The importance of organic

Not just the importance of organic but just “being green” in general. I wasn’t always concerned about the environment like I currently am. Sure, I recycled but that was about it. When I was younger, I didn’t know what an organic lifestyle even was.

And then my mother and grandmother were both diagnosed with different health issues and it made me think about what would happen to me as I aged. I didn’t want diabetes or macular degeneration. Or anything!

So, over the last decade and a half, I learned. A lot. I’m now very dedicated to the organic industry and being as kind as I can to this overburdened earth. Conventional methods (farming, living, eating, etc) are literally poisoning everything on the planet because they almost always involve toxic chemicals that find their way into our food, air, soil, water and our bodies! We need all of these to be healthy in order TO LIVE. I get that now.

Last week I helped a 72 year old woman organize her severely cluttered walk-in pantry. Every cardboard box, every tin can of expired food, every piece of plastic she was discarding, I took! She kept telling me, “You’re making more work for yourself”.

I kept telling her I wasn’t. Eventually we had ‘the talk’.

After my brother’s recent scolding banning (!!!?!?!?!?!??!) of my recycling in his home, I thought about who I am and why I do the things I do. Simply put, I consider myself to be a steward of this earth. It’s arrogant for us to believe we can abuse this planet while we live upon it. It’s careless to believe we don’t need to consider future generations. It’s that kind of thinking that has us precisely where we are! And yes, I was guilty of it once.

My brother has kids!!!!!! I cannot comprehend the chosen nonchalance because it’s so far removed from who I am today.

When I mentioned to Judy (not her real name, lol) that she had grandchildren and she should safeguard the earth for them, her matter-of-fact response blew me away. “I don’t care. I won’t be here forever”. I know there are people like Judy everywhere (my brother, my mother. . . . ), the state of our environment is proof enough. But it quite fries my brain to actually speak with someone like her. I was speechless after she said that, my mouth was probably hanging open, and I simply had to go back into the pantry 🙂 I wasn’t going to begin an argument with her. It wouldn’t have changed anything.

I’m only 46. I shudder to think of the environmental damages mankind will still do while I’m alive. And Mother Nature is paying us back! Big time! Massive wild fires are raging across Canada already and it’s unusually early in the season. There IS a connection between how we’ve treated this planet and all the ‘natural’ disasters we see every day. It’s the same as not taking care of our own health, we get sick.

Well, this world is sick. Because we haven’t taken care of it.

Why is it easier for so many people to ignore this and live in their little bubbles instead?

Living green isn’t that difficult. Find a starting point and proceed from there. Choose organic whenever possible. Don’t use man-made, beneficial insect-killing chemicals on your lawn or in your garden. Make your own environmentally-friendly house cleaning supplies. Walk when you can, rather than drive. Recycle. Give stuff away instead of tossing it in the garbage!

Use a really good, natural, vegan bar of hand and body soap made with certified organic ingredients. It’s better for you, our waterways, the animals, our entire planet.

And there’s my segue to my new website!

https://simpleorganicsoap.wordpress.com/

It’s currently still being worked upon but is largely complete. Have a look-see if bar soap like I mentioned is something you’re interested in.

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To sharpen or not?

I’m talking about the blade of my rotary cutter. (THIS is the post I meant to publish, so you’re getting 2 in one day :))

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They’re expensive! A pack of 5 runs about $50 plus taxes or more, depending upon the retailer. Fortunately, I learned I can print an online coupon for 40% off one, regular priced item at my local Michael’s craft supply store. Right now though, I can’t even afford that.

Being environmentally-friendly and trying very hard not to throw non-biodegradable items (or anything really) in the garbage, I hang on to all my old, dull blades. There has to be a way to sharpen them. Right? People sharpen scissors, kitchen knives and skates. Why not these as well?

And this morning I was finally compelled to Google it 🙂 My current blade is driving me nuts, it’s approaching the likeness of a butter knife. I prefer efficiency when I’m working and when I have to roll my blade back and forth AND back and forth to make a cut. . . . that simply isn’t time well spent. Nor is it enjoyable.

I typed in ‘how to sharpen a rotary blade’ and tried the very first trick (link at bottom of page) I clicked upon. It involves tin foil, something I don’t buy or use anymore (for environmental and health reasons), but actually have because I’ve been saving it for years in the hopes of being able to recycle it one day 🙂

This is my ‘inside’ bag. There’s 10 times more in my shed!

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I located 3 flat, folded pieces and used the 2 smaller ones to begin with. I can honestly say I was underwhelmed with the result.

SO, I employed the larger, much more layered piece. It has so many layers I couldn’t cut through them all.

 

Now, when I go to a particular website, and find a recipe or instructions on how to do something (like sharpen a rotary blade!), I always scroll through the comments. In many cases, I can’t read them all but I can glean the general idea of the success or failure. In this instance, most people said ‘great idea, I’m going to try it’ or ‘it DOES work, on scissors too’.

The author of the article claims it works as well. And I’ve no doubt it probably does. For them.

My verdict is this:

I really can’t say for sure if it’s a useful trick. I don’t notice a massive difference in the cutting ability of my blade or even a decent difference. Maybe it’s slightly better. Maybe it’s a placebo effect and there’s no improvement at all, lol. Perhaps it’s because I mainly cut denim. I don’t know. This was not the OMG, so amazing moment I was hoping for.

I was relieved to find one commenter who said ‘tried the trick, it does not work’. Someone else said it didn’t work for them either. At least I’m not alone. It didn’t hurt to give it a go though and it certainly didn’t make my blade duller. Now I’ll just do some more Googling and see what else is recommended. I have enough blades to experiment with.

http://pennyshands.blogspot.ca/2011/03/how-to-sharpen-your-rotary-cutter-blade.html

 

Vermicomposting

Shoot! I had 2 drafts going at once and published the wrong one! I don’t know if I can ‘unpublish’ something without actually deleting it, so here it stays. . . . . minus proper editing. Argh. I can’t be bothered now 🙂

Composting with worms. I’ve intended to do this for years. Although I’ve buried plant-based kitchen scraps in my garden for a while now, I’ve neglected to specifically compost with worms. As an organic gardener, I’m very interested in how I can feed and nurture my veggies. Naturally. Synthetic, cancer-causing chemicals are not welcome in my body, in my food or in my home. They can stay away from my yard, and all the critters that reside here, too!

We live in a world full of chemicals used to kill fungus, bacteria, insects, plant diseases, snails, slugs, as well as undesirable plants or “weeds”. Oftentimes, these chemicals kill indiscriminately, much like antibiotics destroy bad bacteria along with the good! It’s why we’re seeing a decline in bees and monarch butterflies, to only name two. We should be protecting and caring for all of the beneficial insects because without them, healthy soil and rain/water, the human race would quite possibly die. Our food supply depends on these three basic things, along with farmers of course.

Since I’m also a vegan, I’ve rejected the standard animal manures many people use. Biosolids? NEV. ER. I’m OKAY with worms though. I’m super vigilant when I’m raking up yard debris like leaves and branches or when I’m moving heavy items such as firewood, rocks or lumber. If I see a worm, I must pick it up! And save it.

A sure sign of tip-top soil is the presence of worms. And let me tell you, I have worms! It thrills me to no end, when I turn my shovel, and see their wonderful, squiggly bodies. Weird perhaps, lol, but I can handle that category. I think I covered it last year when I wrote about my toads 🙂

And speaking of toads, I found my first one yesterday! I was wondering if they were out yet and now I have my answer. He (or she, I can’t tell, nor do I care) was under an old board in my main garden bed. I was looking for worms, not expecting a toad. I took a QUICK pic and left it be. Toads in the garden is a good thing! Although now I have to be careful walking around my yard at night, when I let the dogs out to do their business.

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I did some preliminary research 2 nights ago, and much more yesterday morning, because I’m anxious to finally get at it! This business of vermicomposting. I learned very quickly there are two main types of worms; earthworms (commonly called night crawlers) and redworms.

They’re each valuable but have different tasks in our garden.

earfhwormsEarthworms, aptly named, are responsible for ‘moving earth’. They do a lot of mixing and aerating, traveling deeper than redworms, taking organic material with them. They’re not suited for composting as they need to burrow through soil to eat and survive.

 

redwormsRedworms, however, are designed for consuming kitchen scraps and yard waste. They have voracious appetites and will make short work of the food you provide them. They migrate upwards, towards food placed above them.

In return, they’ll multiply and give you lots of poop! The more civilized term would be castings 🙂

Worm castings improve soil texture and provide high nutrient levels your plants will thrive on. This valuable “waste” is significantly more beneficial than regular compost and highly admired by serious gardeners..

To be honest, I resist the idea of having to buy worms. I try to use what I already have these days. It fits well with my anti-buying mentality. I’m an eco-friendly person and want to tread as lightly as possible upon this planet. I KNOW. Buying worms would not be a huge deal considering what I’d be doing with them. But still. I’m stubborn.

During my perusal of the many different websites offering advice on how to layer a worm bin, I discovered the plethora of materials used. Broken bricks, pebbles, leaves, shredded newspaper, grass clippings, cardboard. All of these, and more, can have a function in your worm bin. Personally, because I’m an organics freak, I dislike the notion of cardboard and newspaper, which can and do have ink on them. I wouldn’t eat a piece of newspaper, so I’m not going to feed it to my worms either. I use organic sugar when I make hummingbird food and organic nuts and seeds when I make suet for my chickadees and woodpeckers. It would be otherwise hypocritical to me. I don’t want to harm myself with conventional foods but will potentially endanger the teeny, tiny bodies of the birds with it? No way, José. It’s why my dogs eat well also 🙂

In regards to this worm bin, I decided I was going to employ creativity instead. I have the space and the time to adapt and conjure up my own version. For those of you who are confined to utilizing an actual, store-bought contraption, you’ll obviously require a purchase of worms.

Me, I’m making an open worm bin, from wood. NO plastic for this plastic-hater! I’ll designate an area in my yard and measure off a 3′ x 4′ section. I’ll dig down a full 6-12 inches and then begin constructing the sides. I believe 3′ will be deep enough, with the option to go higher if necessary. OR I’ll make an off-the-ground bin with a tray below. It’s an as-I-go project. And I’m known to change my mind.

I’ll do layers like I’m supposed to but ONLY with organic materials gathered from around my yard. Leaves, dead grass, broken up pieces of bark, etc. I also have organic eggshells and organic coffee grounds. I think I’ll be pretty pleased with the outcome.

In the meantime, because I couldn’t wait, I concocted a smaller model directly in my main garden bed. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t. It didn’t cost me anything and the worms are free to wander, if they so choose. It’s an experiment.

I had an old, wooden drawer missing the bottom. I nestled it snugly in a corner of my garden bed. I layered dead grass, dead leaves, an organic potting soil blend with includes peat moss and dirt. I put in some worms, not a huge amount, just what I could readily find. More dirt. Leaves only this time and then my (previously frozen) kitchen scraps (celery, spinach, carrots mostly) and some crushed eggshells. I have SO MANY saved from when I wasn’t a vegan. Now I can put them to use. More dirt and leaves on top of the food and more worms! Covered by more dirt and then finally some large, super thick pieces of bark.

I did all of this while it was cloudy. Worms can dry out very fast when the sun is shining. It’s also why I dig in the garden, preparing it for planting, when it’s overcast. A light, rainy day is even better!

I watered each level as I went, not too much but enough I hope! And as mentioned, if the worms don’t like it, they can leave. MY EPD was near by as usual, with her EPB. (that would be my Ever Present Dog with her Ever Present Ball, lol). I also call her Charlotte.

I figured, half way through the process, it made sense to have worms above the kitchen scraps, as opposed to below when using redworms. If earthworms travel down, they’ll encounter the food, and hopefully stay to eat. And then they can go elsewhere, they’re not trapped in a plastic bin. The most difficult thing for me will be leaving it alone! I already want to see WHERE the worms are. Are they eating? Are they gone? What are they doing?!

There are several key things one should know when composting with worms:

  • Type needed – redworms, not earthworms found in your yard.
  • Moisture – too much slows down their activity, not enough, they’ll dry out and die.
  • Food – mainly plant-based but also ground eggshells. NO fish, meat, cheese, dairy or oily, greasy stuff. Coffee grounds – limited because they’re acidic
  • Shade – they prefer it, please don’t leave the bin in the blazing sun
  • Ventilation – is a must
  • Sand and soil mixed in the bedding will provide grit for digestion
  • When they’re happy, they can double their numbers every 90 days 🙂

I’ll keep you posted on the success, or failure, of my worm composting adventures. And if it’s something you’re keen to try, it’s easy enough to Google ‘how to compost with worms’.

You gotta love the internet. AND worms!

http://www.homecompostingmadeeasy.com/wormcomposting.html

Okay, I did include one link, the information on this particular site was exceptional. Like any subject I’ve researched, I’ve learned how scattered important details can be. It’s not often I find one written piece that covers a lot of ground.

 

 

Creativity. Use it!

I’ve learned a lot about being frugal in the past year. Being financially strapped will do that for you. And I actually highly recommend it! Many of us never consider how many squares of toilet paper we use. Or how much further inexpensive rice or pasta can make a meal go. Toothpaste, shampoo, laundry soap. When we run out, we run out and buy more!

But what happens when you don’t have the money for “necessities”? You get creative. And frugal 🙂 You begin to understand a tiny blob IS enough. You ration your food (and hey, some people can handle that!). You start to realize we have so many luxuries we take for granted.

Yesterday, with the record breaking warm temperatures we’ve been experiencing, I was outside often. It’s time for massive yard work. And I’m easily annoyed when I have to remove my shoes and put them back on repeatedly.

I thought to myself, “I need some slip on shoes. But they’re all probably made in China!”. And I refuse to buy anything from there. I have plenty of reasons why; their appalling environmental pollution, their ivory trade, how they contaminated the honey industry, their animal testing. I could go on and on. I’ll restrain myself however 🙂

I’m also on a huge anti-buying spree in general. If I can reuse something for a new purpose, I do. I recycle. I refuse. I reduce. In other words, I try. This planet matters. There was a time, when I was young and foolish, that it didn’t. I have much to make up for!

So back to the shoes. I needed some slip ons. And I remembered I have old runners in my shed. Old runners that are too small! Yep. You’re a kindred soul if you figured out what I did. I cut the heels out of them! And now I have slip on shoes, lol. (One so far anyway). I don’t care if they’re pretty or not. I didn’t have to buy them AND I’ll get tons of use from them. Annoyance is gone.

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THAT is what I like to call ‘using your noggin’. Or mine, in this case. It’s like the broken crock pot that’ll become a planter in the garden soon. Or the weathered fence board I’m turning into a ‘No touch, no talk, no eye contact’ sign. Or the vintage door knobs from the house I grew up in becoming a coat rack.

My point is, throwing things away, into the never-stops-growing landfill, isn’t always necessary. Even if YOU won’t repurpose “garbage”, someone else will. Say NO to the landfill and ask friends or family if they want what you don’t. Or donate it. Place a free ad online, giving away FREE stuff. Heck, put it at the end of your driveway with a FREE sign on it. Someone will take it.

Now, I’m off to cut my other shoe. Have a fabulous weekend everyone!

More soap!

I’m rather perplexed sometimes. How can I be the organic, eco-friendly, make-all-my-food-from-scratch, use-a-bare-minimum-of-beauty-products, DIY kind of person that I am and I ONLY ventured into soap making last summer?!

I simply cannot understand why it never occurred to me years ago. I love it. Even though I’ve only made soap 3 times so far 🙂

My first 2 batches of hand and body bar soap just came to an end after 5 1/2 months. I really can’t complain despite the bars being softer and disappearing quicker than the conventional soap I’d been using. My homemade soap is organic and that’s a main objective for everything I purchase in regards to the food I consume (or grow) and bath and beauty products.

By making my own soap, I avoid parabens, colors, fragrances, sulfates, phthalates, PEG’s, triclosan (a pesticide), petroleum products AND MORE. There are so many nasty ingredients out there! It takes serious research to know what you’re exposed to and what you should steer clear of.

Last night, because I’m out of shampoo, I made a different type of bar. A shampoo bar! From 100% organic, coconut oil, water and lye. I used an easy recipe from http://www.mommypotamus.com

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I was hopeful, and also apprehensive, about using shampoo made entirely of oil. I’d read reviews from other people who’ve made it and they ranged from “my hair is awful” to “my hair feels fabulous”. I’m happy to say I’m on the fabulous end of matters. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

I now make my own deodorant, toothpaste, household scrub cleanser, laundry soap, hand & body bar soap AND shampoo! Dish soap is next. I have the supplies but don’t know how to make a substitution in the recipe. . . . . the woman of the blog where I found the recipe has never answered my question.

If you’ve ever considered making your own soap, I highly recommend it. The most important thing is to know all of your lye safety! I can say, from the many sites I visited, where I either read text or watched videos, there is a lot of misinformation about lye and most people don’t offer enough information. Lye can be dangerous but if you have respect for it and use proper precautions, you’ll be fine. And you’ll have awesome homemade soap 🙂

Hand washing vs. using a dishwasher

I’ve never owned a dishwasher. I’ve thought about it often enough over the years with all the cooking and baking I do. I’m always washing dishes. I barely get one mess cleaned up and I’m making another. I’m not complaining though. It’s my choice to be in the kitchen.

I’ve never owned a dishwasher because I can’t sacrifice the cupboard space and I don’t have room for a portable.

However, this doesn’t stop me from dreaming about it. What a luxury it would be! Mess. Into the dishwasher. Wipe the counter. Voila! I’m done and on to some other household task. Or better yet, I’m heading outside to the garden or to the bush for a hike with my dogs.

Yes, it would be lovely. I was imagining it again this morning, while washing dishes of course!, and I began to wonder which was environmentally-friendlier. Naturally, I Googled it and I’m surprised at what I discovered. I honestly didn’t believe I used so much more water than a dishwasher.

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/cleaning/Hand-washing-versus-dishwashers/

http://www.treehugger.com/kitchen-design/built-in-dishwashers-vs-hand-washing-which-is-greener.html

http://www.greenlivingonline.com/article/dishwasher-vs-hand-washing

So now I ponder the idea. Do I at least purchase a portable? I could make the space if I absolutely had to. Or do I consider the notion more intricately? Sure, a dishwasher wins hands down over doing it yourself but what impact on the environment is the actual manufacturing and inevitable disposal of a dishwasher?

Yep. My mind works in mysterious ways. Where are the parts from? Probably China. I’d be flabbergasted if a dishwasher was made entirely from US or Canadian parts in the US or Canada. There’s a “cost” to all the importing and exporting. How EF are the factories that make dishwashers? What’s the life expectancy of a dishwasher? (on average, 9-10 years) Will it need repairs during it’s lifetime? Can an old dishwasher be recycled? (it depends) And what’s the impact of that? I couldn’t find all the answers.

Everyone has a kitchen sink (no need to buy an expensive dishwasher). Everyone has a simple towel that can be folded and placed on the counter (no need for a plastic drainer). We can learn to be as water efficient as humanly possible. It sounds environmentally-friendlier, no?

Like any other post I’ve published it all comes down to what we want to pay attention to and what we want to ignore. I think I’ll stick with hand washing my dishes for now. I’ll focus on using the barest amount of water because I do shamefully admit, I’m a water fiend (that’s fiend, not friend). In the case of my sister, she HAS a dishwasher, and doesn’t use it. It leaks or something. Well, sister, get it fixed and USE it. 🙂 But then again, it’s old, so maybe it’s not better. . . . . .