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What Can Be Done in a Backyard

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Posted on : 9:58 AM | By : Nic | In :


I paced out the backyard and worked up this little plan this morning. I am not exactly sure if I can fit 11 boxes but I think it's possible. The boxes are a bit large (4x8') but the paths are 2 feet wide so they can be accessed from both sides. If I can truly get 325 square feet of garden space, plus the 100 or so square feet in the front yard for miscellaneous herbs, it still leaves the other half for the kids and possibly a tiny greenhouse. I don't think I'd do the pumpkins or potatoes there either... probably I'll make some hills somewhere else. Plus all the containers I can put around.

The Dervaes family garden (check out PathtoFreedom) is 3900 square feet and produces 50-90% of their food (depending on the time of year). Also, they are vegetarian which also helps them. Since our garden is about 10% the size of their garden (400 vs. 4000), it's only going to supplement what we get from local farmers through Spud. I'm hoping I can get 10% of our food from the garden this year, and more during the summer. Mostly I am interested in building up our food security and I will be able to get more efficient with the space as time goes on. It's hard to estimate a percentage because during one part of the year all of our veggies will come from it, and all of our herbs since I can dry most of them, but the rest of the year I just can't grow enough squash and potatoes. Besides I don't really want to eat just squash and potatoes. But if I can get 10% for the winter that would be pretty good.

Victorain Hair Recycling

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Posted on : 6:26 PM | By : Nic | In : ,


I am in the middle of going through all my bookmarks (I've got about 1500) and I came across all of my Victorian history links. The Victorian era fascinates me a little bit - it was sort of a contradiction. They had all kinds of crazy ideas about medicine and health and the world that were so off, and yet they made so many industrial strides. Actually I don't really respect the era very much except for the homemaking values perhaps. We were talking about how uncomfortable that time was - couches were not very padded, beds were supported by rope and got saggy, they wore corsets and they didn't have adequate heating and barely had plumbing. It was just not.... comfy.

But one thing I do respect was the level of recycling that was happening. Even though the industrial revolution would soon create disposable replacements for everything, they were still using everything to the last possible molecule. The picture above is a piece of jewelry woven out of human hair. When I clean out my hairbrush, I have longish hair and I end up with a big wad of hair that I toss into the toilet. But the Victorians... they put their hair into a special pot called a receiver and used it to make their hair puffy and to make fancy jewelry like the earrings above. Nowadays we would think that's a little gross. But back then it was an art form.

All those little plastic bits that I can't recycle - I really don't have an excuse. I just don't have that mentality of patience for a project using any material, even if that material came from my own head, lol.

Green Meme #3

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Posted on : 12:39 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

Guidelines:
1) Link to Green Meme Bloggers. (use image if you like)
2) Link back to whoever tagged you. (no need to wait to be tagged!)
3) Include meme number
4) Include these guidelines in your post
5) Tag 3 other green bloggers.


Green Meme #3

1. Are you keeping your temperature (heating/cooling) systems on low? If you have radiators are they fitted with thermostats?

We've been keeping the thermostat at 20 C but I am still so bad with the metric system I had no idea what that is. It was the coldest we could stand and we would put sweaters on. I guess it is 68 F (just typed it into Google). 70 is supposed to be optimum so I guess we are doing ok since just a few degrees less is supposed to make a difference. We keep several rooms closed when we aren't using them, and upstairs we have a space heater for our bedroom that we use if we really want to be warm. We also have plastic on some of the windows and we are adding insulation to the garage which should help the upstairs.

2. If yes to the above, what do you to keep warm/cool without resorting to turning up those numbers?

Hmmm, well I said a couple of things already but usually we are cold. If we could we'd probably have it up to 75 and walk around in shorts. We put on sweaters and use the space heater if we really need it. I also have polar fleece throws all over the place if people want to wrap up.

3. Do you turn your fridge temperature down when it has less items in it?

I don't think it ever has less items in it, lol. Actually I'm not sure how it would work to turn it down since its supposed to just keep the temperature at what the thermostat is set at. If there is less food, it should have to work less anyway to keep it at the right temperature, should it not? If I turn it down, won't it just be warmer and therefore decrease the life of the food?

4. Do you unplug unused small appliances?

The only ones I have are the toaster and the microwave and no I don't unplug them. I just can't remember to do that AND turn off all the lights, lol. The amount of power a toaster draws must be pretty minimal, right?

5. Do you switch off rather than leave on standby; TV/computer/dvd player/etc?

The TV is and DVD player get turned off, but our computers are Macs and go to sleep when not in use. The battery on my MacBook is getting old though and I keep having to charge it, so when I get a new battery then I can unplug it from the wall at night and thus save more energy.

6. Do you own (or will you purchase in the future) energy-efficient (star-rated) home appliances?

Not really right now, but we are saving up for a Miele washer and dryer. They are made in Germany and are the most efficient appliances in the world. I would like a dishwasher too but one thing at a time, lol.

7. Do you have any green goals/hopes for the next few months?

Get the garden in, install one of those bidet seats on our toilet so we use less toilet paper, and try to stick to my goal to not buy any new clothes unless they are sustainably grown/made. This is tough for me... I love the thrift store but I have a thing for shoes. Not fancy heels, but sneakers and hiking boots and waterproof sandals and functional things. A shoe for every purpose if you will. Limiting it to vegan and organic is going to be tricky. I don't have anything against used shoes - its just that its hard to find size 6 shoes for my tiny 5 foot body, lol.

I tag anyone who has a blog who reads this. :)

BrightBuilt Super-Efficient Prefab

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Posted on : 12:24 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

This is the BrightBuilt Barn, a super-sustainable prefab structure that is being used as a sort of outbuilding but could easily be adapted into a home. It is insanely efficient, and when your carbon footprint is zero, LED's around the house glow green (they are red if you are getting into a dangerous energy usage zone). Another interesting thing is the use of open-source collaboration in its design. The whole thing, including the timber frame,roof, siding, insulation and finishing comes all under $200,000 US. Plumbing, electrical, heating and the solar stuff costs extra and of course you would need a foundation and excavation, but I think its still reasonably priced (especially around here where you still can't find any house for under $350,000 Can). Someone is finally making some significant solutions in housing.

Fill in the Blank (Another Meme)

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Posted on : 3:57 PM | By : Nic | In :

Fill in the blank:

I could live forever without seeing another ____________ again (insert your most hated ecologically destructive item that you hope will disappear after Peak Oil); BUT you'll have to pry my ______________ from my cold, dead hands (insert your favorite ecologically questionable item that you hope will still be around).

My answers:
1. gas-powered yard equipment of any kind (especially leaf blowers), microwaves, bottled water
2. exotic fruit, tea, but mostly THE INTERNET

Actually if peak oil does happen in the most catastrophic way people imagine, I don't think the internet would go down. People always find a way to connect and I'm just old enough to remember when the internet was a collection of computers that called each other over the telephone. I think we could keep that going, lol.

If the Freezer Goes Off

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Posted on : 9:37 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

(This image is from hardworkinghippy's photostream on Flickr)
We got paid and I invested in quite a bit of food for the freezer and the pantry and managed to get a month's worth on this paycheck. I figured that even though I have not totally bought into the fear mongering, everyone is saying January will be bad and my food storage was dwindling so I had better get it back on track.

The biggest investment was a whole bunch of meat that is now in the freezer - several whole chickens, chicken breasts and hamburger. I also have lots of bread frozen in there. So supposing the power was going to go out for a long time... what would I do with all of that? The first thing I would do would be to build an outside refrigerator using our cooler. You simply dig a big whole in the ground, stick the cooler in and insulate it with materials like straw and bricks and then cover it up with something very heavy so animals don't get in. I would also move lots of stuff from the fridge into the cold storage. If you have a running stream you can try to create a waterproof container for food, which would be even colder.

The meat is the only problem. The first thing you would have to do is use a fire or your barbecue to cook some of the meat that you plan to eat in the next week. Cooked meat will stay good just being refrigerated much longer than raw meat, probably 5-6 days. The rest of the meat I would salt and dry. Alternatively I would smoke the meat, but to do this properly takes a smokehouse and several weeks of time and constant vigilance. If I was suddenly trying to take care of all my meat, I'm not sure I would trust myself.

The first thing to do is clean the meat, and cut off anything you don't like. I would leave the fat because that can be valuable later. Dry it off thoroughly and you can leave it whole, but I would cut it into smaller strips to make it more likely to preserve in the middle. Rub spices into them, and then rub tons and tons of salt into them. When you've rubbed in as much salt as you can, then cover it in a layer of salt to coat it. Hang it up somewhere that is about 59 degrees F for at least 3 weeks, checking often for spoilage. A basement or cold storage is ideal. When you are ready to cook it, wash off the salt.

The way this works is that the salt dissolves into the water in the meat and prevents bacteria from growing if that balance is greater than 3.5% salt to water. You want it to be over 10%, which you can't really control but if you rub just tons of salt in there you can be pretty sure you've got it.

The Garden Plan so Far

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Posted on : 8:59 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

Saltspring Seeds
These seeds were all grown locally on Saltspring Island. All of them are untreated, open-pollinated and non-GMO. They are all grown organically but not necessarily certified, which doesn't bother me. :) I will get as many as I can from them and then source some from the other suppliers listed below. Next year it won't be as much of an investment because I can save lots of seeds.

Cherry Tomatoes:

Amish salad (sweet)
Galina (yellow)
Babywine (drying)

Paste Tomatoes:
Jitomate Bulito (salsa)
Costoluto Genovese (paste)

Other:
Tomatillo

Peppers:
Sweet Cayenne
Supra bell
Cayenne
Chili Relleno
Jalapeno (I love making homemade salsa - yum!)
Sue Senger’s Chili

Lettuce:
Baby star romaine
Red sails
Tom Thumb (container - in an effort to save space some plants will be container grown)
Bietina swiss chard (year round - we may be building a cheap plastic greenhouse for this)
Parsley Giante d'Italia
Russian red kale (year round)
Cilantro

Peas:
Russian sugar peas
The pilot (shelling pea)

Beans:
Montezuma red bean (chili bean)
Heritage bean mix (heirloom)
Nerina green bean (bush)
Venture (snap bean)

Squash:
Round zucchini
Blue hubbard
Syrian pumpkin
Table acorn

Cucumber:
Marketmore
Sue’s pickling cucumber

Corn:
Indian sweet corn

Roots:
Winter party onion (for storage)
Sperling toga onion
Denmark winter leeks (year round - these grow well in winter)
Royal chantenay carrot
Harris winter parsnip (leave mulched after frost)

Wheat/Other:
Red fife wheat (wheat grass for smoothies - probably grown indoors)
Amaranth mix (seeds, greens)

Herbs:
Lemon balm
Coriander/cilantro
Genovese basil (indoors, pesto)
Wild basil (outdoor, bees, medicinal)
Wild thyme
Yellow lavender
Burdock
Korean mint
Greek oregano
Dill
Summer savory
Hemp agrimony
Chinese motherwort
Coltsfoot
Lemon bergamot
Marshmallow
Rue (companion plant, insects repellent for the garden)
Horehound
St. John’s Wort
Echinacea
Valerian
Feverfew

EarthFuture
These are a little less locally grown, but still come from the island. They are all certified organic and all non-GMO and open-pollinated.

Arugula (perennial)
Broccoli
Onions (scallion perennial)
Spinach
Chamomile
Chives

Baker Creek
This company is in Missouri but ships all over the world. I am not sure if I will really do these but I really want to. It will depend on how much space I have left.

Ground cherry (ground husk tomato)
Red wonder wild strawberry
Birdhouse gourd (birdhouses)
Calabash (bottle gourd)
Honey drip sorghum

Seed potatoes:
I really want to get some regular old Yukon gold seed potatoes and do a potato patch. If I could even get a couple of bags of potatoes that would be awesome.

Lifestyles of the Prim and Inconspicuous

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Posted on : 8:47 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

I found a camera, so to celebrate I thought I would take a few boring photos of my morning and talk about what I did today. The first project was the take some notes on sourdough since I found my sourdough crock....

Autumn made some progress on the puzzles of the day...


I am trying to organize my knitting and have most of it wound into balls and tucked into baskets, but there is still more go. I also have quite a bit of yarn scraps that are stuffed behind this basket on the floor and half under the couch and this is me hiding that...
I also made challah and here they are rising...

Then I was making the bed and thought I had better take a belly picture. My first one this time around. I am 24 weeks along...


Autumn had to do it too...

While I was meandering around the house doing this, I was thinking about things. One thing I have been hearing lately this week seems to be, 'I disagree with just about everything you say but we always love you.' Not from my own immediate family, but more so from others. I don't ever hear this on my blog, lol... mostly everyone who comments says such wonderful nice things like, 'I feel exactly the same!' and 'You have got to be the best opinionator on the internet!' lol ok so not the last one.

One of the blogs that I follow, that I also link to in my sidebar had a really great post on rationalization and how sometimes we try to get rid of our guilt about privilege by justifying it in some way. Just like her, I do this all the time. I respect her because of her efforts to help American soldiers who refuse to fight in the Iraq war and come to Canada, an issue that many people would find offensive (and many people in my own family do too). Then I read the part about her activism in helping women get second-trimester abortions and I was flabbergasted. It's a weird feeling when you agree wholeheartedly with a person about one thing and are completely at odds with them about another. People in my family must feel that way about me - I tend to be the renegade socialist Canadian who comes from a very conservative Republican home.

So by the end of her post I had so many mixed feelings... a feeling of privilege that I can stay at home and feed my family mostly organic food, a feeling of respect for a person that I totally agree with her politics, and at the end feeling very dismayed that people support second-trimester abortion. For those who don't know or don't want to know, any late abortion has to be done by scraping the baby out with a knife, using a vacuum suction, or injecting a saline solution which does burn the baby in the process. These are all given delicate names like curettage, evacuation, and induction. Honestly, if there was a simple, ethical way to stop someone from being pregnant I would support it - oh, wait there is...it's called adoption. Sorry, there's a reason the tagline of the blog is 'Killing apathy for the fun of it.' I just think it's a little apathetic to glaze over a violent process with other terms - it's the same as calling torture 'intelligence methods' like what's been happening in Guantanamo. Call it what it is.

But, that being said, it made me realize though that privilege is it's own jaded way of viewing the world. While I heroically wield my pen (or keyboard) and tell people to support this or that and mourn the loss of people in wars and give my contributions to charity, I have no right to judge or to compare. No matter what you believe, someone is going to believe the opposite. I was reading a story to the girls the other night by Max Lucado about a parent telling a child that because God loves the child, He put the child in a safe, Christian home. The question arose in my mind... does that mean God loves Christian children more because He picked safe homes for them? It's a viewpoint that seems all warm and fuzzy and cozy, but the reality is that we are viewing the world from our luxurious first-world Westernized bubble, myself included.

God made it possible for me to be happy to be pregnant and to have the privilege of staying home with my little Autumn-Kitten and make challah. But I must remember that God also put children in bad situations that screwed them up for life and they made terrible decisions and were so out of hope that even abortion seems like a good idea. It could very well have been me instead.

In the end it just means that judgement is not the job of any human and while I have opinions, that's all they are. And if I believe something to be right, if I do nothing to actually help the situation other than to pass judgement, then I've only made it worse.

There is one thing I do know... homemade bread and sharing it can fix almost anything.

Product Review: Island Essentials Shampoo

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Posted on : 3:37 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

I recently started using Island Essentials natural shampoo which I got through Spud, and I'll just paste their description: "Gently scented with lavender and orange essential oils, and no plastic bottle to recycle! Island Essentials natural soaps are cold processed the old fashioned way and contain all natural ingredients.
Ingredients: Naturally saponified coconut, canola, olive, and organic hemp seed oils, pure essential oils, sweet almond oil, castor oil, apricot kernel oil, vegetable glycerin, and spring water."

By the way, I never get compensated for reviews like this - they never know, lol. But hey, if you have a product you want me to review, I'd do it.

I had used baking soda for a bit, but it made my hair like dried up oily sticks, if that makes sense. My scalp is very sensitive and my hair is very, very thick and it just did not work no matter how I adjusted the baking soda vs. the apple cider vinegar. So I had gone back to using Head and Shoulders which sounds funny since I don't really have a dandruff problem, but I am allergic to shampoo and the zinc in it helped me not feel so irritated. The bar shampoo was also a good price, $4.90 for two in a pack. I didn't really expect them to last a long while but I've been keeping it in a dry spot and if you keep it out of running water it will last quite a while, one bar lasts my whole family so far at least a month.

I was also pleasantly surprised at how much it lathers. I really like a good amount of foam when I shampoo and it foamed all over the place. My hair is sort of long and like I said, it is thick and I tend to have to re-lather my hands a few times, whereas my husband only once to do his hair. It has a very light scent that is not very noticeable.

My hair is going through a mild transition and it got oily but not like it did with the baking soda - my hair feels really, really clean and it made the girl's hair very shiny. As soon as I wash it my scalp feels very soothed.

The really big reason I chose the bar soap is because it's not in a bottle! Hallelujah! It's about time I found something like this. And because of Spud, it's delivered right to my door. :)

Hate the Martha, Not the Message

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Posted on : 9:20 AM | By : Nic | In : , , ,


The house is soooo gradually coming together after the move and it's been like Christmas to get boxes out of storage and see what's in them. One of the things I have wanted to do for a long time is to create a home that feels so comfortable that people don't want to leave (well... I think I do anyway - maybe I do want people to leave!). We have a dear friend - more family than a friend - whose house is like this. We go to visit and we stay for a very long time, maybe partly because she offers food and partly because we feel so relaxed and comfortable there that it never occurs to us that we should go.

I've also wanted to make a home that just promotes creativity and learning. A home needs to make it easy to do art and music and craft projects and gardening and writing because there is a space for all of these things. We've always lived in tiny homes - apartments and suites and as nice as I've been able to make it, those tiny homes have left those goals unfulfilled. At the same time I know that I am part of the 2% of the world that has the ability to even think about my home at all, which means that I have a responsibility to make sure I do this in a sustainable way and use this space to give back to the rest of the world.

I also have a job as a woman to make my home a place of peace and tranquility for my family. One of my heroes is, of course, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I learned today that before she wrote the Little House books she was a farm columnist and despite being an avid feminist, wrote things like, "Homekeeping hearts are happiest," (Folks are Just Folks). It is definitely an art form, one that is being lost as so many women are forced to (or simply want to) work outside the home, which is perfectly fine. But the art of homekeeping is still getting lost. There is a Christian movement of homekeeping but I often find that this isn't the comfortable, cozy, creative method I am aiming for. It seems too rigid and focused on organization and charts.

So, yes, I have been hanging out at MarthaStewart.com, as much as I dislike her, it's the message not the person. Her home is lovely but I can't imagine wanting to hang out there. But the site isn't even written by her, and has many great ideas for organizing, cleaning, and cooking and all of those good things. My goals are:
Clean - I want my home to be clean all the time. This doesn't include clutter...which happens when we do so many projects and have kids. I mean washing the bathroom and vacuuming and keeping the dishes done.
Organizing - I want it to be organized, but accessible. Everything should have a space and a place to use it.
Decorating - There is a right way and a wrong way to decorate. I am also picky in that nothing can be made of particleboard or have formaldehyde in it, and so far so good. For example, I really want to do a BlockPoster on the wall but there is definitely a good way and a bad way to do that.
Garden - I've got much of the seed list planned and I even cut cardboard boxes into flats yesterday. When things are unpacked I will be making newspaper and egg carton seed pots for sprouting and put them in the flats. The garden is going to be huge and despite being completely edible, will be beautiful too.
Scattered Usefulness - I can't think of a better term for this... but it seems as though in many of the home decorating things I read, the photographs of rooms look so sparce and it is striking to me how un-lived-in they look. What seems better to me is having scattered useful items around... candles, teasets and varieities of tea, magazines and books, knitting baskets, cozy blankets, baskets of baby-friendly toys.



Those are my main goals, along with recycling and hospitality and all of that good stuff. I am such a nerd I don't see myself as that domestic but I'm working on it, lol. Here are some good sites for that sort of thing:
Blissfully Domestic
Soulemama
The New Homemaker
Design Sponge
Apartment Therapy
Mothering
Mom Advice
The Family Homestead
Mama Merit Badges
Fold Your Shirt

Probably much of this drive is that my nesting instict is starting to kick in, but I also have way more energy since Annie started going to school. The 2.5 hours at school and the 30 minutes of walking to get her there and back has given me at least 4-5 extra hours each day of peace rather than screaming and defiance. In that time all kinds of opportunities for domestic bliss have arisen. :)

An Incredible Accomplishment

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Posted on : 9:09 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

I wanted to applaud the great efforts of Soulemama and the success of the Mama to Mama project. The final hat count is 5,523 - incredible! I really wanted to be part of this but my sewing machine was in storage which also included all of those old t-shirts I saved which could have been put to good use.

But now I've got a place for my machine and I'm ready for sewing - I've got lots of projects ready to go so the next time around I will definitely be in on it. :)

Compost Keeping in the Kitchen

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Posted on : 1:57 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

One of the nasty parts of composting is keeping the bucket in the kitchen from smelling. It is impractical to run out to the heap every time you have a food scrap, and it will inevitably smell at some point if you put food in it, so what do you do?

First of all, the bucket makes a difference. Many people use an old bulk ice cream bucket because they have a lid, but what works much better is a large food grade container. I have one that is similar to Tupperware, that is microwave and dishwasher safe and can go in the freezer. It has a high grade plastic that doesn't absorb colors like the ice cream buckets do, and an air-tight lid. It's also quite tall which means I only have to dump it every few days.

Once you have your bucket and it starts filling, the next step is to keep the lid shut. During the day I keep it cracked a bit during cooking times because I don't want to have to pry the lid open every time something has to go in, but it has to be shut in between and at night. It will start to decompose a little bit, but without air there won't be any composting and mold can't get in. It also prevents fruit flies from spawning. This will keep the smell down significantly.

The second trick is to throw in small amounts of paper and cardboard. We rarely use paper towel, but if we do I will rip it up and throw it in. Receipts, paper scraps and others little dry bits get thrown in, which helps balance out the bucket the same as it does to your big compost heap. You can even toss in toilet paper rolls that you've cut up.

Once you've dumped it, wash it immediately or put it in the dishwasher (the easiest option). Then put it on the counter for another round! This has made my kitchen stink free (except when I burn stuff). :)

Mistaking Creativity for Logic

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Posted on : 1:28 PM | By : Nic | In :

I found an absolutely fascinating article today about a brilliant autistic savant who is a mathematical and language genius. I guess that's the definition of a savant - someone who has a special genius, but what is so amazing about Daniel Tammet is that he can talk about it quite well. He has an official website, and has written a book, but I also found this very long video about him, which you could alternatively just go to and download since it is 47 minutes long:



What struck me, beside the obvious fact that he is impressive intellectually, is that the methods he uses to complete very logical calculations are incredibly creative. He visualizes every number with a texture: 'If it is a "lumpy" number, then immediately my mind will relate it to other numbers which are lumpy - the lumpiness will tell me there is a relationship, there is a common divisor, or a pattern between the digits.' He is not thinking in linear terms, but with all of his senses in an extraordinarily intuitive, non-thinking kind of way.

He is more on the Asperger's end of the spectrum, and chalks up his sociability to growing up in a family with 9 children, which I also found interesting. He probably wasn't allowed to become isolated and completely obsessive because he had 8 siblings to hassle him into being sociable. It was quite telling to hear his mother, in the documentary, describe his first 2 years as just constant crying and needing the repetition. It's almost like two opposites - a child who craves order and logic but thinks of everything in terms of colors and textures and feelings. It totally changes our understanding of autism completely - what we once thought were robotic people, operating like machines and overwhelmed by everything, are actually insanely sensitive and consumed with the world around them, feeling every aspect of it more than the average person. Well, we knew that, but I think the theory is that the brain overloads and starts blocking things out.

If I were to apply this to Annie, when she starts bouncing off the walls in a hyperactive crazy kind of way she is probably responding creatively to the world around her. It may also explain why she seems to need order and routine in her life, but doesn't really understand the logic of a situation. You can explain to her all day why opening a door to a stranger is a bad idea, but because she feels like she wants to open it and she feels safe, it doesn't make sense to her. She respects authority, but it doesn't make sense to her to respect it at home because she is going almost entirely on how she feels... and at home she feels free to be herself. I am speculating here... but the reason she likes order and control is probably because she is entirely ruled by her senses and emotions and feelings.

Speaking of order, we're three days into public school and so far it is going extremely well. She has gained a new feeling of independence that made her say, "I feel big. It feels very good." She has made a couple of friends and is much happier at home, although I expect some rebellion in the near future if she has a day that she just doesn't feel like going, lol. But all in all, it is a good experience so far.

Different Kind of Wind Turbine

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Posted on : 1:20 PM | By : Nic | In : ,



This is a highly efficient vertical access wind turbine that has virtually no moving parts, technically because it has two magnets rather than bearings. It can be installed on the roof instead of a tower, making it the perfect residential wind turbine.

One Pound of Beef = Food for a Week

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Posted on : 9:02 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

It was definitely a test of frugality this week as I'm trying to save money and challenge myself. When faced with such an unpleasant task its best to make a game out of it. So this week was to try to make a pound of ground beef last as long as possible. In this case, I made it last 6 days which is the limit for me in how long I want meat in the fridge (and that's pushing it).

First of all, it had been frozen in the freezer, and because I knew it was going to have to last for a long while, I used the microwave to thaw it. I didn't always have a microwave but after all of our things came out of storage we found that we actually do own one and it does serve the useful purpose of cooking microwave popcorn. So I have a microwave again that I use very sparingly. I used it to thaw the meat because I didn't want the meat sitting around waiting any longer than it needed to.

At the beginning of the week I planned the leftovers from a single trustworthy Betty Crocker cookbook. This means that I knew what I was going to be able to make out of a meal the next day and I picked those specific recipes simply for their adaptability into something else. The first meal was meat loaf, but I still haven't found any bread pans so I made individual meat balls on a cookie sheet instead. A recipe that made one meat leaf made 6 individual balls. We only at three because the girls split one and we had potatoes and veggies as well. It was a pretty average meatloaf recipe. In the end I was left with three and a half seasoned, giant cooked meatballs because one of my girls would rather go hungry than try something new. We don't eat meatloaf often (if ever, lol).

The next day one of the balls got made into a rudimentary hamburger-helper type dish. I happened to have some cooked noodles from a few days before, but any cooked noodles would work. I threw them in a big pan with the meat, about a cup of soymilk, some salt and pepper, some bulk onion soup mix for seasoning, and some flour to thicken it up. I ended up with no leftovers after that one because everyone liked it so much.

The day after that one of the remaining balls got made into pasta sauce. The sauce was simply diced tomatoes, Italian seasonings, garlic, basil and the meat ball, simmered in a pot until it was all hot and poured on top of some noodles. This made enough that we actually had this twice.

Finally the best meal was the last, surprisingly. It was an adaptation of a Cuban black bean chili. Basically I threw in a leftover bowl of spaghetti, leftover pasta sauce still in the pot, the leftover meatballs, a can of black beans, a little bit of water, a half a green bell pepper, some cumin and garlic and let it simmer for about half an hour. Then I boiled 4 eggs, chopped them up and served them on top of the chili bowls. This made enough for two meals.

Six meals out of one pound of beef, and with the exception of the meatloaf they all only took about 30 minutes to make and only used one pan. So how do you apply this to any week of food?

1. Pick a base ingredient. In this case it was ground beef but you could easily pick chicken or pork or sausage or tofu or whatever you want. Choose a recipe that cooks all of it up at once but keeps it in its basic form without any fancy sauces. For example, chicken could be baked and marinated, but probably not with barbecue sauce.

2. Plan at least three recipes that can be progressions of each other or use smaller and smaller pieces of your base ingredient. Meatloaf->hamburger helper->spaghetti->chili. Or it could be baked chicken breast->pasta->stir fry->chicken wraps. The base ingredient will go much further if it is chopped up and mixed into something else, so if you cooked 5 chicken breasts, use one for the pasta, and the rest for stir fry and then you'll have teriyaki chicken for wraps.

3. Use cheap starches like potatoes, brown rice, and whole-wheat noodles with your base. You should also have at least one vegetable which could be simple garden salad, broccoli, peas or any other traditional thing. The greener the better.

4. Keep track of what is in your fridge and when it should be eaten by. You don't want to make yourself sick with your frugality. Throw things out as soon as you shouldn't eat them anymore.

We managed to go eat 5 loaves of bread in 5 days and I ran across this post from Two Frog Home that reminded me to look for my crock that I want to start sourdough in. Much cheaper and sustainable than buying yeast.

Bean Bag Instructions

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Posted on : 4:26 PM | By : Nic | In :


Creative Crafts:How To Make A Bean Bag

I think I am totally going to try recycling plastic and making my own bean bag chair. A big one! Found these instructions and this entertaining video.

Being an Organized Trash Pack Rat

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Posted on : 2:43 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,

We actually had another flurry of unpacking while I had a bit of an energy burst and the house is starting 'be back normal' as Annie put it. I also had a collection of glass pasta and jam jars that needed washing which got me back to thinking about one of my New Year's goals - creating no trash.

We avoid lots of plastics and disposable paper and really don't make much trash at all. All of it is that flimsy food packaging or sometimes small styrofoam stuff. This includes bread bags, meat packaging and small bags for produce and bulk things, and we make about a half a medium kitchen bag a week, at most. While this is better than the typical 4.6 pounds per person per day that most people make, I am a perfectionist. It's nothing... or nothing? lol We do reuse some bags for John's lunch but what about all the little scraps of plastic that fill up the trash?

So I spent two days researching and reading and reading and eating and more reading, and the best application for paper and plastic scraps is either art or jewelry. Everything else ends up with plastic fumes or other toxic problems. I found this video:



Applying this to plastic with a hot glue gun might be really easy. Even better... how many tiny plastic balls would I have to make to be able to fill a homemade bean bag chair? It would be a long term project but would last forever. Now I just need to find a way to store this plastic so I can pursue my incredibly anal obsessive new hobby.

Doing Nothing Right

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Posted on : 7:44 PM | By : Nic | In :

In the middle of my three hour nap the other day I managed to catch this (it's from Spongebob, the episode Stanley S. Squarepants). Spongebob's cousin Stanley destroys everything he touches and needs to find some purposeful employment, so Sponge takes him to see Patrick who is a starfish and does nothing all day.

Patrick: Looking for your call, huh? (examines Stanley) What are you good at?

Stanley: Nothing.

Patrick: Nothing at all?

Stanley: Yep.

Patrick: Interesting. Let's see how good you are. Nothing.

SpongeBob: That's perfect! You can do nothing better than anybody! All because you're the master!

Patrick: Come with me. First, sit down on this chair. Hear it. Empty your whole thoughts. Clear your mind. Nothing.

Stanley: I must clear my mind. Nothing. (Stanley is nervous. he hears Patrick's clock ticking and sees Patrick making a weird face) Nothing. No!

Patrick: So you're not following my instruction to be immobile, huh? Leave, my brethren.

Stanley: Can I try?

Patrick: Leave!

Stanley: I can do nothing right.

In the end he embraces his destructiveness and gets a job with Mr. Krabs to blow up the competing burger joint.

One of my hangups that I have, that is also part of our society is that we don't value nothing. We don't value having nothing, doing nothing, or being nothing. We think a rock is just a rock until we put it to good use and shape it into something else. We think our children are potential people, when in reality they don't have to do anything to be people - they already are. We think we have to do something to be valuable.

I am continuously fascinated by opposites that are dependent on each other. Police need criminals, missionaries need heathens, governments need people. What would happen if people did nothing? If everyone stopped what they are doing simultaneously, grew a little garden, started using the stuff up that we've already made and enjoyed the art of relaxation? What health problems would disappear?

I know that will never happen, but it makes you value nothing a little bit more.

Deliberately Napping but Still Getting Something Done

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Posted on : 10:57 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

I have a small love for Spongebob Squarepants, so we were watching some of the episodes on the computer and I fell asleep curled up next to the girls despite the obnoxious laughing of our small yellow sponge friend. For three hours! lol

I did manage to get some things done. I polished up our beloved toaster. Then we took care of some other things:

1. Kitchen compost bucket - check!

2. Recycling bin in the closet - check!

3. Glass jar and bottle storage for future use - check!

4. Making sure the only stuff that goes in the trash is weird plastic packaging - check!

5. Covering our windows with plastic sheeting to save heat - check!

What I really wish I could do is to have absolutely no trash, but I can't figure out what to do with that packaging. I looked up fusing plastic but I don't want to be exposed to any fumes, and it's not plastic bags since we use cloth so I can't crochet anything. My other idea was to make something useful like insulation but it's hardly something that is not going to eventually get thrown out. Hmm... the wheels are turning.

We are completely exhausted which is why I'm not posting as much. I'm going to go have some tea. It's 11pm and now with my 3 hour nap my body thinks its tea time.

As the Hive Turns

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Posted on : 10:28 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

The continuing saga of the dreadful and dangerous situation bees are in was brought to my attention again today when I read that there is no such thing as organic honey in America. I'm pretty certain that it's possible to find it from a person who lives in the boonies and personally handles their own bees away from any agriculture, but you simply can't go to the store and buy organic honey. If you did, you were scammed.

I have put myself on a day of so-called bedrest (I think that term is ridiculous for most pregnant women who have children) and I hate bedrest. My first pregnancy I was on bedrest for a month because of almost constant false labor. So now I know that if I overdo it (like I did yesterday) I better sit down, which I am not good at. It certainly gives me lots of time to think though, and I spent most of the afternoon distracted by the thought of bees.

Bees around the world have been facing troubles for at least a year that we know of. Mysteriously bees began to disappear, and then it was found that they were actually dying off and we began calling it Colony Collapse Disorder. I love the words 'disorder' and 'syndrome'- it seems as though they are used for things that experts really don't know what is going on. In fact, Colony Collapse Disorder sounds much like Autism. It has a whole list of symptoms, and an even bigger list of possible causes, all which appear to be man-made rather than natural - pesticides, antibiotics, chemicals, agricultural methods... The solutions list is rather limited however.

Bees have a very good flying range, which is why it is impossible to make organic honey. Who knows where they are going and what toxic chemicals they are bringing back. Bees are the foundation of our diet. Without bees we lose every plant that is not self pollinated, which includes alfalfa-fed beef, apples, oranges, grapes and even chocolate. One of the issues is that most of these commercial crops are pollinated by commercial bees trucked around like little humming migrant workers, while native bees are getting wiped out when cities kill the native plant species that they need. Gardeners need to plant native flowers for the bees. For example, I can plant yarrow, which is native to BC, is also a valuable medicinal herb, and works as a companion plant for basil and any other plant since it repels insects and improves the soil.

Whiplash

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Posted on : 9:30 AM | By : Nic | In :

Had a tough moving day in the unusual cold yesterday, and we didn't quite finish... almost, but not quite.  Right when it was getting to be a real drag 8 hours later, John and his dad slid on a slippery turn and smashed into a snowbank, which was fine until somebody who was following too close smashed into the back of them.  So John has whiplash.


In the meantime I overdid it and had some spotting at 22 weeks which isn't good but all is ok.  I didn't lift anything, as the midwife said it's just a reminder to slow down and rest - I guess even just walking up and down stairs and unpacking is too much.

Plus there is no food in the house.  The ultimate pregnancy emergency, lol.

But I woke up this morning to a beautiful pink sunrise over the harbor streaming in through my window and I finally felt home. All the stress was worth it.  When I finally find a camera in this mess I'll have to take a picture of it.