (a pitchfork works best) about once a week, or when the decomposition slows down.
What Will Happen
If you have built a heap with a good carbon to nitrogen ratio, and one that’s sufficiently damp and oxygenated, the composting process should start immediately. When the process peaks, the center of your pile will be producing heat (sometimes a surprising amount of heat!). It is up to you whether you want to completely compost a batch of wastes and then start over, or simply add wastes as they become available. When the center of the pile cools, the process has slowed and it’s probably time to turn your pile. Repeat until you’ve got nothing left but black gold.
When your compost has been – well – composted – what will remain is a moist, black, sweet-smelling mulch approximately the consistency of soggy cardboard. Nature’s most potent fertilizer, compost can be spread on your flowers, in your garden, on your lawn, and anywhere else you want healthy, strong plants.
Skip the trash can for some of your waste – six weeks in your compost heap can break down more material than six years in a landfill – and the end result is free, natural fertilizer for your efforts!
Urban and suburban homesteading have grown beyond belief in the last decade. Many living in the city or near a city have chosen to be more self-sustainable through gardening, beekeeping, aquaponics, permaculture, and raising/breeding meat animals (rabbits, chicken). Not all inclusive, this list is considered by many, a new way to be more self-sustainable, more “green” in today’s world.
Being a part of suburban homesteading, doing all I can to make the best of our little 1/5 acre, has taught me many lessons. Among those is that this trend is not a new lifestyle- it is a reversion to the lifestyle of our ancestors. Our ancestors being self-sustainable out of necessity were really living a “green” lifestyle before green was cool!
Our trip into homesteading began with two major forces driving our decisions, beginning with the economy, on to the need to house and feed more people under our roof. Economic conditions over the last decade have not been all the best, of course coming to a head in 2007-8 with the collapse of the housing market. This is when we truly became serious about be more self-sustainable.
We have always gardened, but the amount of land dedicated to gardening grew substantially as more relatives (children and siblings) began to move back in with us due to lost jobs, lost homes, and health issues. As our population grew, the need to produce more of our own food grew. We quickly went from one main garden bed in our back yard to over 30 raised beds throughout the property.
Growing our own food became a necessity, but we found that we had some much more control over what was going into our bodies. We chose to never again use any type of pesticide or herbicide within our property limits, determining that using natural substances made better sense and in many cases was more effective. Enter the chickens!
Chicken manure is among the best “natural” fertilizers available, but having the actual chicken made so much more sense with the added value they bring to any yard and garden. The pecking, natural soil aeration, eliminating bugs and other pests, the eggs, and not to mention the shear joy of just watching them run and play in the yard made having them a no-brainer. Of course the County did not have the same opinion and took our chickens after a year because of local zoning regulations. More on this in other posts.
So without chickens, we moved to rabbits. Choosing to raise meat rabbits at least gave us another great fertilizer source, but also another source of meat. There were no regulations on growing personal use rabbits, as well as we did not sell any, nor could we butcher any in public view. So at least we could still accomplish some of our goals without the County constantly in our business.
As our garden grew, we felt a need to expand our ability to insure a good crop each year by adding bees to our little homestead. Seemed like a natural jump and fortunately we live in a county that has no regulations concerning beekeeping. Bees are an interesting lot and require little effort on the part of humans. If we provide proper housing for them, they are very attentive to their own needs to survive. This was a great step into our expanding homestead.
Extending our growing season for some fresh vegetables became a project last year, opting to try indoor aquaponics. Although this process had a huge learning curve for me, since I had no knowledge of fish or gardening without soil, we ventured forward. This has been one of the most enjoyable ventures so far and one that I was able to actually help fill a need to others in perfecting a “portable” AP system for other local enthusiast’s.
This year was a major project year, deciding to build a 10′ x 20′ greenhouse to expand our growing season to year round and move our aquaponics into a larger area outside our basement. Again comes the County! This fight through multiple hearings, petitions, emails and phone calls finally came to an end in our favor after about 8 months. So we have been able to move forward and complete the structure, we are still very much in the set up phase of the interior.
Of course how could I get through this post without thanking my parents and grand-parents for teaching me many of the skills I never thought I would use in my life. Canning, freezing, and dehydrating have become commonplace to extend our ability to use our own fresh crops, which I learned from my mother and grand-mother. Planting, growing, and harvesting knowledge are an extension of my father’s passed down skills. My grand-father taught me about chickens, cows, and horses-although our land could never accommodate large animals, I understood the value of chickens on our property.
Every day is a joy to be able to get out of bed and do something I love that is a benefit to my family, my budget, and my community since we always have enough to spare to our elderly and disabled neighbors and our friends. Although my initial reasoning for our lifestyle had nothing to do with being more “green” I have found that many of the skills handed down to me are just that-a greener lifestyle. Self-sustainable and green can go hand in hand, but a” new” lifestyle it is not. Our ancestors understood a green lifestyle out of necessity, and passed down the knowledge and skills so future generations could enjoy the benefits of a self-sustaining lifestyle!
There were far too many ideas to put in the first post on saving in 2016, so here are a few more simple things you can do to save money while being eco-friendly. If you have a limited budget, start with the free ones and then try and add another step as you can afford them. In the long run, the savings will far outweigh the initial cost!
Go Green to Save Green in 2016!
Money Saving Gardening Ideas
- ·Plant a vegetable, herb, or container garden. This will save lots of green and is a very green thing to do!
- · Plant deciduous trees on the east and west side of your house to keep sun out of house, thereby reducing AC bills. In the winter, the leaves will fall off the trees and allow the sun to come into the windows to provide warmth.
- · A cheaper, quicker way to provide shade now is to grow an annual vine in front of windows to provide shade in summer months. Hyacinth beans grow quickly and are beautiful where I live. (And a bonus, the hummingbird visited the vines.)
- · Shred paper (to protect against identity theft) and use it in the compost pile.
- · Start a worm bin with your kitchen scraps (vermicomposting) for use around flowers, herbs and vegetables. Save money not spending money on expensive chemical fertilizers that are not environmentally friendly any way.
- · Mulch, mulch, mulch. You can use things like leaves, grass clippings, straw and compost.
- · Collect rain in rain barrels to water the gardens.
- · Use the boiled egg water, water from the dehumidifier, or water that ran off your vegetables when cleaning them, to water plants.
- · Plant native plants for your area, they may need to be watered less.
- · Choose plants that can thrive with other plants with similar needs.
- · Plant for wildlife. Planting the right plant can attract birds, butterflies and bees.
- · Build healthy soil with the use of organic matter. Compost with things that you may have on hand such as grass clippings, leaves, and old kitchen scraps such as lettuce leaves, old banana peels, etc. (No meat or dairy)
- · Check out what the neighbor is putting in his trash too but check to see if they use synthetic chemicals.
- · Compost healthy garden wastes.
- · Composting for fertilizer and increasing soil health is not expensive and very eco-friendly.
- · Composting attracts earthworms, so let them aerate and fertilize your soil. No need for tilling, the earthworms will do it for you.
- · Join a garden club for seed swapping or plant exchanging.
- · Control disease and pests through natural cures first. Last year I used the Cornell recipe for powdery mildew on my roses and it worked!
- · Water during the early morning to prevent diseases that spread when leaves are wet and to prevent evaporation during the heat of the day.
- · Mulch to suppress weeds and hold in moisture.
- · Use newspapers in your compost and also as mulch. Don’t use the shiny kind of papers just the dull paper.
- · Use cardboard for composting and also can be used before laying down the mulch. (Make sure their isn’t any tape on the box it won’t break down.)
- · Check with places like Craigslist or FreeCycle for things you need for the garden or other projects. Talk to your neighbors and friends. Remember to rethink, remake, reuse and recycle. Recently, I found things that I had been looking for the coming garden season. Of course my price had to be free and close to where I live. In the winter, people don’t want to get out because of the cold so the odds are greater that you can actually pick some of this unwanted stuff up. One neighbor saves coffee grounds and filters for my worm bin. The other neighbor redid her windows-so now I have old windows for some cold frames. On Craigslist.com I found bags of old leaves, old stakes and chicken wire for my peas, and 5 dozen Ball canning jars. Last year I picked up a bunch of old bricks for walkways for free. You can also find plants and flowers. I went and dug about 9 currant bushes for free. Also, picked up around the corner from where I live enough rocks to use around my new pond that I am building to encourage wildlife. All of these things were free, eco-friendly and will be reused or remade into something!!!!
- Bicycle or walk short distances instead of driving.
- Change your automobiles air filter every 10,000 miles can reduce gas mileage as much as 10%.
- Check your tire pressure once monthly.
- Drive the speed limit, the faster you drive the more gas your vehicle guzzles.
- Don’t accelerate and break swiftly, uses more gas.
- Remove luggage rack and bike racks.
- Don’t need to use premium fuel unless automobile manual states to use it.
- Turn off engine if you are idling for more than 30 minutes or more.
- Get a tune up and oil change as manual states.
- Change your fuel and air filter on your automobile as the manufacturer states for optimum efficiency.
Save on Groceries
- Use coupons for items that you would normally use. Some stores offer double or triple coupons. Be sure that the item you would have bought wouldn’t have been cheaper.
- Calculate savings using the price per smallest possible unit. Usually found below shelf item on tag-calculated ounce, pound, etc.
- Read grocery circulars.
- Write up menu for the entire week before shopping. Stick to the menu and what you need for each meal. You can use items that were on sale that week for some of the meals.
- Don’t buy prepackaged foods, such as pre-cut lettuce. You will pay premium price for this.
- Plant a vegetable garden. This can save you lots of money and give you the assurance of how the food was grown.
- Plant fruit trees, and bushes.
- If you plant a garden, an economical way to preserve produce for all year would be to can, freeze, or dehydrate your food for later usage.
General Money Saving Tips
- Don’t buy your coffee out every morning, make your java at home- serve in a coffee travel mug.
- Pack your lunch for work.
- Recycle your printer cartridges. Many places like Staples Office Supplies will give you credit when you recycle your printer cartridges through them.
- Use the correct size pan on the stove for the cooking job, use lids when cooking.
- Make your own safe cleaners using baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice. See our home section for some of these cleaning ideas.
- Don’t buy bottled water, buy a reusable bottle and fill at home. If you are concerned with water contaminants purchase a water filtration system.
If you can think of ideas-feel free to add them in the comments!
SAVE GREEN IN 2016
It is never to early to start thinking about plans for the next year. As 2015 winds down, lets gear up for saving in 2016.
Here are a few simple things you can do to save money while being eco-friendly. If you have a limited budget, start with the free ones and then try and add another step as you can afford them. In the long run, the savings will far outweigh the initial cost!
GO GREEN to SAVE GREEN IN 2016
Reduce Energy Consumption
- · Insulate! Insulate! Insulate!
- · Insulate electrical sockets on outside walls.
- · Turn off the lights when you leave a room to help reduce your electric bill.
- · Unplug your cell phone charger when not in use. (Considered an energy vampire)
- · Turn off anything with LED lighting, ie VCR/DVD, cable box,etc… Again, energy vampires.
- · Do not hold refrigerator or freezer door open for an extended period.
- · Close blinds or curtains on sunny side of house in summer to keep the sun from heating up the room, keeps AC from having to work harder. In winter, open blinds and curtains so sun warms the room, decreasing heating costs.
- · Caulk around windows to keep an airtight seal, reducing energy costs
- · Seal leaks around the house. A common place to look is at the junction where the foundation and house meet. Also another place to look for is where the electric and plumbing come into the house.
- · Change all bulbs to CFL bulbs or LED lighting.
- · Change furnace filter every month to have furnace work efficiently.
- · Use Energy Star appliances when possible.
- · Use a programmable thermostat.
- · Turn down the thermostat. For every degree you turn it up or down you save money. In the winter, turn down the furnace. Wear shoes, socks, and a sweater. We program out thermostat to go down to 64 degrees at 9 pm when the grandchild goes to bed. Everyone can be warm snuggled under the covers! Also open curtains and/or blinds during the day to let the sun warm the room.
- · In the summer, turn air conditioner up and use a ceiling fan in the room you are in, when you leave the room turn off the fan. Close the curtains and blinds on the side of the room the sun will be shining into. This helps to keep heat out thereby reducing energy costs.
- · Caulk around your dryer vent.
- · Turn down water heater to 120 degrees. This can cut up to 5 % off bill with each 10 degrees that you lower the temperature.
- · Put an insulated wrap around your water heater.
- · Use a pressure cooker to cook things quicker, food is also healthier.
- · Give your digital clock away, use a wind up clock, or if you need an alarm what about your cell phone?
- · Weather strip and caulk around doors and windows.
- · Using the microwave is cheaper than using the stove or oven.
- · Cook with crock pot, pressure cooker, or microwave.
- · In the summer, arrange cooking so that you don’t use the oven and heat up the house. Use the grill as an option.
- · In the winter, when you use the oven when the food has finished cooking open the door so the room is warmed too.
- · Air dry dishes, don’t use the high heat drying cycle of the dishwasher.
- · Don’t put the refrigerator near a heating vent.
- · Keep temperature of the refrigerator about 34 degrees F.
- · Keep the freezer temperature between 0-4 degrees F.
- · Keep the refrigerator coils clean. Vacuum the coils every month for maximum efficiency.
- · Keep refrigerator a couple of inches away from the wall so coils won’t have unnecessary heat trapped.
- · Keep freezer full. If necessary use gallon jugs of water between grocery trips. Uses more energy to keep air in freezer at proper temperature than to keep solid items frozen.
- · In refrigerator compartment it is most efficient for the air to circulate around foods.
Reduce Water Consumption
- · Turn off water, don’t let it run when brushing teeth or working in kitchen.
- · Put a brick or plastic bottle filled with water in your toilet to decrease the amount of water you use when flushing toilet.
- · Reuse your bath towel more than one time! Hang it up to dry and use for a few days to reduce the amount of laundry you have. This is for energy AND water savings.
- · Use the water that was used to boil eggs, cool it, and water your plants with the water. Utilize the water that will run down the drain, use it to water your plants or gardens.
- · Insulate at minimum the first 6 ft of hot water pipes from the water heater.
- · Use low flow faucets and showerheads.
- Reduce the amount of time spent in the shower by a few minutes for water savings
- Take a shower instead of a bath-uses less water
- Fix any water leaks!
Save Money on Laundry
- · Empty dryer lint trap before drying clothes.
- · Don’t wash small loads in the washer. Fill the machine to capacity to keep from doing multiple loads of laundry.
- · Line dry clothes whenever possible.
- · Remove laundry from dryer promptly, to prevent wrinkles and having to iron.
- · When drying clothes separate the lighter clothes from the heavy ones. Dryer will keep running until the wettest item is dry.
- · Wash clothes in cold water. Can save up to $63. a year for the average consumer.
- · Don’t run appliances during peak times. In some areas your energy costs more at these times. Check with your local gas and electric company to see what your peak times are. (Usually around 1pm to 5pm.)
- Make your own laundry soap-cheaper and no added fillers or chemicals
Saving money in the Home office
- · Turn off the computer, printer, and fax machine when not in use.
- · Shred paper to prevent identity theft, use in compost piles.
- · Use a Smart Strip with all office equipment.
- · Only print what you must have in print form, if you can save in a digital file, do so. If you need to retain it for records purposes, look into an online backup/storage facility. They are very inexpensive and your records are guaranteed safe. (This is great also if you have a system crash!)
Want more ideas, be sure to catch Part 2! If you can think of others-feel free to add them in the comments!
Great informative article for any Backyard Chicken Flock owner.
I’ve found that this is a question I’m often asked when I tell people that I raise backyard chickens. How much does it cost in dollars as well as time? So I decided to start taking notes of all my expenditure, the time that I spend on tending my flock as well as what I’m getting out of having backyard chickens. I always figured I kinda broke even, but I was surprised to discover that I actual turn a handsome profit for my labor of love.
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This list is great and all 16 do very well in an aquaponics system!
Re-Blog from Goods Home Design
All of us want to be able to have fresh fruit and vegetable at our disposal when working in the kitchen, preparing a delicious meal. The truth is you can have your veggies and eat them too! There are a number of plants which you can throw away after eating, not knowing they can be re-grown in the most easy of methods. Here is the list of those vegetables and how you can make some more in the comfort of your home.
Read the rest of the article: 16 Kitchen Scraps You Can Re-Grow
I hate spring because I can get back into the yard and garden to clean up the winter mess and start the renewal process!
When the weather breaks from a grueling cold, wet winter, it is great to be able to get out and start doing the things I love again. There is just so much to do and it seems I work from sunup to sundown just to get ahead of the curve on cleanup and preparing the yard and garden beds. This year adding the additional pressure to myself of teaching local enthusiast’s about aquaponics.
I do love aquaponics. I enjoy sharing with others, as well as
learning from others about aquaponics. It seems to me that possibilities are endless with what I can accomplish with an aquaponics system.
Insult to injury, this year we are also adding a new chicken coop for our 16 chickens. I have been working daily, at least on the non-rainy days, to get our coop built from recycled wood pallets. I think it is coming along pretty good! Tomorrow, if the rain stays away, I should be able to get the roof put on.
Of course, if you have followed our story, you know we can not have chickens on our property (County took them in 2013). I made a deal with a friend to use his property, which is about 1 mile away and has the proper amount of land, according to our county’s governing body. Our group is still working with the county to eliminate their ignorance when it comes to chickens, but it is a long slow process. Isn’t it always when dealing with any government agency.
Today is supposed to be 70 degrees and partly sunny, so I guess I should be out taking care of the rabbits, bees, and garden beds while it’s not raining. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice too, so hopefully I can get the chicken coop almost done!
I love spring because I can get back into the yard and garden to clean up the winter mess and start the renewal process!
I hate spring because I can get back into the yard and garden to clean up the winter mess and start the renewal process!
Breaking down the permaculture principles from “Permaculture Ethics & Principles” from New England Permaculture Homestead.
I plan to go into detail with all of the permaculture principles, but I am going to go out of order. I am starting with number ten because I am working on planning my annual garden for the spring. This garden will not be a permanent part of the landscape, but a garden that we will use for a few years while we are getting set up. I need this garden to provide enough vegetables to feed our family for the year, so I am putting a lot of thought into the setup of it. I still want to use permaculture design when doing this garden, and this principle is the most relevant to this particular project.
To use and value diversity means that we are not planting a bean crop, a carrot crop, a potato crop and a pea crop but rather planting a vegetable guild. I will plant…
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