Traveling Through Alabama and Tennessee with Hyundai

by Tiffany in travel

I was recently offered the opportunity to go on a grand adventure courtesy of Hyundai. A small group of bloggers and car writers were invited to the Hyundai headquarters in Montgomery Alabama and then allowed to drive a new 2017 Elantra Eco off the line and road trip it home (wherever that may be). It was a fantastic opportunity to learn about Hyundai, their facility, and the Elantra Eco. It was also a fantastic opportunity to see more of Alabama and Tennessee than I ever had previously. I had an incredible time, as did my husband, who accompanied me on this adventure.

It started with a flight to Alabama and a stay at the Renaissance hotel in Montgomery. The hotel was gorgeous and it was close to a lot of great food and historical sites.

Love our hotel room. I want these curtains! #ElantraEco #travelblogger #travel #montgomery #alabama @hyundaiusa

A photo posted by Tiffany Washko (@tiffanywashko) on

Before our fun with Hyundai even began we walked much of the area near the hotel. There were so many opportunities nearby and so many lovely sites…

We ate at the Irish Bred Restaurant & Pub and had the best fish, chips, and coleslaw I have ever had!

Wow…now that is fish and chips! #irishpub #travelblogger #travel #montgomery

A photo posted by Tiffany Washko (@tiffanywashko) on

I am loving Montgomery so far…very old, so much history. #ElantraEco #travel #travelblogger

A photo posted by Tiffany Washko (@tiffanywashko) on

At Hyundai the next day we toured the facility and even got to out on the manufacturing floor.

More from the floor of the @hyundaiusa plant.#ElantraEco #alabama #travel

A video posted by Tiffany Washko (@tiffanywashko) on

Then we got in this awesome blue Elantra Eco and drove away with it, free to adventure to our heart’s content on the way home to Ohio.

In all honestly I probably would have opted to hit a ton of museums, historical sites, plantations, and other southern treasures but my husband is not as into to that stuff as I am. So we chose to hit up some stuff we would both enjoy…aka natural wonders.

We started with a drive along the Lookout Mountain Scenic Parkway… a 93 mile scenic drive through Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. One of the first and most beautiful stops was Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, AL. It is so named for a young Cherokee woman who leaped from the waterfall rim long ago.

We also stopped at Ruby Falls, and amazing underground waterfall. It is as deep underground as the Empire State Building is tall.

Next up was Rock City. It has miles of gorgeous gardens and another grand waterfall!

We took a rail car up and down a very steep incline in the mountains…

We also ate some great food along the way. I think we looked for the best rated sushi restaurants in every town we visited! Thanks Hyundai for the adventure!


Make It Yourself DreamCatcher

by Tiffany in Crafts

I have always been intrigued by dreamcatchers. I grew up in the Southwest so I saw tons of them over the years and always thought they were astoundingly beautiful. They are essentially a hoop or web adorned with sacred items such as feathers and beads and are believed to filter bad dreams away. This video from the folks at Mode shares a DIY dreamcatcher with some added Glam. I love that most of the items could easily be found second hand at yard sales. I’ve seen embroidery hoops, lace, feathers on cheapy decor, beads, costume jewelry ect. at yard sales and estate sales that would all work well for a crafty project with the kids making dreamcatchers. Enjoy!


Straw Bale Gardening

by Tiffany in Gardening

Straw Bale GardeningIf you have enough space for a bale of straw, then you have enough space for a garden. Growing vegetables in a straw bale is easy, fun and a good way to inspire kids to start gardening. A straw bale acts much like a raised bed, you just plant directly in the bale. It is a great gardening method to use in areas that have poor soil, or if your dwelling has minimal outdoor space. Use these tips to grow your own straw bale garden.


Any flat surface that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day is a great location for a straw bale garden.If it’s a grassy outdoor location, place several layers of newspaper or weed inhibiting fabric on the grass, then place the straw bale on top.

Straw Bale

Organic straw can be sourced from a local organic farmer. Bales can also be purchased from local garden supply center, but they may not be organic. I used Craigslist to source mine and I emailed before hand to see how the straw was grown and if it was sprayed with anything or grown in a field where the previous crop was sprayed.

Place the bale on its side with the twine running around the perimeter so it won’t impede plant growth from the top of the bale. The twine will also hold the bale together during the garden growing season.

Straw bales are usually cheap too! You can often find them for under $10 bucks a bale. We started our first straw bale garden with 20 bales and we got them for $6 a bale, delivered.

Bale Preparation

Start preparing the straw bale two weeks before planting time so the internal composting process will be well underway at planting time. You can find directions for how to do this but the basic idea is to water the straw bales thoroughly every day for a week. Every other day, place 3 cups of organic fertilizer on top of each bale prior to watering. The water will push the fertilizer down into the center of the bale where it’s needed.

On the tenth day place 1 1/2 cups of phosphorus and 1 1/2 cups of potassium on top of each straw bale and water thoroughly. Continue watering daily until the end of 2 weeks.

If you have prepared the bale(s) correctly, the interior should be hot and moist and black spots and/or mushrooms should be visible on the exterior of the straw bale.

mushrooms on straw bale

Essentially what you are doing when conditioning straw bales for a straw bale garden is you are causing the bales to start composting which makes it easier for planting and it fills the bales with beneficial microorganisms. You need to wait 2-3 weeks after starting so that your bales are not still “hot” from composting and burn your plants.

Time to Plant

Use a hand-held trowel to create planting holes in the top of the straw bale. Place potting soil in each planting hole, then place selected vegetable plants into each hole and cover roots with potting soil. Water plants well.

To plant seeds, spread 2 inches of potting soil over the entire top of the straw bale and sprinkle selected seeds on top. Cover seeds with a light layer of potting soil and water well.

Plants that grow upward (peas) or need support (tomatoes, cukes) can be grown quite easily too. Just add some stakes with wire or twine going across to support vines and plants with heavy fruit. You can even plant in the sides of the bales. The growing space seems small but it really isn’t.

For information on companion planting and ideal layouts for straw bale gardens I highly recommend the book Straw Bale Gardens. I borrowed it from the library initially and had to buy it, it is a great wealth of knowledge.

straw bale gardening

Water straw bale as needed during the growing season. Straw bales can dry out quickly so make sure you are harvesting rain water so you can water frequently. A good drip system or soaker hose down the middle of each row of bales is also beneficial.

lettuce and swiss chard straw bales

There is often no need to add more fertilizer, the straw bales contains enough nutrients to sustain the plants until harvest time. Though if you feel you need to add some extra nutrients you can use compost and compost tea.

Monday, May 30th, 2016

3 Comments on Straw Bale Gardening


Instant Pot Rabbit Soup

by Tiffany in Recipes

Instant Pot Rabbit SoupI could sing the praises of pressure cookers all day long. They make it amazingly easy to make a fast meal with a slow cooked taste. The flavors pop, the meat falls off the bone, and you can walk in the house with only 45 minutes to spare and still have an amazing dinner.

This soup imitates a classic chicken noodle soup except it uses rabbit. The flavor is very similar but rabbit is one of the healthiest, leanest, and most environmentally friendly meats you can eat. It is a very sustainable meat source and since rabbits are small and easy to care for they can be raised and butchered by the DIY homesteader. If that is not for you they can also be found at some farmer’s markets and in gourmet grocery stores.

This recipe was made in our much loved Instant Pot!


4-5 lb. rabbit (with bones)
1/2 Onion (large, cut in large chunks)
3-4 Carrots (large, cut in large chunks)
2 Stalks Celery (cut in large chunks)
2 Inch piece of ginger (sliced)
3 Cloves garlic (chopped)
1 C White wine
1 C Noodles
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp Herbs de Provence
1 Tbsp Parsley
5 Cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

Rabbit Soup Recipe:

Dredge the rabbit pieces in flour and saute them inside the Instant Pot or pressure cooker for a few minutes on each side, using the sautee setting on your Instant Pot. After all pieces have been browned remove and add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and ginger. Saute for 3-5 minutes and then deglaze with the wine. Allow it to cook down for 2-3 minutes. Add the rabbit pieces once again as well as the water, parsley, and herbs. If you are using a deboned rabbit use chicken or vegetable stock instead of water.

Manually cook for 15 minutes and then allow it to depressurize naturally. Remove the rabbit, debone, and add back to the pot along with the fresh noodles. Allow them to soften, salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Enjoy!

Tip: Make it paleo by removing the noodles and flour. It’s still delicious.


The Importance of Water Conservation

by Tiffany in Environment

Importance of Water Conservation

With water supplies dwindling in certain areas, and with the amount of pollution in water supplies all over the world, it is more important than ever that we pay attention to cleaning up and conserving the precious resource we can’t afford to lose. Conservation typically begins and ends with the land surrounding the source. In order to conserve specific watersheds in an effort to preserve a clean source, the lands surrounding said source must be protected. There is funding – federal, state, and private – available for most conservation projects, which acts as an incentive to get the protection necessary. Prioritizing areas that are of the utmost importance, when it comes to conservation, is the first step in the right direction.

It Starts and Ends With Watersheds

A watershed is any area of land that drains water into one location. This can be lakes, wetlands, streams, rivers, estuaries, and so on. These watersheds supply our drinking water and are responsible for providing a habitat for plants and animals. Their importance cannot be overstated. Things like pollution, runoff, and erosion impact the health of a watershed, thus are all things to which we must pay attention in order to properly conserve our water. This nature.org article on The Importantce of Watersheds is a great resource for simple protection facts and tidbits. The health of our water supplies is obviously correlated with our personal health, and that of those around us. So it’s obvious that the more knowledge and information taken in regarding preservation, the better. There are efforts throughout our country (and throughout the world for that matter), such as the Cadiz Water Project EIR, to create sustainable solutions intended to protect our watersheds.

Causes of Watershed Pollution

There are numerous causes when it comes to the pollution of watersheds and, in turn, our water supplies. Runoff of fertilizer and pesticides, drainage of waste from farms and factories, failed septic systems, and more are responsible for polluting the water on which we rely. With so many pollutants, it is important to identify the source of the problem, or from where the pollution is coming. This begins at a community level, wherein the support and cooperation of the entire public is necessary.

Getting to the Bottom of the Problem

The solution to cleaning up our watersheds and keeping them clean and sustainable doesn’t stop at merely pointing out the problems. It’s necessary that there be constant innovations, sustainable improvements, public involvement and communication, program integration and implementation, and so on. It takes different levels of cooperation from different agencies and groups of people in order to truly get to the protection necessary.

The Magnitude of Clean Water Issues

Aside from the aforementioned issues of maintaining a functional habitat for plants, animals, and humans alike, the magnitude of issues related to clean watersheds is global. Foods, tourism, production of different fibers and other manufactured goods, and more depend on healthy watersheds. Thus the monetary impact is also huge. Sustainability and preservation of the water used for so many things is crucial to just about every element of how we live. Understanding that a single watershed can have a global impact is crucial when it comes to realizing how important each one truly is. It starts at a local level and reaches far beyond that.

Land Conservation

Local land trusts, industry groups, landowner groups, and more all have an impact on how we protect the land on which our watersheds exist. Overdevelopment of certain areas and overall pollution of the land surrounding water sources impacts the water we use for so many things. The conversation surrounding sustainability and clean water must incorporate how we use land and how it’s managed. Protection is necessary at level. The symbiotic relationship between water and the land surrounding it must be taken into account in order to better implement strategies that will have a long lasting effect.

Effective Conservation Overall

Conservation at any level requires effective strategies and cooperation every step of the way. Land conservation is crucial when it comes to protecting and conserving water sources. Land use, potential and existing contamination issues, and protection and restoration of said lands will only benefit the watersheds that exist within those habitats. Conservation starts with identifying everything surrounding the watershed itself. Once measures are taken to protect the land, the watershed requires special care and attention.

Educating the public on all the elements of sustainability, conservation tactics, usage, problems (potential and existing), and everything else surrounding our water will go a long way in protecting it. It starts at the source and goes well beyond that, which is important when it comes to understating the impact of everything we do. Once steps are taken to find solutions to each problem, it becomes increasingly important to stay on top things, as other issues will come to the forefront. An educated and knowledgeable public is the key component when it comes to bringing forth effective solutions for water conservation.