Tag Archives: Sustainable living

My Tips for Sustainable Living

I am loving Nathan Crane’s series on sustainable living.

I am learning a lot from the people in this series and gaining new insights and new ideas. I am also realizing that almost every change I have made in my life over the last 20+ years, including my focus on organic gardening, has brought

Community gardens are gifts.

Gardening is good for body and soul.

me one step closer to living more sustainably. That was not why I made the changes.

Being sustainable never entered into my choices. Watching, listening, seeing and, at some deep level, awakening, knowing and choosing to make changes in my life and my home that are ethically in tune with me began with a diagnosis of cancer.

Once started, the changes didn’t stop. Here are some simple things I did, you can do, to just start down the path of being kinder to yourself, your loved ones and your world.

Buy organic meat and poultry. My husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2001. Everything changed.  And this was one of the first changes I made.  I found neighbors who were farmers who were organic and we bought our first pasteur-raised, free-ranged food.  I am a vegetarian now but we still buy organic meats from our friends.

No paper towels.  Sounds silly, small, but it was the first choice I made.  I weaned the household (and my husband) off of them in a year.  We have not had paper towels in our home for 7 years.  I buy fabric napkins at thrift shops and use them and wash them and use them again.

Drying clothes on a line.  I live in a relatively affluent neighborhood where

Breezecatcher 4 arm dryer

My Breezecatcher dryer saves me $100’s every year.

there are no clothes lines.  My solution? Buy a “solar dryer” that I can put out in the morning and take down in the afternoon.  I save about $80 a month on electricity just by drying towels, sheets and heavy cloths outdoors, year round.

Lettuce is an easy crop to grow and so tasty.

Lattuga in any language is a great addition to your garden.

Growing My Own – organic gardening has moved from an idea to a full-blown love of mine and it all started with lettuce!  Twenty plus years later, I have never looked back.  I am cheap, pragmatic and able to raise almost every veggie or fruit we eat using nothing but time, sunshine, water and love.

Making my own laundry detergent.  I decided to do this because I live in well country – and there are a lot of families downstream from my septic system and tile field.  Commercial laundry detergents are pretty harsh so I found a recipe (on the internet) using washing soda, laundry soap – Fels Naptha – and water. I add a few drops of Thieves oil for scent and make 3 gallons at a time for pennies on the dollar.  And I get the peace of mind of knowing that I am not poisoning my neighbors’ wells.

Making kombucha and sauerkraut.  This is my newest venture and I LOVE it. Fermented foods are so easy to make and so inexpensive to prepare.  You can pay $6.50 for a pint of sauerkraut or make a gallon – 8 pints – for $2.00.  Same with Kombucha — fermented black tea.  Pay $5.00 a bottle or about 15 cents a bottle.  It’s easy to make, delicious to drink and again, so very good for you.  Save money, feed your family and save resources.

Don’t listen to me.  Listen to yourself.  Take a step that works for you. Grow something. Save something. Make something. Don’t wait for someone else; make the change you want to see.

Let’s go back to Edward Abbey’s America.

“If America could be, once again, a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers and artists, then the rich would have little power to dominate others.”                                                                                           Edward Abbey

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Gleanings from Sustainabilty Series w/Nathan Crane

Day 3 of this fabulous series and I am just learning so much and being validated in a whole lot of ways as I enjoy the Search for Sustainability.

Episode 3 is about health, your health and how you can get it back.  and do so without medicines, doctors, surgery.  The easiest change? Get rid of processed foods.  Just get rid of them and grow your own!

Organic gardening depends on dirt.

Growing your own organic veggies is easy.

You will save money.  You will save yourself.  And you will feel better.  Those messages come through loud and clear and I am living proof that they are true. I’ve lost 60 pounds I didn’t know I had to lose.

My husband has lost 45 pounds and is still losing.  His blood sugar is normalizing — after 20 years of Type 2 diabetes.  It’s good news and it is easy to do just by making that the choice to grow or buy organic produce.

Organic gardening for everyone who thinks it's hard.

Tips & tricks to make gardening easy & fun.

Growing organic veggies and fruits is easy, it’s fun and it’s a way to share what you learned from your mom or dad, your aunts and your friends like I did in my book.

There are other choices that are also coming through loud and clear in this series.

Do it!

The motto of a very famous shoe company should also be your motto.  Just do it.  Once you start, you will find it just gets easier and easier because you start feeling better.

Live it!

Live this life of health and renewal and joy.  Step back into the real world with other people who are choosing health and growing or buying organic foods.

Teach it.

There is nothing more rewarding than being able to share what you have learned on your journey through life.  This is where Nathan Crane is.  This is where many of the people in this series are – teaching it.  This is what I do in my book.

Even if you don’t feel you are ready, just watch. Maybe just take one small step because that’s what sustainability is all about.  Make one small change, today.

Grow So Easy Organic – Best Gardening Resources Online

The Internet is a wonderful place!

It has made the job of finding information on just about anything a whole lot easier.  But sometimes, the Internet can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you are looking for information quickly and if you want a reputable source.

There are more than 20 million sites that talk about organic gardening.  But the odds are that many of those sites aren’t really going to provide information that organic gardeners are looking for.  In fact, a lot of them are just trying to sell you something.

I don’t have a problem with companies trying to sell me something. In fact, I really look forward to the seed and supply catalogues that I get throughout the year.  But I don’t want to read about the latest gadget for growing tomatoes if I’m in the middle of a battle with bugs and I know I’m losing.

I want to get information – fast – and from another gardener that I trust.  So that’s how I chose my favorite gardening web sites.  The sites listed below help me make my garden grow better, arm me for all the little tragedies that come along with life, make me smile,  and warm me on cold winter nights.

I hope you enjoy them.

A Way To Garden
Margaret Roach is truly one of my heroes…not just in the gardening world but in the wider world of surviving.  I met her through her book, The Gardener’s Way.  It was the cover that made me buy it.

Her hands, holding green beans, her nails caked with dirt, the clothing in the background clearly worn for work – all these told me that she was a real gardener.  She was someone who enjoyed digging in the dirt.  I was right.

A Way to Garden was her first salvo in sharing  gardening, expertise that had been refined and honed as the editorial director of Martha Stewart Living.  But it’s when Roach severed ties with Stewart’s empire, moved to upstate New York and started living on the land she bought as a weekend getaway, that she started really digging into dirt and life.

She has written a another book since A Way to Garden – And I Shall Have Some Peace There – about her country life but it’s her blog that I really, truly love.

First of all, the information on her blog is mind-boggling and top-notch.  Secondly, Roach brings in some of the tops gardeners and horticulturists in the country and asks them to share their secrets on everything from raising garlic to pruning berry bushes.

Secondly, Roach’s writing is like music to read – rich, warm, inviting and always, always friendly.  She isn’t trying to prove anything anymore to anyone.  She is really writing from the center of her gardener’s heart and I love getting her newsletter in my inbox!

The Bug Guide 
If you don’t have your own book on bugs and you want to find out what a bug is quickly, check out this site.  A wonderful guide from a reliable source and one that Margaret Roach brought to my attention.

It’s a community website called BugGuide.net – a place where naturalists ranging from amateur to expert share photos of insects, spiders and other bugs and  beasties.

BugGuide.net was started for two purposes – one to expand knowledge about bugs that they say are, “…oft overlooked and oft-maligned.”  But it was also started to help make people more enthusiastic about these critters some of which can be very helpful in the garden.

Roach says Bug Guide, “… has long been a go-to resource for me, but now I’m starting to engage further.”  The site offers a “how to” that makes using the site easier and also tells you how you can participate.

Earth Easy
I know.  This web site sells products…a lot of products.  But, if you look carefully at what they sell, all of their products are geared toward sustainable living and saving the planet.  So I’m interested in what they sell.  And I’m interested in what they are saying.

Earth Easy  is a business that was started by a family that got a chance to try sustainable living, themselves.  Living on a small island, long before sustainable living was a buzzword, Greg Seaman and his family developed techniques, ideas and processes that made their lives rich and full and much less damaging to the planet than a typical family’s lifestyle is.

At Earth Easy, you will find a ton of gardening advice for free.  But what I like even more is the stable of contributing writers that broaden and deepen the information available on this site.

The writers frequently offer tips on how to have a much smaller footprint in our lives.  For example, one of their contributing writers, Geoff DeRuiter, shared his quest to produce just one, small can of trash in a year.

DeRuiter, who is currently pursuing a PhD in Bioenergy and Biocarbon Sequestration did it.  And he offers some solid ideas and information on how all of us could help reduce the waste that streams from our houses to landfills every day.

Earth Easy also sends out one of the better newsletters you can find online.  When their newsletter arrives in my inbox, I take the time to open it, browse through it and read about all the other people and ideas that are out there, in the organic gardening world.

The Garden Rant
So, maybe this isn’t an advice site for gardeners but…it sure has some of the best gardening posts I have read in a long time.  And the writers at Garden Rant aren’t afraid of tackling political problems like Genetically Modified Organisms and “garden police” tearing up back yard gardens because they aren’t up to “code.”

Written by “…4 different gardeners from 4 different corners of the United States,” this blog makes me smile, makes me angry and just plain old makes me come back for more.

The information is spot on, the writing is friendly and easy to read and the topics cover just about everything that an organic gardener and follower of sustainable living could want to know.

The four writers have been raising cane online for 6 years now and they’ve gotten a whole lot of attention from some of the biggest media outlets in the country including the New York Times, The Washington Post and Garden Design Magazine. 

So if you want to laugh and cry and learn about everything that can and does happen to gardeners and in gardening, this is the site for you.

Root Development of Vegetable Plants
Okay, this is a real niche resource.  But this is also what I love about the Internet.  Where else could you find information like this?

Written in 1927 by John E. Weaver and William E. Bruner, two botanists at the University of Nebraska,  Root Development of Vegetable Plants is almost 100 years old but if there is anything you want to know about the roots of any vegetable plant, this is the site to turn to.

I confess I have not read it every page but if I have a question, I gleefully put myself in the hands of Drs. Weaver and Bruner.  And I have learned a whole lot about why my plants do well or do poorly just by understanding the basics of how plants work!

Grow Girls Grow Organic
This Linked In group was started by me about 3 years ago and while it’s small (only 550 or so members), it includes gardeners, growers and friends from around the world.  Less structured and more informal, I welcome anyone who has any interest in gardening from back yard vegetables to rice paddies in Thailand.

Members can post questions, provide answers or just share links to their blogs about their own gardening experiences and backyard lives.  No advertisements are allowed on the blog and I try to police this are carefully – walking the fine line between promotion and providing information on something that might make gardening life easier.

I learned about Foodie Bugle from the Grow Girls Grow Organic members, found Hudson Valley Seed Library and High Mowing Organic Seeds through this group and have picked up quite a few tips on raising some veggies I thought I was already good at.

And I’ve gotten some hearty laughs and made a few friends along the way just from gathering together a group of gardeners from the United States and across the globe.

If you’re already a member of LinkedIn just search for Grow Girls Grow Organic and join in the noise about gardening and living!  Yes, guys are welcome to join too.

Peaceful Valley
Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, aka Grow Organic, is another organic growing business that started small in 1976 and just kept gaining sales and customers.  Peaceful Valley, named after Peaceful Valley Road in Nevada City, California, is now owned by Eric and Patty Boudier.

Visit their site and you’ll find a lot of excellent information on just about every gardening topic you could wish for.  You can read their online advice and you can watch Patty do video segments on everything from pruning fruit trees to planting tomatoes.

One note of caution:  the last time I ordered, Peaceful Valley had very high shipping rates for its products.  So, although I like the information they share, I don’t like paying almost as much to ship seed garlic as it costs to buy garlic.

If you live West of the Mississippi you may find their shipping rates are lower.  But the East coast pays a premium for Peaceful Valley products that we can get from growers like High Mowing Seed and Hudson Valley.

For the last two weeks, I have shared  books and web sites that are my best friends, especially in winter.  On cold, blustery days, when all the leaves are gone and the ground is covered with snow, I spend time gazing rooting around these sites and reading my books.

I plot and plan what I will grow and draw a garden diagram I know I will never follow.  And I spend quiet hours visiting my online friends and re-reading the books by my old friends that have helped me create this sustainable life of mine.

Next week, I’ll begin delving into the plants I will plan for and plant in 2013.