living green

3 Ways to Save on Energy Fees in 2014

Happy little ones.

Happy little ones.

This blog is foremost about gardening; but the less money you spend in other areas, the more you will have to put into the garden.
That’s my logic, and I’m sticking with it. :-)

So there are many simple things you can do to bring your energy bills down by cutting usage.

1. Sunlight is Free

It never ceases to amaze me when I see new homes with windows elaborately covered in drapes, and lights on all over the room.
Nature’s gift of sunlight can help in so many ways.

By opening those drapes you not only cut down on the use of light bulbs, it can lower your need for heat. Cover the windows as the sun goes down to likewise conserve the warmth.
If you use A/C in the summer, do the opposite.

Of course, if you have older windows the drapes may be more effective on saving energy in the long run. Consider adding to that by using bubble wrap, moistened and stuck to the glass, to keep the heat indoors.

A sunny window can also cut down on the light source needed when starting seeds.
See, this is a gardening post after all.

We turn our overhead seed starting lights off when there is good sun coming through the window, then back on when it is not enough.
When we compared our bills from this and full overhead lights only, supplementing with sunlight saved us a fair amount.
And the plants didn’t seem to notice.

We also start our seedlings near a heat source, rather than pay to heat another area.

Send that heat back down.

Send that heat back down.

2. Remember Heat Rises

If you have ceiling fans, set them to blow downward in the winter months. This will draw the heat down from the ceiling and back to where you need it.

Be sure to insulate the flooring for second and third floors and attics.
My grandparents and many of that generation used old newspapers under rugs as insulation on the upper floors. They lived ‘green’ and ‘upcycled’ long before there were terms for it.
Likewise, take advantage of the cooler areas of your home and even the outdoors if you can. We built a Green Closet in our laundry room, saving energy by letting the cold temperatures from outdoors in to keep our cool loving veggies happy all winter.

Timing is everything

Timing is everything.

3. Live Simpler

Things that heat up are the main energy users, but electronics left on also add up fast.

You can simplify energy use for making food by using a toaster oven, microwave and/or crock pot, if they are available to you.
Avoid heating a full oven for just a small amount. Consider making more than one meal, and freezing some that you can just nuke another time. When you do use your oven, take advantage of the heat lost through the vent burner by simmering a dish on it or heating up a kettle for tea or cocoa.

Think about a clothesline if you can have one where you live, or even just a clothes ‘rack’ placed in your bathtub. When you do use a regular dryer, gently shake your washed items before placing inside. By loosening them up a bit, they dry faster and that uses less energy.
Also, wash on cold.
Pretty much all the time.

A real energy saver is to place a timer on your water heater. These wonderful little devices give you the opportunity to decide when you will need hot water the most. They are inexpensive and pay for themselves in a short period of time.
You are most likely bathing at the same time each day already.

You can also save some money by turning your electronics off when not in use. A small investment in a power strip can not only help prevent power surge damage to your electronic devices, it can make it easy for you to cut their power when they will not be in use.

Well, that’s it for now.
With all that saved money I can go ahead and place a seed order.
Or two. :-)


Categories: living green, preparedness, saving money & time


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The Freedom to Grow Edibles in Your Front Yard? You Can Grow That!

It’s not unusual these days to hear or read the stories of everyday people just wanting to grow food in the front of their houses, rather than lawns. What used to be herald as ‘Victory Gardens’ now has become a subversive, almost revolutionary act.

Things are tight financially for many of us, and let’s face it, our food supply is suspect. What if the best place to grow happens to be out front, heaven forbid, where everyone can see it?
These small town battles are going on not only all over our beautiful Land of the Free, but also in Canada, Australia, and who know where else.

Our front yard in mid-June is already feeding us.

Our front yard in mid-June is already feeding us.

Can you grow food in your front yard?
How about a few patio tomatoes on your deck?
Is a pear tree or an orange tree allowed where you live?
How about taking all the grass out, and building raised beds?

If this is something you would like to do, but think you cannot, think again. Anything worth having is worth working for, and that certainly includes the Freedom to use your property to grow fresh food.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Check your local ordinances first, it just may be you can do this already.
2. Talk to your neighbors and friends in your area. Are they interested as well? Would they be interested if you showed them how in your yard first? Are they at least willing to let you try? See if you can gather names before you approach your local HOA or locality officials.
3. Prepare your argument. Stamping your foot won’t get you anywhere. Explain to them the idea that you will be keeping pesticides such as Round-up out of the local environment, pesticides that will find their way into the local water system. Tell them how a living garden such as an edible one will attract beneficial insects to the neighborhood, as well as other insects that further attract birds. Tell them how it will benefit the community when neighbors are sharing tips and tomatoes, how the kids will get off their video games to help with the harvest, and how they will be promoting a ‘Greener’ neighborhood.
4. Get the stories of others. Check out what has happened in other areas. Orlando, Fla., Canada,West Des Moines, Iowa and in Ferguson, Mo.
5. Get help if you need to. Gardeners are a great bunch of people, and many have taken to emails and blogs in support of fellow gardeners that were being held back. If this happens to you, let us know. We have your back.
6. Don’t give up. The main difference between success and failure is persistence.

The color of Freedom.

The color of Freedom.

Sometimes Freedom isn’t just handed to you, sometimes it has to be ‘grown’. Stand up for your freedom to grow your own food!

This post is part of a collaborative effort on the behalf of gardeners around the world. For more posts on gardening, just click the pic below.
you can grow that

Categories: gardening people, places & things, living green, you can grow that



9 Things You Can Do to Help the Bees

Pesticides kill bugs, that’s what they are used for.
Even ‘natural’ pesticides kill bugs.
Most pesticides kill indiscriminately.

Here’s the thing, we all have problems with bad bugs on our plants; and we want to get the best harvest possible.
This is a double-edge sword.
By killing the bad bugs, we may also be killing the ones that will pollinate them, like bees.

bees and sunflower

There is already a problem with the bee populations due to Colony Collapse. Add to that the use of pesticides in home lawns and gardens and it gets worse.
Some of these pesticides may already be on plants you buy at your local Farm and Garden as well. Put them in the ground, and they will continue to kill for years.
Not just bugs either, also the birds that eat them.

If the use of these pesticides continues, our ability to grow our own food declines as well.

bees are a gardener's friends

Please READ THIS short article. Share it, print it out and take it to your local Home Depot or Lowe’s.
You can also Take Action here.

What can you do to prevent the need for any pesticide?
1. Keep your garden clean. Remove spent foliage at the end of the season.
2. Keep your plants healthy and strong. If you have healthy soil, your plants will be stronger and better able to fight off any pests. Give them what they need.
3. Keep a close watch for pests. As soon as you see them, pick them off by hand. Most pests can easily be swiped off and into a bucket of soapy water.
4. Look into pest-resistant hybrids for veggies you have the most trouble with.
5. Start your own seed with an organic seed starting medium, or buy from a local organic grower.
6. Add in some plants that will attract the good bugs. Bees love sunflowers, Ladybugs favor dill and oregano. Not only will good bugs help pollinate, many feed on the bad bugs.
7. Learn more. We recommend the book Good Bugs, Bad Bugs by Jessica Walliser as a great source for the information you need to know to grow a healthier garden.

If you need to use a pesticide, please go organic and target the bug you are after. Use as little as possible.
Here’s a few natural solutions to try.

Categories: gardening, living green, pests, techniques


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How to Make Compost Tea, the Easy Way

Gardeners know the benefits of compost, or ‘black gold’ as they call it.
But there are times when you may want to apply that gold in a liquid form.
Well, to not disturb young plants or their soil, for one.
To get that richness right to the leaves, for another. Did you know plants take in nutrients from their leaves as well as their roots?
Crafty little devils they are.

Yours or theirs.

Yours or theirs.

The gardening sites I have seen make this much more involved than is necessary.
A lot of the internet is like that, unfortunately.

My friend and fellow Master Gardener Tami says it does not need to be all that complicated.
A gardener after my own heart.

So here’s the easy way:
1. Get 2 buckets.
2. Get some compost.
3. Get some water.
4. Get some molasses (optional).

Place the water in 1 bucket. Add the compost, broken down or not, homemade or purchased, but preferably in an old pillow case or similar fabric that will strain out the larger pieces. Add some molasses.

Any ol' bucket will do.

Any ol’ bucket will do.

After one day soaking, pour the water from one bucket to the next, then put the bag of compost back in to soak. This is a simple way to aerate the tea.
Repeat for 3 days, and you are ready to go.
Or grow, as the case is.

Add more water, brew.

Add more water, brew.

Read more about how compost tea spray works, as well as other great info on Foliar Spraying, here.

Categories: gardening, living green, preparedness, techniques


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Growing a Greener World

When we had the good fortune to visit Ireland years ago, we were impressed with their sense of reducing their collective impact on the environment.
Upon approaching a grocery store register we were informed that they do not provide packaging.
“You either bring your own bags, carry it out by hand, or go out back and find yourself a box.”

So when we returned we were determined to step up our lifestyle to be even more Eco-conscious.


so many things can be composted

More recently we were invited on Facebook to ‘attend’ the fifth annual event Zero Waste Week 2012, again originating in the UK, specifically Gloucestershire, but really happening in everyone’s own home.
This year’s theme is “One More Thing” as they ask you to ask yourself, “What’s one more thing I can do to reduce my household waste?”

raspberry mango jam

raspberry mango jam

Reduce – the less that comes into your home, the less that goes out.

Growing and preserving much of our own food is probably the biggest contribution we make to a better environment at home.
The only animal products we consume are eggs and we have our own chickens.
We make our own soap, laundry soap, dish and dishwasher soap, and toothpaste; greatly reducing the amount of packaging we need to deal with.

Our entire grocery store purchase this past week consisted of coffee, tea, olive oil, oranges, pectin for jam, and shaving cream.
We do bring our own bags to the market, but not always. When we get a plastic bag, at least we recycle it.
We all have reusable water bottles.

old scratched vinyl album turned planter

old scratched vinyl album turned planter

Re-purpose. Before you get rid of it, get the most from it.
We consider anything composted as reused, since it adds to the nutrients of our soil and consequently our food. Look for compostable containers in the produce area. Find more things to compost than you may have known about.
There are tons of ways to reuse things you already have. Here’s a few on one of our Pinterest Boards.
Donating what you no longer need is a wonderful way to re-purpose an item.

reuse plastic netted sacks

support your larger vertically grown produce

Recycle. Consider this your last choice.
Do your darnedest to keep things from ending up in a landfill, no matter where you live.
Always try to buy a product that at the very least is in a recyclable container, and remember to recycle it.

compostable packaging

compostable produce packaging

What ‘one more thing’ we all can do?
To be more diligent and set a goal of zero waste for ourselves.
Wouldn’t you just love to wave at the garbage truck as it drove past your house? :-)

Fifth Annual National Zero Waste Week
Recipes for homemade cleansers can be found here.
14 Things You Can Compost

This post is part of the monthly You Can Grow That! day. Read more here.

Categories: living green, saving money & time, you can grow that



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