Jun 30, 2016

Chicken Update

How chicks have changed in the first 12 weeks.

I haven't written much about the chickens mostly because there hasn't been that much to say. It's crazy how fast they grow! You can see how tiny they were when we first got them. They are very easy pets/livestock! Our chicks are about 12 weeks now. We go out most mornings just to check on them and make sure they have food and water. They aren't laying eggs yet and have enough food and water so I'll admit I've gotten a bit lazy about going out in the mornings. Then usually in the afternoon I'll go out there and pick some greens to give to them and check on them again.

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Our chickens are not free range.  They exclusively live in the coop that we built. The coop has been working great. Last week it was getting time to change out the litter. They call the stuff on the bottom of a coop litter. Ours is leaves that we gathered from the fall. As we were replacing the litter we made sure to put up the dog and we let them wander around the yard for a few minutes. I think they rather enjoyed eating the fresh grass and foraging for bugs.

backyard chickens urban farmer

Our chickens are still too young to produce eggs. I anticipate they will start in the next month or so. When that happens twice daily trips will likely become more mandatory to pick up the eggs. Estimates are that with 6 chickens when they all start laying at full capacity we'll have about 2-3 dozen eggs a week! People at work have been so great and saving egg cartons for me. However even with repaying them back we'll likely have eggs out of our ears.

Anyone have any great egg recipes? :)

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Chicken Update: How the chicks have changed in the first 12 weeks

Shared on the Homestead Blog Hop and Clever Chicks Blog Hop

Jun 27, 2016

Pickled Jalapenos

The most prolific item in our garden has been our jalapeno plant. It's great because we are actually growing something that has been thriving, but I unfortunately don't like things that are too spicy. Hubby prefers things far hotter than I do, and frankly I wouldn't have gotten the plant to begin with. However I don't want to berate our top performer. We had so many that Hubby decided he wanted to pickle them. We used the recipe from . I highly recommend the tutorial. It looks great and the recipe is easy to follow.
Simply Scratch

One of the nice things about the tutorial is you can make it for as many peppers you have. So we gathered up the peppers and the other ingredients: kosher salt, sugar, garlic, water and distilled white vinegar. The pictures with vinegar were blurry. :(

You boil up the ingredients while you cut up the jalapenos. 

Add the jalapenos to the boiling liquid, let sit with the heat off for about 10 minutes to slightly cook/soften the jalapenos. Then place them in the jar and when cooled put them in the refrigerator. The next day Hubby started eating them and he really enjoyed them.  I can't comment on how it tastes, because I am pretty wimpy when it comes to spicy food. 

Shared on Share the Wealth SundayMy 2 Favorite , Healthy Happy Green Natural

Jun 23, 2016

DIY Door Headboard

I knew I wanted a beach theme in our guest bedroom in Florida, so I scoured Pinterest for ideas. I knew I wanted a lot of different pillows on the bed that had beach theme. Years ago Hubby made a bed frame for our guest bed, but we never had a headboard. As I was looking for ideas for the room and different kinds of headboards I saw several tutorials discussing headboards made from old doors. I showed Hubby the idea and we were off to look at old doors!

We first went to a local antique/resale shop. They had the perfect door I wanted, It was white, aged, and had a symetrical design along the entire door. Unfortunately the door was slated to be turned into a table so the guy wouldn't sell it. There was another door there, but they wanted $90 for it and I just didn't like it as much. So we went to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore next. For those of you who don't know Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that builds houses. Their ReStores sell used building supplies and housing parts to help fund their builds. Seriously, they have tons of stuff! Sometimes they don't have anything of interest, but they are always getting new stock . They have cabinets, doors, lighting and bath fixtures, couches, paintings, paint and more. I could tell there was a local hotel that must have just gone through a renovation and donated the old items because there were nearly 30 identical light fixtures and paintings.  We went to their door section and they had a huge selection. There weren't any exactly like what I was looking at the antique store, but there were several options. We ended up selected a solid door that probably was an old pantry door. It was $10!

Hubby also picked up two 2x4 pieces of lumber from ReStore and we were ready for the project. We measured the height of the mattress and had the bottom of the headboard match up a couple inches below the mattress. We braced it with a piece across the back, and then attached it directly to the bed frame.

So I got a great, sustainable headboard for less than $20! I thought about painting it white, but I sort of like the color it adds.

We also hung up some pictures/postcards I had gotten of our favorite spots from when we lived in Hawai'i. These frames have been with us a long time. We purchased them as black frames to hold black and white photos we took from our travels. Those pictures didn't really fit in this house so I spray painted them white and put our beach photos in them. We've got Hanauma Bay, the Ko'olau mountains, the Mokuluas (the Mokes) twice for good measure, Diamond Head, a swiming honu (turtle) and Chinamans' Hat. 

Looking for other DIY projects? Check out the tribute we made to the places we've lived, but could easily be adapted for your favorite vacation spots. 

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DIY Door Headboard

Jun 20, 2016

We Can All Do Better

There, I said it: We can all do better.

We could consume items that have less plastic, are more organic, more local, less waste or more sustainable, but rather than focusing on things we aren't doing I'd like to see us be proud of what we are doing.

In a few short days Plastic Free July will start. Have you signed up? I'm not affiliated with it, but I did sign up to participate. I hope you start the month off very motivated and prepared, but at some point you will stumble.

Maybe you decide to make an impromptu stop at a grocery store and don't have your reusable bags. Or maybe you forget your water bottle at work and have to buy a bottle of water at the baseball field. There will be stumbles, but I encourage you to focus on the positive. Celebrate all the little decisions you make toward a less wasteful life.

So whether you are just starting on your journey or have been zero waste for 10 years, let's be satisfied and proud of how far we have come and continue to go.

Did you think this was going to be a lecture on doing more? ;)

Jun 16, 2016

Alternatives to Plastic Grocery Bags

You know some of the dangers of plastic bags, and read about my reusable bag journey, but there are a number of alternatives to getting the plastic grocery bag from the store. Here we'll discuss some pros and cons of each.

Paper Bag

Paper bags are a great alternative to plastic bags. Many grocery stores still carry them, but you generally have to ask. When I forget my reusable bags, or purchase more items than will fit in my bag(s), I ask for paper. Unfortunately paper bags actually use more energy than plastic bags to produce, but they are readily recyclable, compostable, or reusable.

Square reusable bag

This is the style of reusable bag I had started with (these are adorable!*). They are generally very sturdy and hold a large number of groceries, some of them even have plastic sheets to reinforce the bottom of the bag. The negatives to them are that they are made from plastic, and generally not a recyclable form of plastic. They also are quite bulky to transport when not being used. I was always forgetting to put them in my car so I never had them with me! However many people find great success with this style of reusable bag.

Fold up reusable bag

This is the style I predominately use now. I love that it can fold up and fit in my purse. When they are folded it is roughly the size of a glasses case. I am continually impressed with how much a single bag can carry. Some downsides are that it is still made of non-recyclable plastic, however there are some companies which allow you to send the bag back to the company for them to recycle. They have so many cute alternatives now including a dog, rosepattern or plain*.

Cotton bag

This is the first entirely plastic-free alternative! If made with 100% cotton there is no plastic. If the bag breaks or rips you could turn it into rags or even just throw it into the garden to decompose (though I bet this would take a while!). Since it is made from a growing plant it does take quite a bit of energy to produce, but given the life of the bag, and possibilities for reusing it, you can overcome it. However they can come in many different designs*. I really like this pineapple one*!


This may be a little unconventional, but most people have a backpack* laying around. If you know you aren't going to be purchasing many items you can just put it in the backpack. This also allows you to keep your arms free to carry more items. Just remember to put the heavy items on the bottom and eggs and bread on top! I actually used a backpack several times when living at my old house when I would bike to the grocery store. I could fit the groceries on my back and have my hands free for important things like steering. I have tried to hang the bags from the handle bars before, but let me tell you, it is much safer to use a backpack!

Pillow case

I can't say that I've done this, or seen anyone do this. However, why couldn't it be done?! Kids use them on Halloween. Most people have them laying around their house and they can fit quite a lot. Besides, the bags are really only used to keep items together while transporting them out to the car and then back into the house, we don't need to make a huge fashion statement. An added bonus is that pillow cases* are easily cleaned if soiled.

T-shirt bag

Another idea I've seen is converting an old t-shirt into a bag. You can help save the planet and show your support for your favorite athletics team or band. Here is a no-sew tutorial and here is one if you have some sewing skills.

This is my list of traditional and less traditional alternatives to plastic grocery bags. Are you participating in the #skipthebag challenge? What do you use?

*This is an affiliate links, see disclosure.

Wanting to forgo plastic bags, but not sure what to use? Look no further.

Jun 13, 2016

My First Zero Waste Purchases

I have purchased a number of items recently that will help me in my journey towards zero waste. Don't think that going zero waste means you have to spend a lot of money, remember the Zero Waste Tenets of reuse and refuse. However when transitioning from disposable plastic items you will likely need to purchase a more sustainable alternative and those are most of my purchases.

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The first is a
bamboo toothbrush. When I discussed our zero waste bathroom this was one area that I tied my husband in. A bamboo toothbrush still has nylon bristles, but the handle is made of bamboo. An entirely plastic free alternative, with a bamboo handle and boar hair bristles apparently exists, but it is hard to find. It comes in paper boxes that are recyclable but they suggest you compost them.

Next, I finally moved from the contemplation phase to the action phase with regard to safety razors. Hubby actually pulled the trigger for me as he added it to an order he was placing. I got the Merkur long handled safety razor. The handle length is a little longer than the one he uses and it works great. So far no cuts! Although I'll admit I did watch a few videos on YouTube as part of my preparation phase. Most safety razors are marketed toward men, but ladies we can use them just as easily! Marketers do you hear me? Women's razors are a nearly untapped bounty.

I also purchased a shampoo bar. I bought the 3 pack off of Amazon, and while each bar is wrapped in paper, the three bars are wrapped in plastic to make the set. However I've used the coconut and argan oil one a couple of times and it gets the job done and lathers more than I expected. The 3 pack also includes jojoba with peppermint and tee tree with hemp oil.

I am hoping to make a worm composter, and was feeling bad about trashing food scraps so I purchased a compost container. I really think it looks great and holds all our scraps with no smell. It cleans up really easily generally just needing to be rinsed out. There is a filter that needs to be cleaned and/or replaced. When I first started using it I would put a piece of of newsprint down in the bottom to soak up some liquids, but I don't even do that anymore. I just rinse it out after I empty it. 

I am loving all my new purchases and know that they will greatly help with the amount of waste I have. However, if you are just starting about going zero waste realize that you don't need to buy anything. But when your current disposable products wear out, be sure to replace them with sustainable plastic-free or plastic-less alternatives. 

Jun 9, 2016

The 5 Stages of Quitting Plastic

plastic free zero waste no plastic

There is a theory that there are 5 stages of quitting. I first learned about these stages for people trying to quit smoking, however I recently realized that they apply quite well to people who are trying to quit plastic or reduce their waste in general.

The 5 stages are:

1. Pre-contemplation. 

The person has no desire to quit. The thought has not even crossed their mind. A person will hold very tightly to their actions and will often defend them. This is where the majority of people are regarding plastic use and abuse. They live their lives not realizing the impact of their decisions. 

2. Contemplation

The person has begun to think about quitting, but not ready to make any action yet. They understand the dangers of their actions, and are considering making a change, but have not done it yet. If you are reading this, likely are at least at this level. Education about the dangers and repercussions of plastic use is important for moving people into this stage. 

3. Preparation. 

They are getting ready to quit. They understand that the negative effects outweigh the positives of their habit. This is where people will research possible alternatives and seek out others who have gone through the same process. 

4. Action. 

They actually quit. Using short term rewards and recognition and receiving support helps get through this phase which can last up to 6 months. In this stage people will finally take the step that they have been working up to. 

5. Maintenance. 

Keeping up with their new habit. Having it become a new part of their identity. They may slip up, but learn from their mistakes.

Let's see how this might look for someone who goes from using single use plastic bags to someone who will #skipthebag.

First they are like everyone else who uses 3, 5, 10 bags a week to carry their groceries home (pre-contemplation). They maybe they attend a fair where people are educated on how many bags are used annually, or they see an article about sea turtles eating plastic bags, or they read about the bag fee being established in New York or Washington D.C (contemplation). They start to look at how many bags they are using during a week (contemplation). To start minimizing their impact they find some reusable bags (preparation). Finally when they go grocery shopping that week they resolve to #SkipTheBag and use their reusable bag or get paper bags (action). Eventually after doing this week after week it becomes second nature (maintenance).

Going through these steps can happen very quickly: You are at the store, see the rack of reusable bags and decide to buy it and use it without a second thought. Other times a person will move through the stages very slowly or even move backward through the stages. A person who has been carrying their reusable bag some, keeps leaving it in their car more and more and falls back to the contemplation stage. They have to move back through the preparation and action stages, but it will be easier this time!

It's also possible to be at different stages for different parts of a journey. For example I am in the maintenance phase for using single use plastic bags. In many ways my identity has changed: I am not a person who uses plastic bags. I have changed my habits so that I carry a reusable bag in my purse and frequently refuses plastic bags at stores. There have been instances where I get them, but I don't let that phase me and just try to brainstorm ways to set myself up better in the future such as making sure we've got bags in both cars, or asking if they have paper bags. 

However, I am in the preparation phase of shaving with a safety razor. I have been on the fence for nearly a month about trying to figure out which razor to get, but now that I am faced with a choice of buying another pack of disposables or getting a safety razor. I have been doing research on different options and I am *this close* to jumping into the action phase. 

And to be totally honest, I'm still in the contemplation stage for most other areas of my life. I am recognizing the amount of waste that we are generating, but I haven't come up with great plans or alternatives to move me into the action phase.

Which stage are you with regards to #skipthebag or going zero waste?

Update: I've moved into the action phase of safety razors! I love it and wonder what was taking so long. You can read my all about safety razor article that discusses the different kinds of razors and my article on how to use a safety razor and not get cut for some great tips. 

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Jun 6, 2016

Review: The Worm Book

vermicompost worms garden gardening

Composting is a great way to turn kitchen and yard scraps into dirt that can be used in our garden. Unfortunately traditional composting is difficult to do on a home scale. You have to have a balance of carbon items (yard debris) and nitrogen (food scraps and grass clippings) and have it in large enough quantities. Then it has to be tended to. The pile needs to heat up, ideally to 130-140 degrees, and it has to be kept moist and aerated.

A far easier way to get high quality compost material is to harness the power of worms. Vermicompost, or worm compost, is full of excellent nutrition in a good ratio for plants. Many people have had better results with vermicompost than they have with fertilizers. If you don't know where to start I'd recommend The Worm Book: The Complete Guide to Worms in Your Garden* by Loren Nancarrow and Janet Hogan Taylor is a superb book for learning about worms and worm composting.

In order to have vermicompost you need a worm bin. This book has excellent information on how to build a successful worm bin. but of course you can also purchase them. Here is some information I got from the book that I'll use for creating my own worm bin.

First you need to calculate the number of pounds of waste (food scraps) you create each week. Your worm bin needs to be about 1 square foot for each pound of waste each week and each pound of food per day you need 2 pounds of worms.   So lets say you make 7 pounds of food scraps a week, so 1 pound a day. That means you worm bin should be roughly 7 feet by 7 feet x 1 foot tall, and you need 2 pounds of worms.

The worm bin should have air holes at different depths along the sides to give them oxygen to breathe and have drainage holes at the bottom so the bedding can be kept damp, but not overly wet. It also needs to be well insulated. Worms prefer it to be 72-74 degrees, but can tolerate down to about 50 degrees and up to 86 degrees. This is probably my primary concern with a worm bin in Florida. It gets hot here, so I'm going to be sure to place our bin in the shade and have to use some of their techniques for keeping it cool including keeping it wet so the evaporation can keep it cool.

A number of items can be used for the bedding, peat moss is a common one, however they discuss reasons in the book why that might not be the best option. Therefore we will probably use: wood chips and partially composted leaves. We happen to have both in abundance right now and they are free. When starting the bin be sure to add some handfuls of garden soil to provide necessary microorganisms to create healthy soil. We'll probably use some of the mushroom compost we still have around from starting our garden. One other thing to add to the worm bin is grit. Now I'm familiar with grit from having chickens, but had no idea that worms needed it as well. They can use dried eggshells, rock dust or powdered limestone (NOT hydrated lime) for grit.

Finally to add food you divide up the container into roughly four areas, rotate adding food to each quadrant once (or twice) a week. You dig 2 inches down add the food scraps, and then recover it. Let the worms do their thing and you will eventually have worm castings and/or vermicompost. Worm castings are the worm excrement whereas the vermicompost is that in combination with other organic material. The castings are thought to be more potent, but it all has great nutrition for your plants.

The book also has great information about the biology of worms, the types of worms, solutions for common problems (they say only 7% of worm composters do not have issues!), information about good and bad bugs who may try to get into your worm bin. They also give great information if you are looking to start selling your worms of castings. Finally there is a chapter about eating worms and recipes to try (I skipped that chapter, yuck!).

If you are considering getting a worm bin, or even have had one for a while and are looking to improve it, I highly recommend this book!

*This is an affiliate link, see disclosures

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Jun 2, 2016

Problem I Have With The Zero Waste Tenet Refuse

The Problem I Have With Zero Waste Tenet Refuse

Earlier this week I posted on the Zero Waste Tenets, which are the major principles you see zero waste bloggers refer to. They are refuse, reduce, reuse, rehome, recycle, rot. I think they are very good and give you some ideas on what to do to help minimize your impact on the earth. Unfortunately I have a problem with the way some people follow the first tenet of refuse.

Refuse alludes to avoiding any unnecessary items from entering your home. It sounds great in theory, but I feel like some people follow the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. They are gaming the system to make themselves look better, but not actually make any real change.

Let me try to describe this using an example I saw recently. Someone had a sign on their front door, by their mail chute, telling the postman not to deliver junk mail to their home.

The problem I have with Zero Waste Tenet Refuse
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The people were thinking it is a perfectly good way to help assist in their goal of refusing waste they do not need (I assume, otherwise why would they do it?). However, I feel that their action doesn't actually limit the amount of waste created, it just means someone else has to deal with it. Let's say there is a new mailman who doesn't know your desires. This scenario, by the way, is exactly why they were posting a picture of their sign. So this new mailman carries a piece of junk mail to your door and sees the sign. He wants to respect your decision so he doesn't deliver it, but now he has to carry the letter back to the mail truck. From there it's far less likely that the mail will get recycled versus thrown away.

Those people were happy because they no longer had junk mail to deal with. However you created extra work for the mailman and likely meant that the letter ended up in the trash, the very thing you were trying to avoid.

Now what would be a better alternative? First you can opt-out of mailings and/or sign up for electronic communication wherever possible. This would prevent the junk mail from arriving in the first place. However if you get a stray piece of mail you could address it with the company directly and express your wishes to be removed from their list. Furthermore you could recycle or repurpose the letter. This ensures that it is being handled consistently with your goals.

The Problem I Have With Zero Waste Tenet Refuse

I see other examples of people refusing items such as selecting fruit that doesn't have a sticker, or worse yet, picking off the sticker to leave at the store. That refusal doesn't affect the amount of waste, it just means it's going in the store's trashcan rather than yours. However if you purchase items from a farmer's market where the farmer doesn't mark her produce it would be a net refusal. Even if the farmer did put stickers on their produce, you could ask them not to place them on some for you the following week.

My primary issue with people and the tenet of refuse is that they only are looking at refusals of stuff to make their mason jar of trash look better and not thinking about net refusals on the environment as a whole.

What are your thoughts? I love to hear from opposing viewpoints as well as those who see my point.

Don't forget to stop by and read more about the 7 Zero Waste Tenets!