Eclectic and Eccentric, Spiritual and Sublime

Archive for the homesteading tag

H. A. O'Connor

Saving the Green: Earth-wise, Budget-friendly Choices

Earthy, Living Sustainably, Natural and Noteworthy, Neighborhood Homesteading 2 Comments
Saving the Green: Earth-wise, Budget-friendly Choices

Green is one of my favorite colors. I like it in terms of growing, planty things, and I like it in terms of cash. Nope, I’m not materialistic, but I am a realist (as much as reality requires, anyway).

Since nature and I are already on pretty good terms and because I’m trying to form a nice, healthy friendship with money, I’ve been looking into ways people can help save the green (both kinds). Here’s what I’ve found, so far:

Image via pixabay/terimakasih0

General Household:

Reusable/washable “paper” towels – leftover fabric (flannel, fleece) can be cut into squares and used to wipe counters, tables, etc., as an alternative to paper towels. Some people go the extra mile, add a terry cloth backing and store them in a pretty basket, but I’m easy (lazy): I keep mine in a drawer and, once used, throw them in the wash.

Hand towels – if you’re not already using hand towels in your kitchen, trust me, they work just as well there as they do in the powder room. I usually hang two: one for drying hands and the other for drying dishes. Again, they’re easy to toss into the wash and they further reduce the need for paper towels.

Stainless steel straws – have you seen the video of the poor sea turtle with the plastic drinking straw lodged in its nostril? No joke, I ordered my stainless straws the day I saw it. Here’s the video, if you want to see. You may never be the same again. *Warning: contains strong language and graphic images. 

Stainless/glass water bottles – bottling your drinks at home is cheaper than buying bottled water, etc. No plastic is even better than recycled plastic.

Reusable bags – we use these whenever we can; however, when we do get plastic bags from the store, we reuse them at home (and recycle the torn ones). That said, our goal is to reduce (and hopefully eliminate) our use of plastic bags in the future.

No-throw lunch items – when packing lunches, we use washable containers (plastic or glass), stainless steel bottles (rather than juice boxes, etc.), and forks/spoons from home–no need for the use-and-toss stuff. Beeswax-coated fabric is a great alternative to plastic wrap, too (from what I’ve heard–I still need to try it), and a cloth napkin can be brought home and washed. Also, we use insulated lunch bags, which usually last a couple of years (and we save brown paper bags for school field trips).

Image via pixabay/falco

Food:

Back to nature – in terms of food, closer to nature is generally better for our health and the environment. This is especially true with locally grown food–there are more nutrients in fresher foods; plus, when food travels a shorter distance to get to you, that equals less pollution. You can trying growing your favorite herbs, vegetables, fruits, berries right in your own back yard (or in containers on a patio or balcony). Good soil, clean water, and sunlight are pretty much all it takes.

Foods as medicine – healthy foods, even right down to common yard weeds, have traditionally served both as preventative healthcare and as medicinal treatment. I say, Eat your weeds! (Too far? Sorry if you’re not with me on that one yet.)

Image via pixabay/terimakasih0

Personal care:

Safety razors with replaceable blades – these are on my wish list, because I haven’t made my way through my plastic razors yet…

Simple oils as moisturizers – I just apply a simple oil to damp skin and it keeps my largest organ happy and healthy. For my body, I’ve been using grapeseed oil, which is light, absorbs easily, and contains a lot of skin-loving Vitamin E. It’s also inexpensive and easy to find, plus it’s not loaded with chemicals or preservatives. Likewise, for our faces, my husband uses rosehip seed oil and I use argan oil, which I adore… (More on that in another post.)

DIY self-care products (from the same basic ingredients) – I make soaps, body butters, balms (including lip balms), homemade deodorant, and much more, using a fairly small group of ingredients (things like coconut and olive oil, beeswax and essential oils)…I’ll share the list once I compile one (a task which I’m now adding to my to-do list…) *By the way, as I mentioned in another post, milk of magnesia also makes for a great, safe deodorant…one without chemicals or additives.

DIY makeup – although I still buy foundation and mascara, I make the rest of my makeup myself. As I’ve shown in my YouTube video, I use colloidal oatmeal tinted with cocoa for face powder, activated charcoal for eyeliner, and arrowroot powder, mica, and cocoa powder for eye shadow. Yes, that’s right. Food on my face.

Cloth diapers – I absolutely love my babies (as big as they are now), but I changed my millionth diaper long ago and grandkids are still a long way off, so you’re on your own with this one…

Feminine products – menstrual cups and washable cloth sanitary pads are becoming increasingly popular; they’re two options for women which not only benefit the environment, but also protect us from the harmful chemicals that can be found in many mainstream products. These items can also help save money (after initial purchasing costs).

Image via pixabay/terimakasih0

Cleaning:

White vinegar = use in dishwasher as a drying agent, and in clothes washer in place of fabric softener

Vinegar (diluted) = windows, tile floors, etc.

Vinegar (diluted) + baking soda = scrub tubs and sinks, helps clean out drains (*Also: hydrogen peroxide + baking soda = stain-removing scrub, safe for some surfaces)

Vinegar (diluted) + essential oils (peppermint, tea tree, lavender, and lemon are some of my cleaning favorites–they kill germs while freshening the house) = cleaning spray for counters, cabinets, etc. *Vinegar may not be safe to use on some surfaces, so please do your research and use with caution

Vinegar (diluted) + essential oils + liquid castile soap = great when you need a little soapy-ish boost (although castile soap doesn’t really lather, so don’t expect bubbles)

Image via pixabay/Alexas_Fotos

Pets:

Pet towels – we’ve designated old bath towels for use on the pets, for bath time or muddy feet. They also double as great picker-uppers if the pups get sloppy with their water bowls or if one of the humans spills a drink.

Dawn dish soap – this works well if you have a flea problem–wash, rinse, repeat (and then probably repeat again in a day or two)

Security system + smoke detector + fire alarm + crumb cleaner-upper + stress reducer + cheerer-upper + seat saver + foot warmer + all-around snuggly cuddler = pets (*Note: cats reserve the right to leave all–or most–crumb cleaning-upping to the dogs)

Images via pixabay/teadrinker

Last, but never least: Reduce, reuse, recycle always and in all the ways you can. (At least that’s something to strive for.) Those three Rs will reduce landfill fill, while saving money. Win, win. No question.

This is what I call a “living list.” It will evolve as my knowledge and experience do. All in all, though, I think the best rule of thumb for saving the green (if that’s your goal) is to make the transition how and when you’re able. Rather than seizing everything you own and dumping it all into a landfill somewhere, make good use of the items you have and recycle or reuse them as you’re able. When the things around you need to be replaced, that’s the time to go for the green–doing some research can help you find the eco-friendly items which will best suit your needs.

It might take some time to adjust to a greener life, but I’ve found it addictive in the best way. I can’t help hoping it’s contagious.

H. A. O'Connor

Parenting with More…of Less

Earthy, Ethereal, Living Sustainably, Minimalism: Less Is More, Neighborhood Homesteading, Parenting No Comment
Parenting with More…of Less

Generation after generation, parents have set out to give their kids more than they had. So why do I feel the constant desire to give my kids less?

On the surface, it might sound like a simple case of bad parenting, and I definitely have had (and will have) my share of parenting fails. I think I’ll be able to chalk this one up to a win, though, and I’m sure others feel similarly.

By Charles Ellis Johnson – Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections, Public Domain,
httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=54968740

To clarify how this less thing works, think: less busy-ness, less unnecessary technology, less consumerism, less time indoors, less stress…. (I could add “fewer possessions, fewer distractions,” etc., but then I’d have to mess with my “less” theme, so….)

In having less, kids also get more: more free time, more outdoor activities, more bonding with family and friends, more healthful living, more imagination and creativity, more appreciation for life’s basic pleasures, more peace….

Childhood, for me, had some definite highlights. Generally, the simple things were what I treasured most and still remember best: exploring woods and fields and farms with friends, climbing trees, riding bikes, writing, drawing, painting, spending quality time with family and pets.

By State Library of Queensland, Australia [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

I can’t help feeling we were onto something in those long-ago days of my youth, you know, back in the 1900s. I like to think of it as hands-on living.

This, then, is what I want for my kids: I want more…of less. I want them to be plugged into their lives, rather than plugged into electronics and disconnected from real living.

How do I hope to achieve this? (On a wing and a prayer?) The general idea is to stick with a back to basics theme. In terms of specifics, well, I’m still working on those. For now, I’m focusing on the following hopes and goals, some of which are already in the works:

(To simplify, I’ve grouped the details into broad categories.)

Image via Unsplash/Redd Angelo

The Minimal the Better (<–click for more on minimalism)

Minimalism can involve decluttering life on multiple levels–from physical items to activities/habits that use up time and energy.

*Clear out unnecessary belongings–donate!

*Buy less (e.g. instead of owning massive amounts of clothing, focus on fewer, more versatile items; for people who have young children, point out to them that one or two stuffed animals are easier to love and tote around than a dozen)

*Encourage (aka demand) less screen time–this was so much easier when my kids were little!

*Choose activities more carefully–weed out unnecessary distractions and use free time better (e.g. instead of an expensive indoor activity, go for a walk together at a state/national park. Add a dog, a camera, and/or a picnic lunch and it qualifies as a bona fide event, without too much fuss)

By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Self-sufficient? Naturally

Self-sufficiency can happen as an individual or on a larger scale.

*Individual self-sufficiency–encourage kids to do more for themselves. It may take longer in the beginning, but it will help them gain confidence and skills along the way and, eventually, might free up some time for the adults. (I did say “might.”)

(*Sidenote: I remember standing inside a store years ago, waiting for one of my sons to tie his shoe. I used it as a momentary reprieve–a chance to catch my breath before he was up and active again–but a woman beside me apparently found the whole experience exasperating. “I don’t know how you can do that,” she said to me, as he tried and tried again. “I’d just have to jump in and do it for him.” I smiled at her, still happy with my choice. If I took over for him this time and the next (and the next) how would he ever learn? By the way, I’ve definitely lacked patience as a parent–and as a human, in general–but sometimes I think I got it right.)

*Self-sufficiency on a bigger scale–in desiring to live more independently as a family, it will be important to work in harmony with the natural world. We hope to:

*Grow more of our own food–veggies, herbs, fruits, berries (*Another aside: we’ve already planted two fruit trees in honor of lost loved ones–a Grandma Hon Tree and a Grandy Tree. I think they’d approve, especially when their trees are in bloom.)

*Make more food from scratch–the closer you stay to nature, the better = great rule of thumb, when it comes to food

*Use natural remedies and preventative treatments to help improve our health–including herbs and common lawn weeds (<click to see that post)

*Make our own soaps and other personal products from natural ingredients (such as I’ve demonstrated on my little YouTube channel–* here*)

*Continue with our chicken keeping (love those girls!)

By Kheel Center – Flickr Adults and three young children make artificial flowers around a table at
home., CC BY 2.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=20256953

Put ’em to work

*Show kids the value of hard work–not only general yard work, housework, pet care, but also projects–currently, the boys are helping my husband put up a fenced area behind the house for the dogs (YouTube video on that soon to come)

*Add to our DIY lifestyle–this helps ease the strain on our budget, while showing the kids we’re capable of a lot, if we are willing to learn. For example, I started cutting everyone’s hair years ago (bit of a rough start, but I think I’ve got the hang of it. They might beg to differ.) Also, my “To be painted” list has quite a few rooms on it, so I’d like to start teaching the kids how to help me

*Have them brainstorm with us on future projects or current problems–this shows the kids they’re really part of the team, plus they have some great things to contribute

*Encourage creative pursuits (paints, paper, pens, cardboard, wood, hammer, nails, etc.–simple tools can spark all kinds of endeavors)

*Help them help others–from raising money for a child-driven charity, Our Children Making Change, to assisting the runners at Philadelphia’s annual Broad Street Run, to fostering puppies from the rescue where I volunteer (Greenmore Farm Animal Rescue), the kids have experienced how good it feels to offer someone a helping hand

Public Domain, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=268522

Become a Model

In addition to working with our kids on the activities I’ve mentioned above, parents can think about our own behavior as modeling. Some examples:

*If we want our kids to value long-term achievements over short-term pleasures, we can let them see how we work toward goals and, when met with challenges, how we adapt and persevere

*If we want our kids to be aware of society’s focus on consumerism, materialism, and other “surface” living, we can talk with them about things like need vs. want and how consumer-driven lifestyles can be damaging to us and the environment

*If we’d like kids to understand the value of learning, we can put down our smart phones or tablets and pick up a book, build/repair something, or start another kind of project

(*hint: our kids won’t be the only ones who benefit when we choose well)

 

Turns out I’ve listed a lot for a post on “less.” Granted, I may have overcomplicated things, but a list like this should only serve as a reference, anyhow. I find that when we set our sights on choosing a “back to basics” life, things begin to fall into place naturally.

I know I’m not the only one who feels less really can be more, so I’d love to hear how others are giving their kids (or themselves) more from less. Do you agree that a simpler life can help nurture healthier bodies, as well as happier hearts and minds?

H. A. O'Connor

The Noble Act of the Dumpster Dive

Earthy, Ethereal, Neighborhood Homesteading, Parenting, Searching for Inspiration 6 Comments
The Noble Act of the Dumpster Dive

Think about it, just for a moment. Dumpster diving probably doesn’t conjure up pretty images for most of us. Not for me, either.

The other morning, though, I was needing a little self-TLC, feeling tired and a bit lost, so of course I found myself on youtube, looking up videos of Nigerian Dwarf Goats. What else, right? I watched a few and then I came across a video of a single mom, raising her kids on a farm and supplementing their lifestyle with dumpster diving. Since dumpsters don’t sound like pleasant places to dive, I opted instead for another video of bouncing (literally) baby goats. But that mom and her children and their dumpster trips were still there, along the side of the screen, waiting patiently with all their viewing potential.

jlwaswilson pixabay

Image via pixabay/jlwaswilson

Hmm, baby goats? Dumpsters? Baby goats? Dumpsters?

Okay, I’ll bite, I thought. So, I watched, ready to cover my eyes if the woman started sifting among messy, smelly dumpsters. Instead, what I found was a sweet young mom, raising her family on a farm in the midwest, spending her day feeding chickens and ducks with the help of her kids, going over homeschool lessons, pushing them on swings and sharing quiet laughter. It all looked pretty peaceful, to be honest. Sure, there were piles of clothing on her furniture and clutter in the corners of her rooms. She’s a single parent of four. I’m a co-parent of three and there are days when I wonder what the Health Department would have to say about our house. Still, she had yet to take her viewers on a dumpster tour, so I wasn’t sold on anything.

I didn’t have to wait for long. The woman broached the topic by mentioning she’d recently picked up some coffee from a dumpster, saying the package had been resting on the top–sealed, uncontaminated. Still, my stomach waited, threatening to turn. I don’t drink coffee (caffeine doesn’t like me), so this remained safely-distant territory.

Glen Carrie

Image via pixabay/Glen Carrie

No coffee for me. Definitely no dumpster coffee for me.

Cue the next scene: the woman parked beside a dumpster outside of a craft store, pulled out one of those long, reachy, grabby things (sorry–dysnomia moment), and got to work. Instead of extracting an item that looked like it was ready to crawl from a lagoon, she pulled out package after package of…craft supplies, each one perfectly sealed and clean as could be. On another stop, she found brand-new toys and, later, games, and books. All these items–the ones she plucked from the dumpsters–were fine. Better than fine. If someone had put them back on the racks inside the store, I suppose anyone would have bought them. Instead, for whatever reason, these items had been tossed into a dumpster and were destined for a landfill.

I started thinking: if I were in this woman’s shoes (she also found a pair of unused shoes in her size, by the way), would I do this? Well, maybe I’d cross state lines first, but…. Really, though, who am I to judge her? Pride is stupid. It’s useless. So, what is this woman doing? She’s going around pride. She’s doing the best she can for her family, simple as that.

I am not a single parent of four, but I do know something about having to struggle with finances. So many of us do, don’t we? Times are tough and people’s salaries aren’t necessarily keeping up with the demands. My husband is talented at what he does, but his paycheck doesn’t always reflect this as much as we might wish. I, on the other hand, have gone from being a stay-at-home mom for a decade and a half, to working 30 hours a week and writing on the side, to dealing with health issues that have me home again and looking for a work-from-home situation, which hasn’t shown itself on the map yet. So, yes, we are financially stressed and, no, I don’t usually treat my kids to many extras, unless it’s to celebrate a birthday or a holiday or an end-of-year reward for good grades. That said, my kids are fine. They’re happy and healthy and I couldn’t be more grateful. They understand there are limits to the things we can afford, but not to love.Ben Kerckx

Image via pixabay/Ben Kerckx

Love? Priceless

I have to confess, since watching a couple of these videos, I haven’t dived into any dumpsters. Yet, this woman still has me thinking. There are ways to provide for ourselves and our families outside of what might be considered the norm. Should there be shame in that? I’ve been trying to shift my family’s lifestyle into a homesteading one–keeping chickens, growing our own herbs and vegetables, making soaps and other personal care items. I began it to help us live a healthier lifestyle, but I love the self-sufficiency of it just as much. Dumpster diving doesn’t completely jibe with my view, since I’m trying to streamline our lifestyle, minimalizing things we have around the house and don’t need, but then again, what if a dumpster somewhere contains a nice, clean, unbroken version of something we DO need? If you never seek, how can you find? Reduce,reuse, recycle, dive? Maybe that ought to be the new-and-improved way to provide for your family, while *bonus* helping to protect the environment?

Brooklyn Morgan

Image via pixabay/Brooklyn Morgan

Reduce, reuse, recycle, DIVE?

All I can say, is after watching that mom doing the best she could to make her family’s life better, working within what was available to her, I didn’t feel the least bit judgy. I felt ashamed, in fact, of the way I’d reacted when I first saw the headline to her video. Eww, dumpsters had changed to something else. This woman had shared a glimpse of her life and, afterward, I wanted to shake her gloved hand, maybe even peek with her into the next dumpster she visited.

So, I did something–took a very, very small step. I clicked “Subscribe.” Like I said, it’s not much. Maybe, though, it’s a move toward something bigger, a change in perspective. I just can’t help thinking there might be some important lessons to be learned from a woman who is noble enough do dive into dumpsters for the sake of her loved ones.

 

Newest release! Take a peek:

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Please follow & like us :)

Instagram

  • Picking up one of his boys from school #puppylove
  • I was right, this one's a boy! (See those dots on his wings?) He's flying (I learned that the hard way), but not well enough to be released just yet. Soon! #monarchbutterfly
  • Our second arrival! Can't tell yet if it's a girl or a boy, but so happy all is well! #monarchbutterfly
  • It's a girl! So excited! She's busy drying her wings, but we're looking forward to releasing her as soon as she's ready! #monarchbutterfly #firsttohatch
  • Having nineties flashbacks #manicpanic

Archives

%d bloggers like this: