Monday, August 30, 2010

The Wasp Nest

The kids were playing outside today, and wasps began swarming around Adrianne. Luckily she was only stung once, and Lindsey grabbed Callum before he got stung.

After further investigation, this is what we found...


I did some quick research, and found a non-toxic and natural approach to killing the nest off. I simply mixed dish soap and water in my sprayer. The stuff worked great.

If this nest wasn't in the kids playhouse I would have left it be. These wasps or hornets (haven't been able to determine yet) are great pest control since they eat a good number of destructive insects.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mistakes in Year One

Don't plant carrots so close...

Year One carrot harvest

Monday, July 19, 2010

R.I.P. Chicken and Rats in the Feed

We had a strange week...

Not sure if it was the heat or general weakness but we lost one of the chickens. I found it dead under the coop with an egg laying next to it. Strange?!?

Next up, I solved the mysteries of the "swinging feed bucket" and "Where the hell is all the chicken feed going?".

Fixed the problem with a trap and peanut butter. 
Next up, all of the little mice eating the leftovers.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sustainability Tip : Save The Shorts


If you're tough on shorts and pants like I am (rips, popped buttons, etc.), then this is a great tip. Instead of throwing out a torn pair of shorts, or shoving them into the back of the closet, get em' fixed.

There are still sewing shops out there, and even some grandmas willing to help. You can get most anything fixed, even the worst of rips.

I have shorts that are 10+ years old that have been brought back to life again by a seamstress at "The Stitchin' Post" on 23rd St.

For a few dollars you can save a lot in the long run.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Sustainability Tip : Freezin' Green Beans

What do you do when you've got excess green beans from the garden?

Freeze Em'!
















1. Cut or snap off the ends. Break into smaller pieces.

2. Boil for 3-5 minutes.

3. Dump into ice bath for 3-5 minutes.

4. Ziploc (suck out the excess air) and freeze.

5. Heat and eat for fresh tasting green beans any time of the year.



Friday, June 25, 2010

Farmer's Market : Beware


We finally had the chance to get down to the "local" Kansas City Farmer's Market. This is the place that is supposedly filled with fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers growing their crops the natural way. Yet, we discovered a sad truth while we were there.

Many shoppers don't realize that the fruits and vegetables they are buying are almost always from a large farm (even industrialized operations) that isn't local. We were unable to locate a single vendor that sold local produce without pesticides. The information booth was also unable to provide a list of vendors who followed a natural growth process. One vedor we talked to was selling fruits and vegetables he bought from "a guy in Arkansas" and drove up here to sell it. He said, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure the guy we got em from sprays em".

Needless to say, we were very disappointed (and left empty handed). I have much higher hopes for the Drum Farm Local Market and the 39th St. Market. I'm excited to talk with some of their vendors....

Word of advice: Make sure you talk with the produce vendor about the food you are buying. You could be buying the same pesticide and petroleum fertilized produce (from 1000+ miles away) they sell at the supermarket.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hens vs. Sour Cream

I read online a while back that chickens love yogurt, and while cleaning out the fridge I found some sour cream (close enough) which was a couple weeks past date.

*Light Bulb goes off*

"Give it to the chickens!".

Here are the results...


video

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Say hello to the ladies...


We spent a good part of the day today on my brother's acreage in Adrian,MO. My brother and I butchered the final 5 roosters, and I brought 4 beautiful hens home.

Adrianne is having trouble containing her excitement and Flint is having too much fun barking at the chicks...but it feels great to see our chickens from the back window.
The chicken adventure begins!



video

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bring on the chickens!

Finally got around to finishing the chicken coop. A big thank you to Ben for helping set the posts, running the fencing, and bringing over the reciprocating saw to cut the openings in the double walls.

The construction of the coop was pretty simple. Using the free doghouse I acquired from Craigslist, I attached a nesting box (built from donated plywood), cut a large door in the back for cleaning/maintencance, and attached a hinged door for the front. I also built a gate out of scrap wood and covered it with extra fencing.

Total Cost: about $20 for hardware

I'm still working out the ramp setup, but it looks like we are ready to pickup the chickens this weekend.


















Friday, April 16, 2010

The "Dog" Coop

My brother is graciously donating a few laying hens for "the cause", so I needed to find a way to build a coop. After thinking about it, and browsing the "free" listings on Craiglist, I came across this beauty.

Whoever built this dog house must have really loved their dog. The house weighs about 500 lbs. and is double walled with insulation. All of this makes it PERFECT for a chicken coop!

I'm in the process of designing a mobile run with advice from many different sources. I'll keep you updated with the progress of "Mi Casa de Pollo", so be sure to stay tuned. :0)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Compost

Starting to see some compost! After a couple weeks the barrel composter is showing signs of breakdown. We have a ton of table scraps (extra food, egg shells, old bread, tea bags etc.) so we should have no problem keeping the barrel monster fed.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Sandbox


So, I had a lot of scrap wood and even more free time today....figured I would build something.

Say hello to Adrianne's new sand box on legs! I'm going to fill this baby with sand tomorrow and hopefully keep our little rascal from digging in the garden.

Project Cost : 0$

Friday, March 26, 2010

Garden is now "Flint" proof



I was finally able to collect enough materials to "Flint-proof" the garden. The little tard has been smashing down the freshly tilled and plowed soil, and was surely devising a plan to dig a doggy trench in the middle of the garden.


The fencing doesn't look too pretty, but every single board, post, screw, and fence was donated or recycled. It took a while to piece together all of the materials, and to repair the fencing, but thanks to the "t-posts" from Chris I was able to finish it up. That only thing I still need to do is find a couple of heavy duty hinges to fasten the gate.

Total cost of project : $20 (had to buy a small sledge hammer to set posts, but I needed one anyways)










Next step, get ahold of some seeds/seedlings and get this baby growing!



Special thanks to:

Dad (for all the advice)
Chris (for the "t-posts")
City of Independence (for the free woods chips, which hopefully show up soon)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Harmony Farms

















Check out Harmony Farms if you are looking for a local farm to buy your beef, pork, and chicken. They are a small family farm in Odessa,MO with ties to the community. The animals are grass fed, and are allowed to roam in open pasture. You can buy meat bundles off the website, find a good selection at Natures Pantry, or visit the farm.

The bacon is delicious!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Barrel Composter













Finished the barrel composter today. It is a simple design consisting of a plastic barrel with a hinged door, a base, and small wheels to allow the barrel to be turned.

I'm anxious to see if the claims of "compost in 2-3 weeks" are accurate.

Homemade Laundry Detergent



We finally got around to making our own laundry detergent (thanks for the inspiration Katie). It is surprisingly easy, and is a great deal cheaper than buying any of the store brands. Not to mention, this stuff is much better for the environment.




What you need (several batches can be made with 1 box of each):

Borax ($3.00 per box) Walmart or HyVee
Baking Soda ($3.00 per box) Walmart or HyVee
Washing Soda ($3.00 per box) HyVee
Bar of Soap or Fels Naptha ($.99 per bar) HyVee

You are probably thinking, "What the hell is Fels Naptha?". I thought the same thing when I found out about it, but it is apparently not that hard to find. Fels Naptha is a longer bar of soap that people use to rub out stains in clothes. You can find this in the laundry section at HyVee.


Making the laundry detergent is quite easy.

1. Start by grating up one Fels Naptha bar with a cheese grater. Make sure you use the "fine" side of the grater so the pieces are smaller.

2. Find a plastic container with a lid and easy access to scoop from. The one we found was $5.00 at Walmart and has a big flip top lid.

3. Add grated Fels Naptha (or bar of soap) to:
1 cup of Borax,
1 cup of Baking Soda
1 cup of Washing Soda

4. Start Shakin'! Mix all of the ingredients as well as you can.

5. Find a small scoop (measuring cup, coffee scoop, etc.) that holds about 2 tablespoons. Toss 2T in with a load of laundry and enjoy!

We have done a few loads of laundry with the home made detergent, and it works great.

Tip: double the recipe to 2 cups of each for 1 bar of Fels Naptha. Since the bar is larger than a normal bar of soap you are good to go. The container in the photo has 2 bars of Fels Naptha, and 4 cups of the remaining ingredients.

Thanks again Katie!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Rain Barrel - Part 2


Luckily we were able to add barrel number 2 and an overflow before the rain last night!
I'm realizing that it takes very little rain to keep these barrels full, so it should be pretty easy to keep water on hand.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Rain Barrel

Thanks to the free barrel, fittings, and help of my father; I have a functioning rain barrel! We installed the barrel on Saturday morning by re-routing a downspout on the south side of the house. The barrel now collects rainwater from a large surface area.



As you can see, the barrel was empty last night....



Now, after today's rain...

This bad boy fills up quick. The amount of water you see is just from today's rain, and after draining 4-6 inches to make room for the rest of today's rain.

I need to get the over flow valve installed and drop the other barrel into place to collect excess rain water.



Cost of Rain Barrel:
Gutter Fitting for new downspout connection - $3.00
Caulking for sealing old connection hole in guttering - $8.00
1-1/4" Sump Pump Kit - $10.00
Downspout - Free (reused old connections)
Gutter - Free (modified connections)
Barrel - Free (thanks dad)
Fittings for "On/Off" Valve - Free (thanks dad)

Total Cost - $21.00


Amount of money saved from not using city water: ? (T.B.D.)

*If anyone is interested, I can post the procedure for building this style of rain barrel.



Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Local Harvest.org


Found a great site a while back called LocalHarvest.org. This site is a great resource to find local farmers who are selling produce and meats. The farms list if the meat is grass fed/finished, free range, organic, etc.



This website is also a great place to find a local CSA. Do you know what that stands for?

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an awesome idea.

The consumer purchases a share in a local CSA which is run by a local farm. You can purchase a full or partial share, and you can purchase vegetables, meats, or both. Then once a week you pickup a box full of locally grown vegetables/meats. Through the year the types of vegetables and meat change!

This is a great way to support local farmers, and to ensure the produce and meats you are consuming are from a reputable source!

Check it out on LocalHarvest.org

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ethylene Gas Ripened Tomatos


Most of the non-organic tomatoes that you find in a supermarket "year round" are not grown and allowed to ripen naturally. These tomatoes are sprayed with a ripening agent called "Ethylene gas".

Studies have shown that long term exposure to this gas in lab rats caused an increased risk of cancer.

Something to think about...


Friday, February 26, 2010

Stale Bread

I couldn't bring myself to throw out some of our stale home made bread, so I made croutons.

*Cut the bread into small cubes.

*Place in bread and coat with olive oil, salt, pepper, and whatever seasonings you like

*Cook at 400 degrees for 10 minutes

These were absolutely delicious, and probably the cheapest/healthiest croutons you can find.

Enjoy!



Expensive Organic?


Excerpt from "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan

I asked Joel how he answers the charge that because food like his (organic) is more expensive it is inherently elitist.

"...whenever I hear people say clean food is expensive, I tell them it's actually the cheapest food you can buy."

"Society is not bearing the cost of water pollution, of antibiotic resistance, of food-borne illnesses, of crop subsidies, of subsidized oil and water - of all the hidden costs to the environment and the taxpayer that make cheap food seem cheap."

"You can buy honestly priced food or you can buy irresponsibly priced food."

Adrianne Collects Eggs


Adrianne is learning that eggs don't have to come from a supermarket. Thanks to my brother Chris, and his many chickens, Adrianne has been able to collect our eggs herself. I believe she is starting to see the importance of knowing where the food we eat comes from.

What we consume should never be a mystery. We research our mechanics, carpenters and plumbers. Why not our farmers?


Monday, February 22, 2010

Bread

If your like us then you probably thought eating "Sarah Lee 45 Calorie Delightful" bread from the supermarket was a healthy option. Sure, the calories are low, but at what cost?

Leave a loaf of this bread alone for a couple weeks. You won't see much of a difference. Here is why:

Ingredients

Water, enriched flour [wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate (Vitamin B1), riboflavin (Vitamin B2), folic acid], cottonseed fiber,wheat gluten, high fructose corn syrup, wheat protein isolate, cornstarch, contains 2% or less of the following: yeast, salt, calcium
propionate (preservative), yeast nutrients (mono-calcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate), natural flavor, dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: mono- and diglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium peroxide), soybean oil, sucralose, guar gum.


Try baking your own bread. It's relatively easy if you buy any of the "Bob's Red Mill" bread mixes, and you don't need a bread maker machine. The end result is whole, nutritious, and tastes great.


They sell these bread mixes almost everywhere. There is a large selection at HyVee on 40 hwy and Noland.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Local Dairy

Our family drinks 1-2 gallons of milk a week. That gives us a lot of potential to ingest a liquid produced from an animal that is often given growth hormones and fed corn grown in an industrialized setting with petroleum fertilizer and a long list of chemicals/pesticides. Studies have shown that milk carries some of these harmful chemicals when the cow is exposed.

Luckily, we have toured and fell in love with a local dairy.















Shatto Milk Company is a local dairy which prides themselves on "No Growth Hormones" and milk from cow to shelf in 12 hours!

The milk comes in glass bottles (which require a $1.50 deposit) and tastes delicious.

My wife and I both agree, buy local when available. When presented with Organic vs. Local, we will often take the local option.

Why?

Organic isn't perfect. There are a couple of factors which we believe make local the best option.

1. Local produce, milk, and meat have a travel time which allows for the best tasting, and freshest available products.

2. The impact of transportation with organic food is sometimes so great that it offsets the positive environment impact. A peach traveling 500 miles burns a lot of fossil fuel.

3. Supporting local farmers and a local economy will only benefit the cause.


Take the time to find a local dairy.

Make a weekend out of it. Take the family and see how these animals feed, and how they are cared for.

The local dairy is still out there, and it's worth it.

Read The Label


Take a second to read the ingredients label on that box in your hand...


?








A couple of months ago, I was inspired by a documentary.

I casually watched "Food Inc.", not expecting to leave with much more than a broader knowledge of the food industry.

What this movie did for me, was plant the seeds of nutritional knowledge. I became more interested in reading the ingredients of the food I was ingesting, and feeding to my children. Slowly I became more familiar with a certain list of ingredients.


Here is the ingredient list from a box of Lucky Charms:

Whole Grain Oats, Marshmallows (Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Gelatin, Calcium Carbonate, Yellows 5 & 6, Blue 1, Red 40, Artificial Flavor), Sugar, Oat Flour, Corn Syrup, Corn Starch, Salt, Trisodium Phosphate, Color Added, Artificial Flavor, Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols) Added to Preserve Freshness. Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium Carbonate, Zinc and Iron (Mineral Nutrients), Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbate), A B Vitamin (Niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin Mononitrate), Vitamin A (Palmitate), A B Vitamin (Folic Acid), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D

Should my 4 year old daughter be consuming four different artificial colors, and several refined corn chemicals/ingredients each morning for breakfast?

...5 days a week?

...for 18+ years?

These are the questions I began asking myself, and discussing with my wife.

Our Conclusion :

"Until our children are old enough to make their own nutritional decisions, it is our responsibility to present them with the best available option".

Well, here we go....






Organic in a Box

For the past few weeks we have been making the transition to Organic. We have slowly been replacing breads, snacks, milks, and meats to either organic or "whole" (Whole means the ingredients contain no preservatives or refined flour/sugar).

Buying USDA Certified Organic snacks and boxed foods is a relatively easy endeavor. There are a lot of options to choose from, even at the local HyVee. Most of the boxed organic items taste pretty similar to the preservative and chemical laden foods down the main aisles of the supermarket, but do cost a bit more.

Do they really "cost" more though? That is a topic for another day....

You can find several shelves of organic cereals, cookies, fruit snacks, and chips in the typical grocery store. These are the easiest to start with when beginning the transition.

Take this quick challenge :

1. Grab a box of your kids favorite cereal from the inner aisles of the store (Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops, Corn Flakes).

2. Find the equivalent cereal with the USDA Certified Organic seal.

3. Read the ingredients.

4. Do you recognize any of those chemicals on the center aisle cereal? Sadly, this works for just about all boxed foods.







So here we are...

There is something compelling me to fan the tiny flame of change that has recently began burning brightly. I am seeing with a new set of eyes, and a broader acceptance of the most basic needs in life.

You may ask, "What is minimalism?". There are many definitions pertaining to several facets of life, but what I have centered on "minimizing" are:

1. The effect of the industrialized food industry on my family's nutrition
2. Our physical footprint on future generations
3. Disappearing knowledge of non-invasive "natural" techniques

The recent changes and readjusting of priorities have led me to feel the need to share this journey. After all, sharing the successes and failures of this adventure may help to strengthen the core set of principles that are growing, but still a foundation for a much larger ideal.

This small piece of virtual paper will be the place for this family to share a lifelong pilgrimage of minimal proportions.

~ Rolling digital paper ~
~~ Placing into bottle ~~
~~~ Throwing into the virtual sea ~~~