Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Lesson Learned

You may remember this update regarding D's computer.  It had gone out in a blaze of glory and all data was lost...or so we thought.  We talked about getting him a new computer.  Neither of us was totally thrilled with spending all that money and he was getting by with an older laptop so we decided to just wait and see.

D spent the next few weeks tinkering with his computer and doing some research and he discovered that the computer's problem was actually just something small that was mimicking a dead computer.  All was not lost.  So, for right at $100, it's back up and running.  He's even playing Starcraft II online with his buddies.

This was a lesson for us.  We shouldn't be so quick to get rid of something.  A little time and effort put toward mending or fixing can save us a lot of money and reduce our waste.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Two of My Favorite Blogs

If you're interested in greener, simpler living, here are two blogs that I love, love, love.  Coincidentally, they are both Australian.

In this blog, Gavin describes his family's journey towards a more sustainable life.  He's got great tutorials on soap making and cheese making.  He and his family even got rid of their TV.  He gets a bit into politics and the like.  I enjoy the political discussion but some might not.

In this blog, Rhonda invites you into her home each day and shares her thoughts on simple and sustainable living.  Something I really enjoy about her blog is her advocation of "slow living" and frugality.  She offers great tips and shares with you ideas and she's never, ever preachy or heavy handed.  She's inspiring me to learn to knit and start a household stockpile.

I highly recommend checking out theses blogs.  They've both got practical suggestions and, even if you aren't looking to green your life, they're entertaining.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Getting rid of unnecessary chemicals

Right now, I'm sitting in front of the computer while Little Bit naps and I'm sipping some Nursing Mother's Tea with some honey.  I've been wound up the past few weeks (hence the lack of updates) and I'm consciously trying to slow down my life and my mind.

It's been nearly 2 months and I'm still on the no 'poo wagon.  I did use regular shampoo and conditioner twice when I went out of town and forgot to pack my baking soda and vinegar but other than that, it's going great.  My hair has tons of body and never feels slimy.  I still have issues with oil but it's been very hot and humid lately.

This is the temperature my car registered while in the shade!
That's 42.2 C for you metric folks.

Ditching shampoo for baking soda really got me to looking at the ingredients of the products I use in my house.  You wouldn't believe the artificial chemicals, detergents, surfactants and the petroleum products that go into products you touch every day.  I also have terrible allergies and asthma so strong scents and chemicals make me sneeze and wheeze.  But one of the best things about making your own products?  IT'S DIRT CHEAP!

I browsed the web for recipes for homemade cleaning products and was happily surprised to find so many options.  I tried a few out and here's what worked out best for me:

For cleaning counters, showers, tubs, toilets (and most everything else) - baking soda to scrub and vinegar/peroxide to disinfect.  For the baking soda, I use a glass jar with a few holes punched in the lid so I've got a shaker.  For the vinegar/peroxide, I made a weak solution mixed with water.

Pretty much all I use to clean.

Deodorizing/disinfecting the air - I use a mixture of water, lemon juice, baking soda, tea tree oil and lavender oil to spray carpets, furniture, drapes and the air.  This comes in very handy for the nursery and those dirty diapers.  I re-purposed and old Febreeze bottle after scrubbing it clean.

Oh yeah, and it smells great!

Washing clothes - I've made my own liquid laundry soap before but I had fallen out of the habit.  I made a fresh batch of powdered laundry soap with Fels Naptha, Borax and Sodium Carbonate (NOT baking soda).  It smells good, gets all our clothes clean, and does a wonderful job on diapers as well.  I made a batch for my sister and she said that it does a better job of getting the sweat/funk out of her workout clothes than her store-bought detergent.

The yellow stuff is the powdered Fels Naptha.

Softening clothes - I put vinegar with a 2 drops of essential oil in the rinse cycle.  (No pictures for this one - pretty basic.)  The clothes come out clean, soft and have a very, very light scent.  

I'm also researching making my own soap with lye.  D is even making me a soap mold!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Our CSA Experiment

Did you know the average product at your supermarket has traveled 1,500 miles just to get on that shelf?  That's a lot of fossil fuels.  Not to mention all the packaging needed to keep that that banana free of blemishes and bruises when it bumps along in the back of that tractor-trailer or ship's cargo hold.

I've been feeling increasingly dissatisfied with the products that I buy at the local Wal-Mart and HEB.  Not only has the quality been lousy but I also have issues with how chains like Wal-Mart keep prices artificially low.

D and I took the leap and we have begun participating in a weekly vegetable CSA (community supported agriculture) and a monthly grass-fed beef subscription program.  Our first veggie pickup from Johnson's Backyard Garden is September 1 and our first beef pickup from Wild Type Ranch is September 9.  I'm planning on posting pictures and updates discussing what we're getting and how we like it.

A CSA is a farm that is funded by a group of community members. Members pay an advance fee in exchange for a weekly assortment of farm fresh produce or other farm products.  Basically, we enter into an agreement pay a portion of the farmer's wages and cost of production and, in return, we receive a weekly share of whatever the farmer has produced that week.  

Our particular farm produces mainly vegetables but they also contract with other local farms to provide fruit, nuts, and eggs in our weekly box.  The beef program is similar in that we agree to pay for a monthly portion of beef.  The beef is also rounded out with other seasonal products our farmer has whether it's eggs, sausage, veal, etc.

The great thing about these programs is that we are spending a large portion of our food dollars to obtain fresh, seasonal food and supporting local family farmers while doing it.  It's something that I feel good about.  I'm taking my dollars away from lousy Wal-Mart stuff and I'm purchasing real food.  

A big challenge, particularly with the produce, is that we don't get to pick what we get every week.  We get the best of what's growing right now.  This is tough since I'm used to going to the supermarket and getting tomatoes in December or asparagus in October.  It will be interesting especially as we enter the fall and winter.  D and I have never eaten a lot of cabbage or cauliflower but we plan on learning.

Another challenge is the budget.  We've committed 65% of our food budget to the programs.  That leaves 35% left over to buy everything else.  I think we will definitely struggle at first but I'm looking forward to the challenge.  I just need to remind myself that our money is going towards real, fresh, healthy food.  Sure, I might be paying a little more for this tomato but, not only does it taste better, it's got a higher nutritive value and less fossil fuels were used to get it to my table.  Plus, the money I'm spending is being used to pay a real farmer a sustainable wage.

If you are at all interested in buying locally produced food in your area, check out:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tiny Houses

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Walden, a book by Henry David Thoreau.

Ever wanted to just get rid of everything you don't absolutely need and live a simple, less-wasteful life?  Our house is just 1,500 sq ft but D and I have figured out that we actually use only about 800 of those feet.  Despite being a clutter bug, I've always had a desire to live Spartan, clean life.

D came home one day and told me about a website he'd stumbled upon - Tumbleweed Houses.  It's a company that specializes in very small, high quality home designs.  You can buy the tiny houses premade but you can purchase plans for either the tiny or small houses and build them yourselves.  The tour of the 100 sq ft house the owner lives in is really interesting.  He's since upgraded to a 500 sq ft house since he got married and has a baby on the way.

After further Googling, I discovered Tiny Texas Houses.  They are a Luling, TX company that specializes in building tiny houses for people out of reclaimed and salvaged materials.  They even use environmentally friendly milk paint to paint the houses.  D and I are planning a trip to check out the houses one weekend.

400 sq ft built by Tiny Texas Houses

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back from (another) long absence.

I haven't updated in a month and a half.  Sigh.  I always fall off the wagon with updates for some reason.

Updates on the garden:

1) The squash and zucchini are gone.  Vine borers got to them.  Nasty little buggers.

2) The okra is done for.  We went out of town and didn't harvest them for 8 days and they stopped fruiting.
3) The tomatoes are on hiatus due to the heat.  Hopefully, we'll have a great fall harvest.
4) The cucumbers are still going gangbusters.  We didn't trellis them and they've taken over about 10% of our entire yard!
5) The peppers (bell, poblano and jalapeƱo) are still doing great.
6) The strawberries are flourishing.  They've been producing daughters like mad so we've been rooting them.  Soon we'll have to expand the plot we dug for them.

Overall, it's been tough to get out to the garden when it's been so hot and humid the last month.  In a few more weeks, we'll pull up all but the tomatoes and strawberries and start a winter garden.  We're still not sure if we're going to do the winter in our backyard or if we'll get a plot at the community garden.  Stay tuned for more updates.