Archive for Green Living

Homesteading & Sustainability

Ready to dry/freeze

Hello blogging world. It has been a while but I have had homesteading on my mind and decided to write about it.  I have been on a homesteading and sustainability mission lately.  We are trying to slowly increase our self-sufficiency now that we have settled into our first home.

In case you were wondering, here is the definition of homesteading via Mother Earth News and the EPA’s definition of sustainability:

  • Homesteading is “….a lifestyle that promotes greater self sufficiency – wherever you live. It’s about using less energy, eating wholesome local food, involving your family in the life of the community and making wiser choices that will improve the quality of life for your family, your community and the environment around you.”
  • Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.  Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

We choose to adapt this lifestyle as much as possible for several reasons:  to leave a small carbon footprint on this planet, for better health, and it’s good knowledge to have and to pass onto our children.  We have a lot of respect for those who came before us who homesteaded out of necessity.  And in some respects I feel it has come full circle.  As a health practitioner, and health conscious individual, it is frustrating and scary the amount of toxic chemicals that surround us:  in the grocery store, the cleaning isles, garden centers, the make-up counter, they are everywhere.  In a way, I feel homesteading is a necessity, not in the same way as our ancestors, but as the best way to reduce the toxins in our lives and to not contribute to the growing toxins entering our environment.

 What we have done so far

We have been making small steps toward becoming more self-sufficient and sustainable.  Here is what we have accomplished:

  1. Vegetable and herb garden

    Photo by Elizabeth Bernstein Photography

  2. Green house
  3. Line drying our clothes in the summer
  4. Composting
  5. Well water and septic
  6. Canning
  7. Homemade candles
  8. Homemade vanilla extract
  9. Shopping at local farm market
  10. Homemade household cleaners
  11. Some woodworking and handy work
  12. We buy pantry items from amish and online co-ops with organic and fair trade products.
  13. Homemade gifts
  14. Rain gauge and barometer (does that count?!)

What we want to do in the future

  1. Plant apple, pear, cherry and maybe peach trees
  2. Build and instal 2 rain barrels
  3. Chickens! And build a coop first
  4. Find new ways to reduce electricity usage
  5. Grow some mushrooms
  6. Make our own soap
  7. Sewing
  8. Grow more and new produce
  9. Save seeds
  10. Grow herbs indoors in the winter
  11. We are installing a portable generator this fall (thanks to my generous in-laws)

ARE YOU HOMESTEADING?  WHAT DO YOU DO FOR SUSTAINABILITY?  WHAT ELSE CAN I ADD TO OUR FUTURE LIST?

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Boy’s Blue “Green” Train Room

I wanted to share our boy’s new bedroom with everyone.  I am not the best decorator  in the world so I was pretty proud of how this room turned out!   Well, I have to confess, I was not the creator of this decor, only the executer.  I know when I see something I like but if I am given a blank slate, I don’t know where to begin when it comes to decorating.  Thankfully, our wonderful receptionist, Evelyn also has MANY talents!  One of those is decorating!  She enthusiastically helped us create the perfect room for the boys.  I love, love, love how it turned out!  Check out Evelyn’s Blog and Etsy store to see more of her talents!

We wanted to create a room that was all boy, highlighting J’s favorite color, blue (also Granville School colors – blue and white) and favorite interest, trains.  We wanted a room that was clean, simple, somewhat non-traditional, and flexible (easy to update as boys grow).  I did not want a super mainstream look or character theme.

Key decorative aspects of the room: Train mural,crisp, clean white walls, light blue stripe around the room from the color of the train mural sky, navy accent stripe around room, navy dresser, wood bunk beds, blue and white bedding, navy baskets on book shelf (not pictured), vintage toy signs.

On the Green Side

 

So the title of this post is the Boy’s Blue Green Train Room. 
It is more of  a easy, practical green room, not super duper greenified to the max-room.  On the scale of green-ness, I’d give it a 7.

We used Sherwin Williams zero and low VOC paint for all colors (except mural).  There is some  amount of VOC in tinted paint.

The spectacular, detailed and colorful, train mural was painted by my amazingly talented artist-sister, Erica Arndts!  J love’s trains and this was the perfect touch to make the room bigger than life!  Erica spent an entire day painting, while visiting from her home in Atlanta.  Yes, you read that right, only one day to create this masterpiece!  I know, impressive!  By the Way, if you like her work and are interested in a mural or a painting and are in the Atlanta area, contact me and I will put you in touch with her.

Notice the ceiling fan (well, I didn’t quite get it in the photo).  A great Green addition to any room to lower your utility costs.  Set it to counter-clockwise to cool your space in the summer time with a downward air flow.  Set your fan to rotate clockwise in the winter to circulate warm air that otherwise would get trapped near the ceiling. I do want to paint the blades white instead of the rainbow of pastel colors they currently are.

The bunk beds were hand made with love by Daddy!

The Navy dresser was repurposed old dresser from when Greg was a boy.  Greg sanded and painted the dresser following tips form Evelyn.  He finished it off with  new hardware.

The vintage toy signs were a find by my mom.

The white roman blinds were finished off with navy vertical gross-grain ribbon stripes by my mother-in-law, Doris.  Another ingenious idea from Evelyn!  I love how it’s the little touches here and there that make all the difference in pulling everything together in the room (Tutorial here).

The comforters I splurged on from Pottery Barn Kids 2 years ago when Greg made the bed’s.  I consider them a little green contribution because they are reversible, simple and classic pattern and nice quality.  I have high hopes that they will last the boys through high school! The green bedside lantern also came from Pottery Barn Kids.  I couldn’t resist that when I saw it (it spoke to my love for camping and outdoors.  I know, it’s not my room but had to do it).  I thought it was unique as a light fixture and added some character.

Of course the room is outfitted with compact florescent lights (CFL’s)

Finally, a Train Room wouldn’t be complete without a train table!  Our train table is mostly filled with trains and accessories from Whittle Shortline Railroad (made in USA), Plan Toys, BRIO, and Nuchi.

Tell me what you think!  Do you think I should add a rug?  What do you do to create a “green” bedroom?

   
 

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Staying Cool in the Heat: The Green Way

Weather you are without air conditioning or simply trying to be green and conservative  and use a limited amount of electricity and resources to stay cool, this list will help you out!

 

Simple Ways to stay cool during the summer heat wave?  Please share!

 

  1. Drink lots of water!  Avoid too much caffeine which can dehydrate you and caus the body to overheat
  2. Limit cooking:  Choose cool options.  Grill when you can.  Avoid using the oven and if you have to, turn it on in the early morning or late evening.  Consider a small toaster oven which won’t heat the house as much and although I don’t like microwaves, if it is really hot for a long period of time and you need to heat something up they might be warranted.
    1. Breakfast –  nutritious smoothies (add ingredients such as coconut milk, green leafy vegetables, or ground flax or egg yokes to make them filling and nutrient dense), slice of sour dough or sprouted wheat bread with butter, cream cheese, homemade jam or local honey with a glass of milk and fruit.  Yogurt or kefir with oats, ground flax seed and fruit.  Avoid processed cereals though
    2. Lunch – tuna, hummus with veggies, cheese, fresh fruit, dried fruit, all kinds of salads (you can really get creative here, greens, add nuts, seeds, fruit, veggies, avocado, different dressings, mozzarella capries salad and so much more !)
    3. Dinner – Grill, Grill, Grill!  You can grill meat, fish and veggies many different ways. Salads make a nice addition to a meal.  Try spaghetti with spaghetti squash instead of boiling noodles.
    4. Snacks and Other – try frozen fruit such as grapes, cherries, and other berries.  Make sun tea instead of boiling water.  Use a french press instead of a coffee pot.  Make homemade popsicles!  Puree fruit in your blender, sneak in greens, coconut water, juice some veggies if you have a juicer to add to the fruit puree, let your imagination go and make your own healthy popsicle creation!  Try “Raw Food” deserts or other meals.  Walnuts with a touch of honey or maple syrup make a nice snack too!
  3. Close your blinds or shades when the sun is up
  4. Do your errands or shopping during the heat of the day if you need to get cooled off indoors outside of your house
  5. Hit up your local splash pad, there are several that you can go to for free around columbus.  They can be found in Dublin, Hilliard, and Powell, plus Easton and Polaris  malls
  6. Indoor activities to get out of the heat such as the play areas at local mall’s or Firefly Play Cafe in Columbus
  7. Pull out your kiddy pool and put it in a shaded area of your yard.  Then in the evening fill your watering can with the pool water to water your garden!
  8. Fan’s can help, try an energy efficient model.
  9. Hang your laundry on the line rather than running your dryer which can heat up the house.
  10. If possible, store your spare freezer or fridge (if you have one) in your basement instead of the garage where it will need more energy to run on hot days

 

What other things do you do to stay cool during the summer?

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Nothing Beats Farm Fresh

This summer I have started my mission to get as

Visiting the Cows

much food as possible from local farms, farmers markets, and our own garden, and as little as possible from grocery stores.  I am so frustrated with the way our country’s food industry works.  Like everything else, its all about the money.  Cheap, unhealthy ingredients, and a lot of them is what you will find in most processed convenience foods.  My grandma recently tried to buy a package of frozen fish at the store and put it back on the shelf when she saw it came from china!  My mother-in-law recently saw on the news that there are 30% fewer nutrients in our foods now than when she was growing up.  Large industrial farms are more concerned with the look and size of their food than the quality.   Food on grocery shelves with few ingredients and healthy, natural ones are few and far between!  Its so sad to see.  Its no wonder I see young people come into our chiropractic office unhealthy, overweight, and on multiple medications.  They are a product of our society today and the food most readily available and affordable.  I imagine my generation and those to come will not live as long as my grandparents generation.  There is just too much intervention ruining our food, and most in the name of money.  Now that I have ranted for a while, and I could go on for pages, I’ll move on to the good stuff.

Jack checking out the Pigs

In my mission to obtain farm fresh foods and without breaking the bank, I have decided to start with meat and dairy (which we don’t eat a lot of), the foods highest  on the food chain and most likely to be contaminated.  I was so happy when I received an email from friend and fellow mom, Kate of Modern Alternative Mama, inviting me to join a group of local families ordering meat and raw milk from an Ohio farm.  The farm is Luginbill Family Farm.   For any family’s in Northwest Ohio, Columbus, or Dayton, I highly recommend Luginbill.   We have had a wonderful experience so far and have enjoyed quality meats and eggs at affordable prices from a family farm.  We have tried eggs, chicken, turkey, and beef.  The eggs are huge, and a challenge to crack open and obviously from a healthier chicken.  My husband wonders if the grocery store eggs could even capable of hatching a chicken.   Last month we tried a whole chicken and enjoyed 2 meals of white meat and then froze the remaining chicken pieces for later and boiled everything else to make 8 cups of stock!  I am planning on trying their raw milk soon too!  In addition they have lamb, and many cuts of beef and pork.  Kate toured the farm and interviewed the farmer before organizing the ordering group, but recently we made our first trip to the farm to do a pick-up!  We enjoyed a tour of the farm.  Jack had a great time watching the animals!   If you are local and interested in joining our ordering group let me know.  The prices are on the farm’s website.  If we get enough people in our group, the farm will deliver to Columbus.

Free Range Chicken's

Chasing the Turkey's

Dr. Heather’s Recommendation on choosing a farm

    1. Visit the farm – personally meet the farmer and take a tour of their farm.  You will be able to see first hand how they care for their animals and quality of food and have an opportunity to ask them any questions you have.
    2. Look for a farm that is either certified organic, in the process of getting certified, or who follow organic practices.  Some smaller farms may not have the resources to get certified but are as organic as any other certified farm and often have more affordable prices and offer more of a personal experience.
    3. Ask if they will be able to keep up with your needs, and do they have a variety of offerings to suit your family’s menu.
    4. How local are they and are they willing to deliver?  The closer the farm, the more “green”!  If the farmer is delivering from a far distance, you and the environment may be paying for the fuel costs.

Friendly Farmer's

Have you tried a local farm?  Have you noticed a difference in the quality of food?

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A Homemade Holiday Gift

 

Healthy Home

Welcome to Healthy Home, an enlightening weekly series on Mom Going Green.  Healthy Home focuses on natural health topics for the whole family.  The goal of this series is to provide moms (and dads too), with information on how to achieve optimal health for the entire household naturally.   The series will include the latest in natural health news, wholesome health tips, yummy recipes, and natural health remedies that have worked for healthy homes in years past.

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Nothing beats a homemade holiday gift.  Recently, Denise Pickenpaugh came to our New Albany chiropractic office to teach a class on making homemade, all natural soy candles.   Soy is a great alternative to the traditional and unhealthy paraffin candle.  Paraffin candles emit carcinogens into the air.  Have you ever seen the black soot inside of a half burnt candle container and thought about that entering and depositing in your lungs too?  According to a CBS News article “Paraffin, which comes from the distillates of wood or petroleum, can be more toxic than gasoline”.    Planet Green states that the fumes from paraffin candles are similar to those from burning diesel.  Even OSHA lists paraffin as causing irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and skin.  There are many benefits of soy candles over traditional paraffin candles.  Soy candles produce no black soot on walls, ceilings, and the candle container.   Soy beans are renewable, sustainable and grown in the US.  Making or buying soy candles supports American farmers.  Soy candles are non-toxic and non-irritating for people with breathing problems (and for those who don’t want to get breathing problems).   Also, each soy candles is unique and different.  Every soy field is different, with different soil and different properties therefore every candle is unique!  If buying a soy candle look for the percent soy on the label.  A candle can be labeled soy with little soy in it.  Look for 85-100% soy.   I had a great time at the candle making class and learned a lot.  I’m so excited to make some candles for friends and family this year (did I just give that away?).    So here’s what you need to know:

Materials:

  • Decorative container
  • Wick
  • Soy wax flakes
  • Scent
  • Hot glue gun
  • Double boiler
  • Scale
  • Liquid thermometer
  • Chopsticks or skewers

Make your Candle:

  • Heat water in the base of a double boiler to 125-135 degrees (maintain that temperature throughout process).
  • Use the scale to weigh 2lbs of soy wax flakes and place in double boiler
  • After wax is completely melted, add 2 oz of scent (1oz/lb wax) to the waxCook 15-20 min, or 20-30 if using vanilla or another heavy oil
  • In the meantime, use a hot glue gun to attach wick to the bottom of the container. 
  • Use a small wick for 1-2 inch diameter container, medium wick for 2-3 inch diameter, large for 3-4 inch and X-large for 4-5 inch diameter.  For larger containers double wick but be carefulot to place the wicks too close or they will drown each other out.
  • Pour wax into container.
  • Use chopsticks or skewers to hold the wick in place by lying them on top of the container on either side of the wickLet the wax dry, 12-24 hours
  • Trim the wickReady to gift or burn and enjoy!

Look for all natural ingreadients localy at Makes Scents Candles in Pataskala.

Delightful

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The Green Choice: Real or Artificial Christmas Tree?

Growing Up Green! Welcome to the weekly series, Growing up Green.  This will be your eco-friendly stop for green, all-natural, toxin and chemical free tips for your family.   Learn simple and meaningful ways to make your children’s environment a little safer for their health and the earth.
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Image from apartment therapy

This has been a long time debate with strong supporters on both sides.  There are pro’s and con’s to both real and artificial trees but after breaking down the data there becomes a clear Green Star.

 Artificial Christmas Tree

Green:

  •    1 tree last for years, on average 6-9 years
  •    Savings on gas to and from tree farms yearly

UnGreen: 

  • Most trees are petrolium-based and are made of plastics, including toxic and non-biodegradeable PVC and metals
  • They will therefore sit in landfills for hundreds of years
  • Older trees may contain lead.
  • Significant resources are required to provide energy for factories to produce artificial trees
  • 85% of artificial trees are made in China according to the National Christmas Tree Association

Real Christmas Tree

Green:

  • Real trees do not cause deforestation, most come from tree farms
  • Tree farms provide natural habitat to animals
  • Tree farms absorb CO2 and emmit fresh oxygen.
  • Christmas trees in the US provide enought oxygen for 18 million people daily – wow!
  • Tree farms help prevent erosion
  • Real trees can be treecycled into mulch for your garden, learn more about treecycling here.  Find a location near you here.  In Columbus, Ohio bring your tree to SWACO for drop off.   Contact here or here for pick up.     If you would like to take home the mulch from your tree try Kurtz Brothers.

UnGreen:

  •  Gas required driving to the tree farm each year
  • The use of pesticides and herbicides on the trees (except on organic farms)
  • Trees purchased in areas that cannot grow them, where the tree must travel a distance to make it to the tree lot (however travel from state to state uses less resources than traveling overseas)

The Green star goes to….. the real tree!  Read about different types of trees available and care for your tree.  Also check out these top 10 Christmas Tree myths.

 Family History

My family has had a long tradition of cutting down our own tree.  As a child we went the day after Thanksgiving 45 minutes down the road to a tree farm.  We hunted for the perfect family tree.  I usually wanted the largest tree possible with long, soft needles, such as the white pine.  My mother usually went for a smaller fir tree with short, strong, and stiff needles.  We have alternated over the years through different types.  I enjoyed watching my dad cut down our special tree.  My dad took out the back bench of our van and sometimes let my sisters and I sit in the back with the tree (probably not the safest idea, but we thought it was soo cool at the time).  We kept the tree outside for a few weeks before brining it in to decorate.  My dad played Christmas music and made popcorn while decorating the tree.  Eggnog and hot chocolate were often part of the event.  My mom always did the lights and we all helped with the ornaments.  It was a fun family tradition.

 The Next Generation

Family Fun

Last weekend we headed 20 miles to Homestead Farm  in Alexandria, Ohio.  We had such a positive experience last year that it was a no-brainer to head back to the same farm this year and hopefully many years to come.  Jack thoroughly enjoyed the tractor ride to the field.  Tractors and trucks are very exciting to Jack.  We enjoyed a pleasantly sunny and warm day and plenty of trees to choose from.   We found a winner right away but explored the field for a while to enjoy the fresh air before heading back to the barn.  We chose a 7ft white pine; perfect for the spot we planed for it in our home.  Its amazing how much smaller the trees look outside compared to in the house!  Into the field

The winner

Tractor Ride

After the tractor ride back to the barn we enjoyed a warm cup of hot chocolate and cozy fire.  We brought our tree home and put it in water immediately at the recommendation of the staff at Homestead.  It guzzled quite a bit the first few hours then slowed.  Jacked helped mom put the lights on and Dad helped with the ornaments.  Jack tried to take off the ornaments as fast as we put them on.  There are an unusually large amount of ornaments on the top of our tree with a desolate base.  Ever time Jack takes one off we place it up higher.  And of course we played Christmas and burned a fire while we worked!  I can’t wait to see Jack’s face light up when he sees our tree on Christmas morning!  I think it will probably be even more exciting and rewarding than experiencing it as a child myself.  Read more about American Tree Farms

Homestead

Having fun

Having fun

Find a farm near you to cut down your Christmas tree in Ohio

Trivia:  Who developed the first artifical christmas tree in 1930?  Answer

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Winterizing

Growing Up Green!Welcome to the weekly series, Growing up Green.  This will be your eco-friendly stop for green, all-natural, toxin and chemical free tips for your family.   Learn simple and meaningful ways to make your children’s environment a little safer for their health and the earth.

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Mercury Dropping

The mercury is dropping which often times means a skyrocketing heating bill.  We live in an old home built in 1959.  There are many cracks and crevices for cold air to sneak in uninvited!  Over the past few weeks we have been gearing up for the winter and prevention of that unwanted out of control electric bill.

We started with developing a game plan for heating our home.  The house is equipped with baseboard electric heat which I’ve heard is very inefficient.  We also have a wood burning stove without a blower and one energy efficient space heater.  Initially we thought we would be doomed with the baseboard heating.  However we did some investigating and spoke with a patient who is an electric engineer.  He said that baseboard heating can actually be very efficient when used properly.  He said to turn them on when you are in a room and off when you leave.  They work well heating small spaces.  This will be great for the 2 bedrooms we use (the third room can just remain off).  It may be a little chilly when first going to bed but after testing it out they actually heat the rooms surprisingly quick.  They can be turned off during the day when the rooms are not in use.  We thought we would have to turn on all base boards in all rooms at a minimum thermostat level to prevent frozen pipes but he said that is not necessarily the case.  That brings us to the large living space where the kitchen, dinning and living rooms are located.  Baseboard heating would not be efficient in this area so we tested out our wood burning stove.  I was not too optimistic about it.  I’ve lived in homes with a fire place and it only heated a few feet in front of the hearth.  However, our neighbor has a stove and said it heats his entire house (his has a blower and duct system though).  We were hoping ours would at least heat our living area.  So on a cool night we tested it out.  We were pleasantly surprised.  That thing was HOT!!  It was in the 30’s outside and Greg had to put on shorts, he was sweating so much!  Granted he really loaded it up with wood thinking it would be a bust.  The entire living area, all 3 rooms registered at 80 degrees.  Its amazing what a difference it makes to with the stove that is not within the wall like a fire place.  I then emailed Jack’s midwife, Abby who lives on a large, beautifully wooded lot with many, many acres of woods.  She kindly allowed us to load up on fire wood and welcomed us back for more if needed.  I am now confidant we can heat our house at a low cost without breaking the bank!

Next was to seal up the cracks and crevices to prevent our cozy heat from escaping.  We started with the bedroom windows.  Greg created a wooden frame with heavy duty plastic staple gunned to the frame to create a barrier to place in the window.  We lined it with foam and shimmied it into the window.  There is no way even a molecule of air will get through that contraption!  The only down side is the plastic is not clear, it’s a cloudy white color.  I don’t mind because we don’t spend much time in the bedrooms outside of sleeping.  The sun does still come through and brightens the rooms too.  We did this for Jack’s room and ours.  For the windows in the bath, spare bedroom, dining room and the large bay window we purchased kits to cover the windows with plastic using double sided tape and a hair dryer.  Greg’s parents were over and couldn’t even tell the plastic was there.  Our curtains cover the edges nicely and the hair dryer helps remove all wrinkles.   To tackle the window wells we bought plastic covers, which Greg screwed into the brick to prevent snow from falling in.  We did purchase a second space heater incase we might need it.  Finally, we will be foaming one leaky door which we won’t be using during the winter.  I can tell our efforts have already paid off, our electric bill this month was less than last month and we have even used the bedroom baseboards a few times already.

Can you see the window covering?

Additional winterizing we will be finishing up, not related to heat is tilling our vegetable gardens to prevent weeds, cleaning the leaves out of the gutters, and adding an additional composting hole to our back yard (one just isn’t enough, need to rotate between two).

What are you doing to prepare your home for the winter cold and heating bill?   I’d love to hear from you!

Winterizing Check List

    1. Have a game plan for your main heat source

      Conserve!

    2. Seal up leaky windows and doors
    3. Set thermostats at 68 degrees instead of 70 – it WILL make a difference.  Grab an extra layer or blanket if you need.
    4. Have a family meeting to discuss how you will conserve energy by keep bedroom doors closed to keep heat in, turning off lights in rooms not occupied and unplugging appliances that are not in use.

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